The History

About the Jack L. Davies Napa Valley Agricultural Land Preservation Fund
In 2003, recognizing a mutual commitment to preserving the agricultural lands and heritage that are fundamental to Napa County’s rural character, the Jack L. Davies Fund, the Napa Valley Foundation and the Napa Valley Agricultural Land Preservation Fund united to create The Jack L. Davies Napa Valley Agricultural Land Preservation Fund. Guided by a volunteer board of directors, the JLD Ag Fund operates under the premise that only an educated electorate can protect the integrity of the land, and is dedicated to a mission of preserving, protecting, and promoting agricultural land in Napa County.
Jack L Davies

jackdaviesJack L. Davies was a successful Los Angeles businessman in 1965 when he bought the 220 acre Jacob Schram property in Napa County. Schramsberg, the name of the winery built in 1862 on the property, achieved notoriety in 1883 when Robert Louis Stevenson, in his book “The Silverado Squatters”, wrote long and lovingly about the winery, the wine, the owner Jacob Schram, and the Napa Valley.

However, in 1965 after years of neglect, all of the buildings on the property, the wine caves and the vineyards were all in need of repair, restoration or replacement.  Over the next thirty-three  years  Jack and his wife Jamie not only rebuilt the facilities and restored the vineyards  and caves, they also established Schramsberg as the home of an internationally acclaimed sparkling wine.

In 1972 President Richard Nixon chose a 1969 Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc to toast the normalization of United States’ diplomatic relations with China during his historic trip to Beijing.

While he was busy restoring the vineyards, winery and related facilities, from the beginning Jack found time to become involved in local proposals and issues concerning agriculture’s role and its future in Napa County. In 1967 he served as chairman of a citizen committee formed to support the creation of the Napa County Agricultural Preserve.

The controversial aspect of the Preserve was that it established agriculture as the highest and best use of over ninety percent of all the land in the unincorporated area of the Napa Valley. Jack circulated petitions supporting the creation of the Preserve and appeared before the County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors to speak in favor of it. The Agricultural Preserve established in 1968 remains today as the heart of Napa’s wine industry.

Jack continued until his death in 1998 to be an active participant in every major agriculture-open space issue and program facing the county. The Jack L. Davies Fund was created to continue his work and his vision to preserve agricultural and open space in Napa County.

How We Came to Be
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THE STORY OF THE JACK L. DAVIES
NAPA VALLEY AGRICULTURAL LAND PRESERVATION FUND

The Jack L. Davies Ag Fund was officially established in 2003, however its roots reach back more than 25 years, through the groundwork of the three distinctive groups that eventually came together to form the organization.

The Napa Valley Foundation was founded in 1980 by citizens concerned with the direction of local development. Established to encourage awareness and understanding of agriculture and related activities as the best primary use of in land Napa County, the membership organization advocated for concentration of urban uses within the county’s existing cities and urban areas. The Foundation pursued its mission to protect the small town, rural lifestyle which characterizes the Napa Valley by implementing educational programs and conducting public forums on key development issues facing the Valley. Proceedings of the forums were shared with residents in newsletters published and distributed to members.

In 1982, grape growers Alex Phillips, Tom May, Louis Martini, Joseph Phelps, Russ Eichner and Ron Wicker banded together to create the Napa Valley Ag Land Preservation Fund. The Fund sought to galvanize the work of a small group of local residents committed to agricultural land preservation. For two decades the Napa Valley Ag Land Preservation Fund funded a wide range of educational and research projects, retaining both a land use expert and an attorney to evaluate the county’s General Plan in order to ensure agricultural land preservation; commissioning legal research to support Measure J, Napa County’s landmark growth management initiative; and sponsoring an educational water forum along with numerous other small endeavors designed to support the work of local schools, museums and organizations such as the Napa County Land Trust.

