By Tim Hunt
Two measures to re-invigorate Livermore Valley wine country headed to November ballotUploaded: Aug 4, 2022
For decades people opposed to residential growth in the Tri-Valley tried to restrict development by limiting and controlling basic infrastructure.
That’s why there’s no water or sewer lines extending into the Las Positas Valley in North Livermore or to rural areas outside the urban limit boundary in the South Livermore Valley Plan. Now, more than 25 years after the plan took effect, a consensus is building that the wine industry in the Livermore Valley needs more options.
That includes potentially extending sewer pipes outside the city limits to allow larger facilities to function on other than septic systems. Livermore voters will decide in November whether to extend sewer lines outside of the urban growth boundaries to enhance wine country.
Staff reports leading up to the council approval have pointed out that growth is stagnant with about 50 wineries and few news ones in recent years. The proposal is being driven by the Tri-Valley Conservancy, which commissioned an independent study released in 2020 to examine the wine industry in the Livermore Valley. It found that the goal of 5,000 acres of irrigated grapes set in the county plan had fallen well short at about 2,800 acres. It recommended steps to attract mid-sized wineries that have tasting rooms and related activities. The conservancy was established after the South Valley Plan was approved to oversee land dedicated to open space or agriculture in perpetuity.
In pushing the measure forward, the conservancy was joined by Friends of Livermore, Visit Tri-Valley, the Livermore Chamber of Commerce and the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association. It’s rare to find the Friends of Livermore and chamber aligned on an issue. That speaks to the consensus that something must be done to revitalize the area for the broader wine and tourism industry.
Should the initiative pass, costs will be split with the county picking up 80% and the rest covered by property owners and commercial operators that decide to connect to the sewer line.
Meanwhile the county Board of Supervisors is set to put a measure on the November ballot to amend Measure D. The first reading passed the board 4-1 with Supervisor Keith Carson opposed. The county measure also is related to amending the urban limit boundary Measure D, but not connected to the city’s measure.
The county’s Local Agency Formation Commission analyzed Measure D 20 years after its passage in 2000. It found that the wine industry was “stagnant” and changes were recommended to improve vitality. Those findings mirrored those of the Tri-Valley Conservancy-commissioned report. These include more flexibility for size and location of buildings and expanding visitor-serving uses. These could include hot air balloon operations, day spas, artisan furniture workshops, boutique cannabis dispensaries and a 140-room resort hotel. For upscale visitors, the resort hotel would fill a huge gap. There’s the small Purple Orchid Inn, but little else other than short term rental homes in the wine country.
Given that this is a county-wide measure, the Sierra Club is neutral, which will help in the progressive enclaves of Oakland and Berkeley. Also, Dick Schneider, a Sierra Club member until 2020 who co-authored Measure D, is on board with the changes.