Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
(Updated February 1, 2017)

What is Save Rural Angwin?

Save Rural Angwin (SRA) is a grass roots community group that formed to stop inappropriate, urbanizing development inconsistent with “smart and sustainable” growth principals. SRA is dedicated to protecting and preserving the rural setting and community character of Angwin and Howell Mountain.  We solicit and accept voluntary individual contributions to finance the mission of Save Rural Angwin.  Contributions are not tax-deductible, either for charitable or business expenses.

When and why was Save Rural Angwin formed?

During the Napa County General Plan Update process (2005-2007), "Urban Residential" land use designations (the so-called "Urban Bubbles") in unincorporated Napa County were a subject of much discussion.  In short, "Bubbles" were open invitations to developers to place high-density housing in inappropriate locations.  In 2006, in an article titled "The Transformation of Angwin", a Pacific Union College spokes-person revealed PUC's desire to build 1,157 new homes on college lands that had been inadvertently designated "urban residential". Triad Communities LTD, a large Seattle-based development company hired by PUC, began testing the waters of public opinion regarding this 1,000-plus subdivision proposal in the heart of the Angwin basin. Following phone surveys, the proposed number of housing units was revised downward to 591 new housing units and various other enterprises. Later still, following much public opposition, the number of proposed housing units was reduced to 380 new housing units.   Residents were appalled and angry that land farmed for over 100 years would be paved over, thereby destroying the rural character of the village.   SRA was formally established with the State of California in September 2006 as a Political Action Committee focused on obtaining appropriate land use designations consistent with the rural character of Angwin and on challenging the Triad-proposed development project.
Though no longer a Political Action Committee since the conclusion of the November 2012 election, SRA has continued to work to achieve appropriate land use designations for Angwin and to oppose urban-style development on Howell Mountain.

What is the mission of SRA?

SRA's mission is "To protect agriculture and the natural environment, the twin sources of Napa County's prosperity and quality of life."

What has Save Rural Angwin accomplished since forming?

Rather than attempt a comprehensive listing of achievements covering the twelve-year-to-date processes, we provide a list of some of the most significant accomplishments:

> Created a 9-11 member Steering Committee to guide the efforts of SRA and 13-15 member Advisory Council of Napa County civic leaders similarly concerned about the conversion of farmland to subdivisions and the conversion of Angwin from a village to a city.

> Followed, studied, actively participated in and testified at public hearings during the three-year Napa County General Plan Update process (2005-2007). Active participation influenced General Plan goals, policies and, specifically, text for Angwin and related unincorporated areas. Produced, with the guidance of a professional planner, and submitted at the invitation of the County, an alternative land use designation plan for the unincorporated area of Angwin.

> Followed, studied, actively participated in and testified at public hearings during the General Plan Amendment process (2008-2009) intended to address the "bubbles". Developed, submitted and advocated for the County Planners and Supervisors to adopt appropriate land use designations expressing the historic, current and future desirable land use for Angwin consistent with the rural nature of Angwin. The Board of Supervisors adopted about two-thirds of the SRA Land Use proposal during the General Plan amendment process through 2009.

> Monitored the PUC/Triad development application process. Generated support for downsizing the Triad development project.  Ultimately, in October 2010, PUC abandoned their “eco-village” development proposal and suspended the associated Environmental Impact Report.  SRA continued to work to preserve the rural character of Angwin.  Still to be addressed is General Plan Action Item AG/LU-114.1 with the objective of re-designating the remaining 100-“Urban Residential”-acres to land use designations that reflect the existing use and character of Angwin.

> Retained the San Francisco law firm of Moscone, Emblidge & Sater, LLP and hired the Berkeley EIR firm, Grassetti Environmental Consulting.

> Generated public awareness of the Angwin issue by attending Chamber Mixers, Farmer's Markets, and other local events. Developed and have continued to maintain an SRA website sharing pertinent history, news and issues.

> Participated in the Housing Element Update process that completed in 2009, as well as the Workforce Housing Ordinance and Vacation Rental Ordinance update processes by reviewing and commenting on the draft documents and submitting testimony.

