To: Permit Sonoma & Sonoma County Supervisors:
RE: Winery Event Ordinance
Wine and Water Watch is a local organization of over 300 citizens concerned with the overdevelopment of the wine tourism industry and promotes ethical land and water use. We oppose the industrialization of agricultural lands not growing food, medicine, fiber or sileage and advocate agricultural practices that are ecologically regenerative.
The bias shown at the recent workshop allowing the wine industry to have free reign over rewriting regulations in this County is unacceptable. After the breakout sessions, reports were given and many comments on impacts were omitted as it did not fit the county’s narrative. Those not in your preferred industry circle of influence found this workshop was little more than to check off your to do list as far as public participations was concerned. Very disingenuous. What was obvious from the workshop is that the majority of residents favor meaningful limitations on winery hospitality uses – not the roll-back of regulations, buy cleverly renaming events as business operations, that the wine industry has been pushing for the last seven years.
More tourism is not an economic cure all. The recent Economic Development Plan, pre-pandemic clearly shows that tourism is not that important of an economic generator (6.5%) in the overall picture. It has been shown that governments that cater to tourism are the first to crash and last to recover from an economic downturn. We deserve better.
You are choosing economic winners and losers which is not your job. In a capitalist system rewards go to innovators and destroys those who do not adapt. Changing definitions to allow the bloated and failing wine industry to write their own rules is not governing, it is submission to an industry that cannot possibly maintain its current operating model that favors large corporate interest. Instead of changing to adapt to the new climate and economic realities, the wine industry continues to claim local businesses as collateral damage.
A pattern has formed in our local government that promotes wine industry interest over local enterprise. We site kitchen permits given freely by Permit Sonoma and the gradual deterioration of food security, 96% of all food is imported. Local restaurants are fighting to stay alive as are food farmers. The hotel industry appears to be the next ask of this bloated industry.
We continue to believe strict regulations on events both size, number, definition and timing with high traffic events should be created. The fact is the County already has such a policy and it should be included in the ordinance. Weddings, parties, and business meetings are not agriculture promotions but rather corporate event productions and not ag. Up to date traffic studies, no more than 2 years old, need to be created to map out potential problems due to binge tourism. We are tired of “right turn only” season that this inflated industry creates is both a safety issue and a quality-of-life issue.
Permit Sonoma, you need to go back to the drawing board. Tourism should be supportive to local communities and not dislocate the local population with traditionally low wages, unaffordable housing due to investors, sacrificing our local mom-and-pop businesses that service the residents needs and require more taxes to fix the overtaxed infrastructure. No more wine industry expansion. They are bad neighbors.
We suggest that if the wine industry needs more events to survive that as a community, they work together to build a large center that can cater to all wineries and events and has the infrastructure to support the added pressure to our community. The wine industry should be paying for this not more tax increases and aggravation born by residents. Luther Burbank Center type of property close to a major thoroughfare should be the goal not scattered winery events all over the county. If the County is serious in propping up this diminished industry, why not create a center perhaps on Chanate property that can house a winery event center, showcasing all wineries large to small in an even platform?
You need to think outside the box unlike the wine industry and make this work for everyone.
Agriculture in this county has had plenty of changes over the years. From potatoes, to hops, prunes, peaches, apples, poultry, pears, hay, dairy, cattle and sheep. Dairy and cattle remain as do some poultry business but pared down into a realistic size industry. With diminished sales, wine grape glut and lowered worldwide demand, changing tastes and new online marketing, time for this industry to adjust or die. Those eras did not have the same issues we face today: climate change impacts that may cause our own extinction, scarce water, changing cultural tastes, unaffordable land, social inequality to name a few.
A serious discussion and studies need to be made on the ever-expanding wine industry impacts that are adding considerable amounts of GHG exasperating climate change in search of customers, depleting our aquifers for future generations and the onslaught of chemical based ag. We have paid the price for their endless assaults on our environment. Time for them to make the changes as we all have already sacrificed way too much for their pursuit of profit.
A full Cumulative Impact Report should be made before any changes to the winery event regulations and climate change has to be addressed. We need current information to make such generational decisions. We look forward to action on this matter that reflects the public not the wine industry wants. Thank you for your consideration.
Wine & Water Watch Board