April 22, 2019. The California Department of Finance (DOF) and the California Department of General Services (DGS) released budget documents today requesting over $43 million over three years to “manage the Sonoma Developmental Center and begin decommissioning activities through a warm shutdown until the final disposition of the campus is complete…” in 2022. This budget request fulfills the state’s commitment expressed at the April 5th Sonoma County Board of Supervisors hearing to bear the costs of managing SDC in “warm shutdown” mode, and to provide the County funding support and time to prepare a specific reuse plan for the nearly 1000 acre property.
The budget request from the Governor’s Department of Finance is addressed to the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees, and asks for an initial appropriation of $21 million in FY 2019-2020 for staffing, decommissioning of antiquated facilities, and maintenance and stewardship of the property. Pending approval from the Legislature as part of the new state budget, this allocation also provides $3.5 million for Sonoma County to prepare a specific plan for SDC. The DGS “budget change proposal” goes into much greater detail about the Department’s three year budget and timeline, and how the state intends to handle decommissioning of some of the property’s problematic infrastructure like the Central Utility Plant.
The Department of Finance letter includes draft budget language to appropriate the necessary funds and provides overall statutory guidance for reuse priorities for the property. The proposal also includes specific protections for the land, water, and natural resources of the property and requirements for managing and caring for the property in the public trust during the interim “warm shutdown” period. The draft text includes a series of “findings and declarations” including provisions directing”that priority be given to affordable housing..in the disposition of the [SDC] property” and that “all lands outside the core developed campus and its related infrastructure be preserved as public parkland and open space.” These findings are backed up by more detailed direction and policy, including several sections that honor the 128 year health care legacy of SDC by including a priority for deed-restricted, affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities, and protection of the Eldridge Cemetery.
Budget hearings on this item will occur in April and May, with a final vote on the state budget sometime in June, allowing the successful transfer of jurisdiction and operation of SDC to the Department of General Services effective July 1, 2019. This budget proposal is a very positive step forward, and another strong indication of the state’s commitment to partner with local interests to forge a solution for the future of SDC that meets the needs of our community, while also protecting the property’s invaluable open space and wildlife corridor lands.
Here are links to both of the relevant budget documents.
The Transform SDC Blog site was launched in 2014 to provide the Sonoma Valley community — and those interested in the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) — a forum and information source for news related to the closure and reuse planning process for SDC. For more information, please post a response on the blog site, or email John McCaull at firstname.lastname@example.org.