> Hired a Hollywood cinematographer (an Angwin resident) to produce a high quality DVD showing how the proposed PUC/Triad subdivision, or any substantial housing development on Howell Mountain, would destroy the agricultural, forested and open space character of Angwin. The DVD can be viewed on this website.

> Represented SRA interests, since October 2010, at public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors on topics of potential impact to unincorporated Angwin. 

> Followed the March-December 2011 ABAG housing allocation process and SRA supporters participated in the July 2011 Public Workshop on the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).  On-going involvement continued until September 2012 at which time ABAG adopted the final allocation numbers for Napa County.

> Flushed from secrecy the specifics of PUC's 2012-land-sale listing.  Obtained the "Offering Memorandum" prepared by Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank, PUC's exclusive listing agents who globally marketed the land sale that resulted in several purchase offers. In the spring of 2012, PUC Board of Trustees voted to work with Curt Johansen and Sustainable Community Partners, a Delaware limited liability company. Confidential negotiations proceeded through the summer and fall of 2012 that resulted in a Purchase and Sale Agreement being signed in February 2013.

> Launched a citizens' initiative, known as Measure U, for the November 6, 2012 voter ballot to address and complete the unfinished land-use designation process for the Angwin area.  The initiative did not prevail; however, over 22,000 Napa County voters did vote for it, understanding the issue of the current land-use designation that allows for inappropriate urbanization of Angwin and understanding the resultant cost to the County taxpayers.  Pacific Union College was Napa County's biggest spender in the 2012 election cycle as it pumped in almost $500,000.00 to defeat Measure U. Recall that PUC was negotiating a Purchase and Sale Agreement for residential, commercial and agricultural development of Angwin while declaring adamantly through the election cycle that no such plans existed. Following the election, Pacific Union College undertook extensive parcel boundary surveying and filed a series of lot-line adjustment applications to the County.  Those applications were approved and recorded, effectively separating specific parcels, totally upwards of 600-700 acres, from the core campus for ease of sale as they have declared they intend to do.  SRA remained watchful and committed to preserving the rural and agricultural character of Angwin and Howell Mountain.

> Participated in the planning process that began in March 2014 to prepare the Housing Element Update for the period January 31, 2015 through January 31, 2023.   Save Rural Angwin Steering Committee members reviewed the Housing Element draft documents and provided testimony at the public hearings.  The Board of Supervisors adopted the Final 2015-2023 Housing Element on December 16, 2014.  The County sites and programs for affordable housing are focused on “urban” designated areas in the unincorporated County.  In Angwin, PUC long ago offered two locations on PUC owned lands for “as-of-right” Affordable Housing designation to accommodate a total of 191 housing units with specific affordability requirements.  Go to the current (2015-2023) Housing Element (pages H-33 and H 36-38) for the Angwin Sites A and B descriptions and locations.  http://www.countyofnapa.org/PBES/HousingElement/  The Housing Element has been certified by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). SRA has not opposed the Affordable Housing sites in Angwin.

>Participated in and provided testimony at the July 22, 2014, Board of Supervisor public hearing that sought (after a five-year hiatus) to address General Plan Action Item AG/LU 114.1.  The Board took no formal action, however, directed the Planning Director to begin drafting options for how to change parcels’ land use designations in the General Plan.  (Note:  As of September 2016, this effort has continued to be deferred by a whole host of other new thorny issues that have arisen around the County.)

>Joined NAPA VISION 2050, a coalition of some 15 neighborhoods and preservation groups from across Napa County.  VISION 2050 formed in early 2015 to unify citizens’ voices for preserving local values and to protect watersheds, forests, rural communities, agriculture and open space.  The problems that face the County affect everyone.  See SRA website under “More” for “County-wide Issues” and NAPA VISION 2050 details.  Though a participating member of NAPA VISION 2050, SRA retains its identity and mission and continues to lobby for resolution and completion of General Plan Action Item AG/LU 114.1.

>Attended and participated in the March 10, 2015, joint meeting of the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors which focused on setting priorities for Planning staff for the remainder of 2015 and 2016.  The joint meeting drew a public audience of well over 400 citizens, many voicing concerns about the impacts of growth, compounding of traffic, diminishing water resources, and movement by wineries to increasingly become “event centers”.  One outcome of the meeting was the County formation of an Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee (APAC).  For more information about the APAC make-up, deliberations and final recommendations as well as the follow-up actions taken by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, see www.countyofnapa.org, then go to “Planning & Building” and look under “Latest Information” for entries about APAC.