The Jack L. Davies Fund was first established in 1998 as a perpetual memorial to the Davies’ family patriarch. A dedicated open space advocate, Davies and his wife Jamie raised a family and a business, the historic Schramsberg Vineyard and Winery, on a fabled tract of land tucked into the eastern face of Diamond Mountain in Calistoga. Under the tutelage of nationally-recognized environmentalist Dorothy Erskine, Davies was a vocal advocate for the controversial passage of legislation that formed the Napa County Agriculture Preserve and a leading supporter of one of the region’s earliest conservation groups, Upper Napa Valley Associates. The Fund was created to continue his legacy of supporting agricultural conservation in the Napa Valley.

Although each organization operated successfully as an independent entity, the history of the Napa Valley clearly indicates that the agricultural community is best served by a spirit of camaraderie, and to this end the three organizations sought to maximize their efforts by joining resources under a single mantle. In 2003, recognizing a mutual commitment to preserving the agricultural lands and heritage that are fundamental to Napa County’s rural character, the Jack L. Davies Fund, the Napa Valley Foundation and the Napa Valley Agricultural Land Preservation Fund united to create The Jack L. Davies Ag Fund.

The Jack L. Davies Ag Fund seeks to create a $500,000 endowment to support a perpetual, annual program of micro-grants focused on research and educational outreach. Guided by a volunteer board of directors, the JLD Ag Fund operates under the premise that only an educated electorate can protect the integrity of the land, and is dedicated to a mission of preserving, protecting, and promoting agricultural land in the Napa Valley.

History of the Napa County Ag Preserve
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Napa County’s Most Important Element
prepared by James A. Hickey

Today, agriculture is king in the Napa Valley, but it wasn’t always a given that the industry would be the guiding force of this region. In fact, anyone who makes their home in the Napa Valley owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the 1968 Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission for their vision in establishing the Agricultural Preserve, and bears the responsibility of ensuring that we honor their actions and continue their legacy through continued preservation of agricultural lands in Napa County. In 2008 legislation to extend the protection for agricultural lands through the continuation of the Ag Preserve will be placed in the hands of the voters, and once again citizens of Napa County will be called on to decide the future of our region.

The Napa County Agricultural Preserve, designed to protect the Napa Valley, was established in 1968 by the Napa county Board of Supervisors and the Napa County Planning Commission. The Goal of the Preserve was spelled out in the first section of the ordinance creating the Preserve.

“This district classification is intended to be applied in the fertile valley and foothill areas of Napa County in which agriculture is and should continue to be the predominant land use, where uses incompatible to agriculture should be precluded and where development of urban type uses would be detrimental to the continuance of agriculture and the maintenance of open spaces which are economic and aesthetic attributes and assets of the County of Napa.”

The ordinance was adopted by a unanimous vote of the Planning Commission on January 15, 1968 and by the Board of Supervisors on April 9, 1968. The Board’s and Commission’s actions would change forever the future of Napa County. N.D. (Pete) Clark, a member of the Board of Supervisors when the Agricultural Preserve was established, was asked at the time of his retirement what he believed was the single most important action taken by the Board during his six terms as a member. “The creation of the Ag Preserve,” he said, “Was the the most important action taken by the Board in the past twenty-five years.”

Many residents of the Valley today feel that the creation of the Preserve was also the most important action taken by the Board in the forty years that followed. During the past 40 years, the basic theme of the Preserve, “agriculture is the highest and best use of the land,” has been expanded into the county’s General Plan and all of the related land use regulation ordinances. “Urban uses belong in urban areas” became a popular planning and political way of saying that agriculture is the highest and best use of the land in the Napa Valley. However you want to say it, the Preserve was here to stay.

Who cam up with the idea first? What organization(s) or individual(s) did the most to move the county to take the necessary actions to create the Preserve? Ask anyone in the Valley and you will probably get a different answer every time. A number of individuals and organizations did play key roles in the process. But in the end, it was the Board and the Commission who moved the concept from the ideal to the real. Without them it would have been just another idea that somebody should have done something about.

The ordinance pending before the Board and the commission in early 1968 would protect 23,000 acred of agricultural land located along the floor of the Napa Valley stretching from Napa to Calistoga. Agriculture in the county in 1968 included walnuts, prunes, cattle and grapes. “Prunes and walnuts were going to hell.”Said Julius Caiocca, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 1968. “And people were saying grapes would do the same.” Fewer than sixty-five wineries were operating in the Valley and the wine boom was many years away.”

