Napa Valley Farmers Work to Preserve Land and Native Oak Trees from Sprawl
Greenbelt Alliance’s signature At Risk is the definitive research on the Bay Area’s farms, ranches, and natural areas at risk of being lost forever to sprawl development. In an effort to bring these lands to the public view, we have real life stories told by the dedicated local residents who fight to keep them free from sprawl.
Napa County has led the region on protecting agricultural land, especially for its famous grapes; however, the success of the wine industry itself may now be putting land at risk.
Today, 10,071 acres of natural areas and agricultural land in Napa County are at risk of development; of these, only 747 are at high risk, likely to be developed in the next 10 years. Napa County has the least land at risk of any Bay Area county, in part because it requires a two-thirds popular vote to take land out of agricultural use. But since our last report in 2012, despite little change in high-risk land, the county’s land at medium risk has increased by 3,500 acres or sixty percent.
“I felt like the Lone Ranger out there. We were the ones keeping the city from coming over the hill.” Jo Ann Truchard and her family have been growing wine grapes for 40 years, in a long love affair with Napa, and with farming. For almost as long, they’ve been leading the fight against development on the hill, just north of their vineyard, that separates the city of Napa from the surrounding countryside.
Neighbors have joined Jo Ann and her family against the latest threat. The developers of the “Napa Oaks II” project—which would cut down 570 oak trees—seek to change the zoning to allow 53 homes on the hillside. The current “resource area” zoning is supposed to protect the land’s views, natural springs, and wildlife, and also protect people: the 6.1 earthquake that shook Napa in 2014 ran along a fault just below the hill, making it a dangerous place to build.
“You need to be vigilant about your community”
“You need to be vigilant about your community,” says Jo Ann’s daughter-in-law Suzanne Truchard, who has also joined the fight. A land use attorney, Suzanne scrutinized all the proposal documents. “What was really disconcerting was their tone,” she says, “Like it’s all a done deal.”
But it’s not, thanks to the Truchards and their neighbors. As one neighbor said,
“They’re speculators. They want to cash in. They made a bet—and they’re going to lose.”
Learn more and download the At Risk 201 7 report here.
Photos by Dani Padgett ©