>Participated in the August 2015 formation of the Angwin Fire Safe Council guided by Napa County Firewise Foundation to begin addressing the health and resilience of our forests and to create defensible space through neighborhood guided Firewise projects.

>Alerted residents and communities in September 2015 to the need for thorough environmental review of a Timber Harvest Plan (THP) application filed with CALFire to occur in upper Bell Canyon, potentially impacting the Dunn-Wildlake Land Trust property, St. Helena water supply and Howell Mountain Mutual Water Co.  Since September 2015, two more THP applications have been filed for areas in Angwin to remove forest for vineyards.  Over 1,200 acres of forested land has already been cleared in Angwin.  The combination of these three applications could result in removal of another 58.3 acres of forest.  

>Preventing status quo and disregard for Napa County citizens’ concerns became the focus of NAPA VISION 2050 throughout the fall of 2015 and year 2016.  Increasing concerns about such issues as water availability, water quality, open space preservation and access, climate change, forest health, resiliency and protection including the cumulative effects of timber conversion to vineyards has been central at public hearings. 

SEE final FAQ in this document.

Who decides how the contributions are allocated?

A nine-eleven person Steering Committee manages SRA. The Steering Committee operates by consensus in carrying out the mission of SRA. From 2006 to November 2012 donations were used predominately to pay attorneys, environmental consultants, the costs associated first with the County General Plan Update and Amendment process and then with filing and conducting an Initiative Measure on the November 2012 ballot, as well as costs for public relations and communication.  It requires money for a volunteer organization such as SRA to compete with the professional public relations department of a college as well as any third party development companies. Since November 2012, donations continue to finance Save Rural Angwin visibility and efforts to carry out the mission of the organization.

What actions has the Pacific Union College Board of Trustees taken to carry out their resolve to monetize their assets?

In 2002, the PUC Board of Trustees determined to explore liquidating "non-essential" assets. By 2006, the PUC Board had signed a contract to have Triad Communities LTD develop the college property. Initially Triad proposed 1,157 new homes then reduced the proposal to 591 new housing units and an all-new shopping center with hotel and restaurants. In response to community outcry, PUC announced in April 2007 it had decided to reduce the planned number of housing units from 591 to 380 housing units. The following July 2007, Triad and PUC submitted their initial development application to the County, beginning the formal County review process. Fast-forward to July 2009, Triad - perhaps due to the general downturn in the economy - altered the contract with PUC so as to no longer be obligated by contract to purchase the PUC property. PUC, as the sole applicant, then re-submitted the application in September 2009 and restarted the work on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) and entitlement processing of their proposed development project. Triad continued to assist PUC as a "consultant". The public DEIR was to be released in July 2010. Fast forward again to October 2010: PUC announced their Board of Trustees voted to end the consulting contract with Triad, suspend any further work on the DEIR, abandon their development plans for a so-called "eco-village" and instead pursue other alternatives for financial stability of the college. They did not, however, formally withdraw the “eco-village” application to the County until June 2012. In June 2011, PUC completed a new Campus Master Plan.  Then they entered into an exclusive agreement with Cornish & Carey real estate sales brokers to market 600-1533 acres of the PUC land holdings. During the spring and summer of 2012 various purchase offers were considered by PUC. PUC also began and completed serial lot-line adjustments that isolated nearly 700 acres from the core campus for ease of sale. In February 2013, the PUC Board of Trustees entered a Purchase and Sale Agreement with Sustainable Community Partners, LLC (SCP) for the purpose of residential, commercial and vineyard development. Just over two months later, in April 2013, PUC terminated that contract. By December 2013, PUC and SCP were engaged in litigation over the cancelled contract. Ultimately, PUC prevailed in Napa County Superior Court removing any claim SCP had to the PUC lands. Throughout 2014 and 2015, PUC completed additional lot line adjustment applications with the County.  In April 2016 PUC, once again, exclusively listed four parcels totaling 578.5 acres with Newmark Cornish & Carey.  This time the land is aggressively marketed for “premium vineyards and luxurious estate homes with spectacular valley views”.  Up to “296.7 acres are plantable”, assuming Napa County environmental factors allow conversion of 40% of the forested areas.  If PUC’s parcels are sold for vineyard, potentially an additional 231.4 acres of trees may be coming down in Angwin and additional negative influences could take place in our watershed.