The decision to move agriculture ahead of every other potential land use in the Valley was not overwhelmingly popular at the time. The first public hearing held by the Board on the concept in draft ordinance form lasted more than three hours. The crowd attending the heading was so large that the hearing had to be held in the Ridgeview Junior High School gymnasium. Large crowds, long meeting sand heated emotions became the hallmarks for the proposed Agricultural Preserve program.

The adoption of the ordinance was immediately challenged by unhappy property owners in the courts as being unconstitutional and discriminatory. The county won favorable decisions a both the Superior Court and Court of Appeals levels. The Board of Supervisors also received a Special merit Award from the California Chapter of the American Institute of Planners of h the innovative character of the Agricultural Preserve, and also a lot of news media attention.

A second action that was equally as controversial as establishing the Preserve concept as part of the zoning ordinance was the actual rezoning of 23,000 acres of Valley land to the new classification. Whose property was to be placed inside the boundaries of a new district that made agriculture the highest and best use and increased the parcel size from a minimum of one acre to twenty acres? Where would the lines be drawn? Once again, long meetings, large crowds and strong emotions became the order of the day.

While the total acceptance of the Agricultural Preserve was many years away, the action to establish the second Preserve, 2,200 acres in Wooden Valley in June of 1969 generated little public interest, and little opposition and no legal challenges.

Whether the action taken by the county in 1968 was a major factor in the meteoric growth of the wine industry that occurred in the years that followed or whether the booming wine industry that followed validated the Board’s and Commission’s decisions is not really important today. What is important for the county and this celebration is that 40 years ago 12 citizens of Napa County (five members of the Board of Supervisors and seven members of the County’s Planning Commission) had the wisdom, the foresight and the courage to take an action that was not popular at the time but was, without doubt, the right one for the county’s future.

The action they took then forever changed the future of Napa County. In the years since that action was taken, while the Agricultural Preserve has been expanded in several areas, not one acre of land has ever been removed from the Preserve or rezoned for a non-agricultural use. The Agricultural Preserve remains the dominant feature of the county’s General Plan, Zoning Ordinance and the political landscape.

That single idea: “agriculture is the highest and best use of the land” – wrapped in the legal form of an ordinance and sustained by the citizens of Napa County, the wine industry and local government – has preserved in the past and ensured in the future the preservation of one of the most beautiful valleys in the world.

For more information, please visit our website exclusively dedicated to the Napa County Agricultural Preserve.

1968 Board of Supervisors

Julius Caiocca (Chair)

Dewey Andersen

N.D. (Pete) Clark

Jack Ferguson

Henry Wigger

1968 Planning Commission

Felix Vandershoot (Chair)

George Blaufuss

J.H. Bentley

Fred Berry

Kent B. Ingalls

Don McFarland

Andrew Pelissa

 

Archives

Zoning Ordinance Passed For Napa Valley (1968)

zoningIMGKPIX-TV Eyewitness News report from April 9th 1968 by Pat O’Brien in the Napa Valley, where the Napa county Board of Supervisors and the Napa County Planning Commission have just passed a zoning ordinance creating the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve. It is intended to protect the agricultural use of land in the valley – particularly winemaking – against being sold for subdivision housing. Includes interviews with John Daniel Jr. (arguing against the ordinance) and Louis P. Martini (explaining why he thinks it necessary). Also aerial views of the Napa Valley landscape and subdivision housing tracts. Opening graphic designed by Carrie Hawks.

 

 


 

 Volker Eisele

Volker

A video in memory of Volker Eisele, a local vineyard owner aptly called the “Lion of Land Use,” and past President of the JLD Ag Fund. His lifetime of unwavering leadership and fierce advocacy for agricultural land and open space preservation was vital to our organization and all the progress in Napa County, particularly with Measure J and Measure P which extended the protection of the agricultural and watershed lands of Napa County. You may read his firsthand experiences in the Oral Histories of Napa County’s Agricultural Preserve.