In order to serve as an organized voice for the local community, and to protect the people and the assets of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), Sonoma Land Trust (SLT) and our partners have launched the “Transform SDC” Project. Situated on 1,000 acres, the Sonoma Developmental Center not only has provided residential care for developmentally disabled individuals for more than 100 years, but it also serves as a crucial wildlife passage for the entire North Bay, an ecologically significant property of the Sonoma Valley.
Through this project, we can more readily ensure that underdeveloped lands of the Sonoma Developmental Center are transferred to an organization that provides permanent protection for parkland, open space, integrated watershed and wildlife corridor conservation, and management purposes. In addition, we must ensure that the long-term care needs of the current resident population at the SDC are considered and resolved on an individual basis, and that a permanent residency facility is retained for those who cannot receive adequate care in community-based facilities.
The future of the Sonoma Developmental Center is at a crossroads. Due to state-run developmental centers being extremely expensive to operate, and the dwindling population of residents being served because of mandates requiring the transition of individuals to community-based care, the “DC Task Force Report” is calling for “the fundamental transformation of the remaining DCs.” The conclusion to the report was that “DCs will need to transition from large, congregate 24-hour nursing and Intermediate Care Facility services to a new model.” That new model described is what we are trying to achieve through a planning process in which the community will identify a common vision and specific recommendations for the future use of the site that recognizes and values the SDC’s professional staff expertise and the property’s unique land and infrastructure resources.
A community workshop in May of 2015 resulted in strong guiding principles for the desired transformation of SDC, including the following vision statement:
Create a public-private partnership driven by community ideas and values that showcases the site’s history, maintains critical services for the developmentally disabled, provides opportunities for creative reuse of SDC’s assets, and preserves the natural resources and open space of the site.