This PUC property listing, Howell Mountain Estates, can be viewed at:

What is a “Housing Element”?

In Government Code statute 65302, the General Plan is presented as a collection of a minimum of seven subject categories referred to as “elements”. California Housing Element Law, established in 1969, mandates that local governments develop plans to supply housing to current and future residents. That “plan” is the Housing Element and is the only one of the seven General Plan Elements required to be reviewed for adequacy by the State. The Housing Element is a comprehensive assessment of current and projected housing needs for all economic segments of the community. In addition, it embodies the County’s housing goals, policies, objectives and action programs and must include an inventory of available land that is appropriately zoned and suitable for housing development to accommodate the County’s regional housing need allocation (RHNA). By statute, the Housing Element must be updated every five years.
What is the status of Napa County’s Housing Element?

The 2009 Napa County Housing Element was challenged in court as legally insufficient and inconsistent with State Housing Law. Both the Napa Superior Court and the First District Court of Appeal rejected all claims of insufficiency and housing discrimination and affirmed in 2013 that the County’s 2009 adopted Housing Element complied with the requirements of State Housing Law. Hence, in early 2014, the County began preparing a Draft Housing Element for the planning period of January 31, 2015 through January 31, 2023. Since the 2009 Housing Element had just been through the court process and just been certified, very little content was changed during the update process for the new planning period. The December 16, 2014 Housing Element has since been certified by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) as the Final Housing Element.

What role does Angwin play in the County’s Housing Element?

The County’s greatest challenge is to identify sites that can accommodate housing affordable to very-low-income and low-income households. The County sites and programs are focused on “urban” designated areas of the unincorporated County. In Angwin, Pacific Union College offered (long ago) two locations on PUC owned lands for “as-of-right” Affordable Housing designation to accommodate a total of 191 housing units with specific affordability requirements. Go to the current (2015-2023) Housing Element adopted December 16, 2014 (pages H-33 and H 36-38) for the Angwin Sites A and B descriptions and locations. http://www.countyofnapa.org/PBES/HousingElement/

What is a Timber Harvest Plan and how is it approved?

As of April 2016, three Timber Harvest Plan requests affecting Angwin are pending with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.  They are:

1. Ciminelli Estate one mile north of Angwin Plaza.  The project would create 17.8 acres of vineyards and maintenance areas on 40 acres and would require removing 16.3 acres of forest.
2. Le Colline Vineyard at 300 Cold Springs Road southeast of Angwin Plaza.  The project would create 35 acres of vineyards and maintenance areas on 88 acres and require removing 32 acres of forest.  It is near the Land Trust of Napa Valley’s Linda Falls Preserve.
3. Davis Family Estates Friesen Vineyard at 1875 Friesen Drive near Angwin.  The project would create a 14-acre vineyard on 38.7 acres and require removing 10 acres of forest.

As of December 31, 2016, what is the status of General Plan Action Item AG/LU 114.1?

Completed!  Following July 22, 2014, Board of Supervisor’s direction to county planning staff to proceed drafting options to address this Action Item, Napa County was heavily impacted by an earthquake.  That, in conjunction with many other competing priorities in the County, delayed forward progress on this item once again.  Finally, two years later, in October 2016, the Action Item returned to the Board’s agenda.  A public hearing, rescheduled at PUC request from October 4, 2016, was held October 18, 2016.  SRA prepared and presented a summary power- point demonstrating where agreement between PUC and SRA existed.  Following that hearing, county staff drafted resolutions for a December public hearing.  In a 4-1 vote at the December 20, 2016 Board of Supervisor public hearing, the Supervisors adopted two resolutions completing this Action Item and amending the General Plan land use designations for Angwin.  Save Rural Angwin prevailed on its highest priority, the green fields south of Angwin Avenue and west of Howell Mountain Road achieving the land use designation of Agriculture, Watershed and Open Space (AWOS).  This designation represents a “new starting place” for planning purposes. 

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