The Department of General Services Surplus Land Process and Policy for the Sonoma Developmental Center

January 20, 2015:

The Department of General Services (DGS) Real Estate Services Asset Enhancement Section 

The following describes the step-by-step process of how State-owned land is determined to be surplus and then dispensed:

  1. The State owns all state-owned land; however different agencies have control over lands and account for them in their respective budgets. In the case of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), the agency is the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).
  2. Every year, state agencies must report to DGS on all state-owned land they operate, and identify it as being “fully utilized,” “partially utilized,” or “excess.”
  3. If an agency identifies property/land to be excess, it means that it is no longer efficient or financially sound for the agency to keep it in their budgets.
  4. DGS then takes over, where they send a report to the state legislature each year listing excess properties. They need legislative approval to officially “surplus” state property. This happens in January/February of each year and always takes a year at least to get from being listed as excess to being approved for dispensation by legislature.
  5. Once DGS has approval, they must consult local government about any property that will be dispensed. Local government could mean the city, county, special districts, etc. Local government has the first opportunity to take over the property. If they so wish to use if for a governmental purpose, a park and/or open space, or affordable housing, it will be transferred to them. It must stay in their ownership and they must have a thorough and detailed management plan.
  6. If there is no local government interest in the land, and the property has the potential to be very valuable as urban infill, DGS will negotiate with city/county development agencies about how the property should be zoned. The state is always looking to make the absolute most money out of the situation, so they’ll be pushing for subdivisions or whatever type of zoning will yield the highest purchase price. It is at this point that the county has some pullIf the Board of Supervisors decides that this excess land should be kept as open space, and want to severely limit the development potential, DGS will not go out of their way to fight it, which is not worth the time or expense. They’ll just go ahead and accept the local decision in most cases. 
  7. Once development potential has been determined, DGS puts the property up for sale and sells to the highest bidder.

By looking up SDC on the Statewide Property Inventory, it can be determined that the agency controlling the Center is the Department of Developmental Services, a division of Health and Human Services that deals with people living with developmental disabilities. They would be the ones letting DGS know each year how “utilized” the property is.

Private individuals may contact the controlling agencies to see if any property may one day be listed as “excess.”

Governing Law:  Government Code Sections 54220-54232.

Announcement courtesy of Bob McKinnon, Assistant Chief.

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