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Traffic in Napa: How Can Small Family Vineyards be Part of the Traffic Solution?

Photo courtesy of Napa Register

“The Napa Valley Tourism Improvement District (NVTID) was designed to provide specific benefits directly to payers by increasing room night sales. Valley-wide and individual destination marketing programs will increase overnight tourism and market payers as tourist, meeting and event destinations, thereby increasing room night sales.” - Management District Plan July 2015 - June 2025


Since the inception of NVTID in 2010, hotel guests have been charged an additional 2% tax. This money is earmarked for the sole purpose of increasing visitor traffic and overnight stays to Napa Valley. It is not the small family wineries who are increasing traffic. It is our city, counties, and large corporate ventures who are spending millions of dollars driving traffic in our valley.


In 2010, Napa’s annual budget for tourism marketing was $500,000 per year, generated from a portion of the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) allocated to tourism. Today, with the new TID tax, the annual budget for tourism marketing has grown to over $8,000,000 and is directed by Visit Napa Valley.


“Visit Napa Valley® (VNV) is the official tourism marketing organization for the Napa Valley. Primary funding for our activities and programs comes from a Tourism Improvement District (TID) special assessment on lodging. Additional funding is provided through partnerships with visitor-serving businesses throughout Napa County, and through Napa County Special Projects Funding." (from About Us on VNV website)


This money, along with additional funding provided by “visitor-serving businesses” is also used to subsidize large events: Flavor Napa Valley, Restaurant week, Film festival, BottleRock, and many other events meant to attract visitation and overnight stays to the Napa Valley. Again, small family wineries are not spending money to attract visitors but our city, county and large corporations.


The only way to grow that budget is to increase the number of overnight guests in the valley. Therefore, the county has approved a plethora of hotels and accommodations over the last decade. There have been 345 rooms completed since 2016. There are 647 more rooms approved and not yet constructed, and 1132 rooms listed as “pre approval phase” (City of Napa Lodging inventory). The increase in hotels and restaurants, is driving the need to have a substantial increase our workforce. According to a county study on traffic, only 21% of traffic is generated by visitors, while over 55% is generated by local cars and work force traffic.


With the continued success of Visit Napa Valley’s marketing campaigns, the overall number of visitors and work force traffic is destined to rise.

Which brings me to a potential solution...why not disperse the traffic?


This can easily be accomplished by creating a new policy for small family producers (with their own vineyards, who have an existing 02 production license and no onsite production facilities), granting them access to the existing visitor pool.


I believe this would not increase traffic by any meaningful measure! By the way, traffic is the #1 argument (real or perceived) against such ideas. But in fact, it is quite the opposite. Since small family producers with 02 production licenses make their wine offsite, there is no need to add more roads, buildings, and infrastructure in our Agricultural Watersheds. A new policy for small family producers would only allow small educational tastings and direct sales of wine that is grown on the family property. It would not be like having a full-fledged winery as a neighbor. It would not include having production staff, giant parking lots, tour buses, or events centers. In fact, most neighbors wouldn’t even notice a difference. They would not see an increase in traffic, but rather it is a solution to “disperse” the existing traffic in downtown Napa, Highway 29 and Silverado Trail.


Napa’s legacy is small family farmers. These small family farmers want to share their story with the visitors that our county has worked so hard to bring into the Napa Valley. In addition, many of these producers are not on primary roadways, this in turn would help relieve some of the congestion on the major thoroughfares, by dispersing the traffic onto secondary and tertiary roads.


To think that these small owner operated businesses would have any effect on our counties traffic problems is a myth, and often used as an excuse to keep the small family producers out of the marketplace. And as a result, many small family farms are going out of business. The current Napa County policies in place do not protect the small family farmer, who is being pushed out by large corporate entities and investment banking companies. Please support small family farms; recognize their rights, as granted by their state and federal license, to sell direct to consumer. Napa County is the only county with a policy that prevents such access, and as a result, it severely limits the property rights of the small family farmer and access to the marketplace in their own backyard.


Help your local farmers, by letting them participate in the mitigation of Napa Valley traffic congestion. Tell your local supervisor to enact a new policy to enable these forgotten producers to participate in the thriving wine tourism business in their own town.


Submitted Anonymously by a second generation permitted Grower and Small Producer in Napa County who wants to share in the success of Visit Napa Valley like all other permitted producers.


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