With 97 percent of the ballots tallied from the June 5 election, Napa County’s controversial Measure C on preservation of oaks, and considered by opponents to limit vineyard development, went further toward defeat June 13.
After pulling to a razor-thin lead of 42 votes on election night, later tallies swung the results toward “no” on the watershed and oak woodland protection initiative. After counting 6,157 more votes June 13, Measure C was losing by 632 in the final count — 17,471-to-16,839 — before certification of the vote, according to the county Election Division. That last stage includes evaluation of up to 1,200 late-registration and damaged ballots plus a small manual recount of randomly selected precincts.
If the roughly 200 late registrations check out, that leaves 750–1,000 uncounted votes to consider. If the split vote trend continues, that would leave roughly 500 additional votes for each side of the measure. That would be short of the current lead for "no."
It was Napa County’s first all vote-by-mail election, so counting of ballots proceeded as they arrived. Turnout was higher than expected, 47 percent by the latest tally, and many were mailed in just days before, extending the time for the count, according to Registrar of Voters John Tuteur. “Yes” votes had led by 42 votes on election night June 5 and by 35 in the second tally June 8. Then the tally June 11 found a lead of 133 “no” votes, and that expanded to 313 on June 12.
Measure C was written to amend the Napa County general plan and zoning regulations to establish buffer zones around creeks and apply additional regulations on removal of oak trees and oak woodlands. Opposition has come from the county’s wine and agriculture trade groups.
Those buffer zones would reach 25 to 125 feet from the streams and 150 feet from any wetland. Removing downed or dead trees, creating firebreaks and other health and safety improvements would be exempt. Those granted permits to take down trees would have to ensure at least 90 percent of the “affected oak canopy” is retained.
Trees or woodlands removed would also have to be replaced at a 3-to-1 ratio on lands designated as agricultural watersheds or “comparable habitat” be acquired.
Under another provision, if total of oak woodland removed exceeds 795 acres (counted from Sept. 1, 2017) any other oak and oak woodland removal would require permits. Any trees burned for removal would be counted, but those torched during wildfires would not.
The move toward Measure C started a couple of years ago, and the campaign crescendoed in the weeks before the election. In March, a backer sued Tuteur and other county officials, claiming certain parts of the opposing argument that would be printed in the voter guide were misleading. A settlement was reached, including a wording change from “outlaw future farming” to “limit future farming” and covering $54,000 in legal fees for supporters.
Contact Jeff Quackenbush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-4256.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the "yes" vote was leading on June 11 and 12. But the sidebar correctly notes, the lead for those dates was for the "no" vote.
Progress of Measure C election
June 5 election night tally
15,091 votes tallied from registered voters (19.8% turnout)
7,191 votes for Measure C
7,149 votes against Measure C
14,340 votes total on Measure C
Advantage “yes” by 42 votes
June 8 tally
16,773 registered voters (22%)
7,998 votes for Measure C
7,963 votes against Measure C
15,961 votes total on Measure C
Advantage “yes” by 35 votes
June 11 tally
22,707 votes tallied from registered voters (29.79%)
10,886 votes against Measure C
10,753 votes for Measure C
21,639 votes total on Measure C
Advantage “no” by 133 votes
June 12 tally
29,833 votes tallied from registered voters (39.13%)
14,393 votes against Measure C
14,080 votes for Measure C
28,473 votes total on Measure C
Advantage “no” by 313 votes
June 13 tally
35,959 votes tallied from registered voters (47.17%)
17,471 votes against Measure C (50.92%)
16,839 votes for Measure C (49.08%)
34,310 votes counted on Measure C
Advantage “no” by 632 votes
Source: Napa County Registrar of Voters