For more than two hours Jan. 19, officials and residents of Napa County and other North Bay communities gathered at the for a , one in a series held throughout the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties in recent months.
The meeting, which began with an informal buffet, also drew a group of sign-carrying demonstrators who challenged the process, saying officials had already determined the outcome. A videographer followed the protest group.
Among the more prominent people on hand were Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, the county's representative to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Upvalley supervisor Diane Dillon; Solano County Supervisor and former Suisun City mayor Jim Spering; American Canyon Mayor Leon Garcia; Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders and Napa City Council member and county supervisorial candidate .
Tempers were already on the rise before the formal proceedings got under way. Napa County Planning Director Hilary Gitelman ate her supper to the sound of a critical Upvalley voice: Sitting across the table with vintner Volker Eisele, Angwin resident Kellie Anderson angrily accused Gitelman and other county officials of predetermining the outcome of public meetings.
Anderson, who also spoke during a public comment period, was not the only dissenter at the Elks: As at several other workshops in the series, a vocal group of protesters came to town for the event, carrying signs and making statements opposing the effort to coordinate a regional plan for housing and transportation over the next 25 years.
The "One Bay Area" regional planning initiative is mandated by a state law, S.B. 375, requiring metropolitan regions including the San Francisco Bay Area to create strategies for growth that will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
A secret plan to take away our cars?
About a dozen of those attending Thursday's workshop were demonstrators from outside Napa County who have been present at earlier workshops to protest the regional planning effort, which they say is secretly driven by Agenda 21, a non-binding 1992 United Nations agreement on sustainable development.
"ONE BAY AREA is UN AGENDA 21" read a flyer distributed by the group Democrats Against UN Agenda 21.
The plan for regional development is "faceless, nameless, empty tyranny," said the group's James Bennett during public comment.
Many of those in the protest group appeared to be senior citizens, several of whom said in public comment they were afraid the regional plan would force them out of their cars and into high-density residential areas.
Occasionally shouting down other voices, protesters also alluded to living conditions in the Soviet Union, read from The Communist Manifesto and derided bicycling and what one woman repeatedly called "silly little green cars."
Not everyone can afford to drive
Noting the evidently white, affluent and older crowd at the workshop, both worker Cara Mae McGarry and Tony Norris urged officials to consider the many county residents who can't afford automobiles and were not represented at the workshop.
Speaking in favor of alternative transportation, Napa residents Chuck McMinn of the and , Genji Schmeder of Napa and Sandy Elles of the all encouraged regional officials to continue seeking sustainable solutions.
Both the workshop audience and the protest crowd were smaller in Napa than they were reported to have been in other cities on the Plan Bay Area tour.
Fewer than 100 people attended, not including organizers, officials and a half-dozen or so police and private security officers who kept a close eye on the movements of workshop participants.
The final workshop in the series is scheduled for Wednesday evening in Fairfield.
Clarification: Schmeder, while a member of the as indicated in the original posted version of this article, did not refer to the club or to population growth in his public comments. Elles, asked after the workshop whether her comments were on her own behalf or on behalf of the Farm Bureau, answered in the affirmative to both.