The Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor Needs Your Help

Please attend the public hearings on November 13th and November 17th regarding the proposed development alternatives for SDC and follow the link above to read an important message from Sonoma Land Trust’s Executive Director Eamon O’Byrne about how you can make a difference in saving this regional environmental treasure.

SDC Specific Plan Process Moving Forward with Revised Timeline and Public Outreach Plan

April 17, 2020. Even with California’s “stay at home” order in place, and with the state and nation facing widespread economic and social disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, the commitment by Sonoma County to complete a specific plan by the end of 2021 for the future reuse of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) is thankfully proceeding forward.

In 2019, the County secured $3.5 million from the state to fund the specific plan effort, and in December, they hired the urban and regional planning firm of Dyett & Bhatia to prepare the specific plan and required environmental impact report. Dyett & Bhatia have set up a new website to engage and inform the public—www.sdcspecificplan.com—and they are hard at work completing additional background reports and preparing potential reuse scenarios for public review later this summer. Here are some of the highlights of their work to date:

Revised Planning Schedule

SDC Community Engagement Schedule 4-3-20

Community Engagement Plan

Dyett & Bhatia are planning a “virtual community” webinar in late April/early May. The original plan was to hold a Community Kick-Off Event on the SDC site, with guided site walks and hikes, games and food trucks, and an expert panel discussion about the site’s history, architecture, ecology, and market potential. A separate Community Meeting #1 to identify project goals, opportunities, and issues was planned for later in the summer. Due to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place directive, the Dyett & Bhatia team has proposed moving to the April/May online Virtual Community Workshop with in-person events held later in July (or whenever gathering restrictions are lifted). For more information, please visit the “Upcoming Events” page of the County’s new SDC website.

Planning Advisory Team

Another key aspect of the planning process is the establishment of the Planning Advisory Team (PAT). The PAT advises County staff and consultants, reviews Specific Plan materials, and serves as ambassadors to the public. The PAT is not a decision-making body—it holds an advisory role as an extension of planning staff. The PAT has held two meetings so far, and its charter, membership, and meeting summaries are also available on the SDC specific plan website.

Technical Advisory Committees Formation

The County and Dyett & Bhatia are in the early stages of gathering names to form Technical Advisory Committees (TACs). They are planning to have at least three TAC groups: Preservation (cultural and historic), Infrastructure, and Financial/Market Constraints. The County may also form one more TACs focused on Community Engagement. Potential TAC members will be pulled from the extensive list of individuals who applied to be on the Planning Advisory Team and from other local experts. The County has asked for PAT members to recommend individuals they know of who may be interested. If you are interested in serving on a TAC, please use the contact form on the SDC specific plan website.

By John McCaull, Land Acquisition Program Manager, Sonoma Land Trust

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 of SDC.  For more information, please post a response on the blog site, or email John McCaull  at   johnm@sonomalandtrust.org.

 

SDC Hiking and Biking Trails Remain Open for Public Use After Road Closure Announcement

January 16, 2020.  After some confusion about new rules related to road closures at SDC, the California Department of General Services and Permit Sonoma have clarified that all of the existing hiking and biking trails on the SDC property are still open and available for public use consistent with visitor rules for public safety and natural resource protection. This includes the trails around Lake Suttonfield that are accessible from Sonoma Valley Regional Park, and the trails on the western portion of the property that connect with Jack London State Historic Park.

In a January 9, 2019 letter to the community (see below), the California Department of Developmental Services details the road closures going into effect on the campus that are designed to prevent vandalism, trespass, and property damage to empty buildings and aging infrastructure. As the letter states, pedestrian and cyclist access is still allowed. A reference in the letter to a prohibition on “hiking” at Lake Suttonfield and Fern Lake caused public confusion and concern, and the state and county were quick to clarify that hiking on designated trails that go along the perimeter of the lakes is still allowed. For obvious public safety and liability concerns, the state does not want people leaving trails to access the lakes directly. This is consistent with the longstanding prohibition on swimming and fishing in the lakes at SDC as well.

The Sonoma Ecology Center, the Sonoma Land Trust, and the Glen Ellen Forum have offered to work with the state to develop trail maps and signposts to keep hikers in the areas where they are supposed to be, and to educate visitors about how they can support stewardship and protection of the land. We will keep you updated on the status of this effort. Meanwhile, if you are taking a hike, cycling, or walking your dog at SDC, please remember that when the facility closed in 2018, a lot of the maintenance, landscaping, and engineering staff were laid off.  At this point, there are no full time rangers or personnel similar to state or county park rangers or volunteers at nearby parks. The state is rightfully concerned about limiting the potential for injury, harm, and water contamination at SDC, so let’s all do our part by observing trail rules and signs, packing out all trash and animal waste, and working together to take care of this remarkable community asset.

January 2020 Public Safety Road Closures at SDC

By John McCaull, Land Acquisition Program Manager, Sonoma Land Trust

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 of SDC.  For more information, please post a response on the blog site, or email John McCaull  at   johnm@sonomalandtrust.org.

SDC Coalition Releases Summary Report of June 2019 “Vision and Guiding Principles” Public Workshop

December 16, 2019.  On June 15, 2019, the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) Coalition convened a public workshop at the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma with three central goals:

• to share with the public and receive feedback on a draft Eldridge Vision Statement and Guiding Principles prepared by the SDC Coalition Leadership team;
• to build support for cohesive community engagement;
• to learn more about the planning framework for the Eldridge Specific Plan.

The results of the June 2019 community workshop–and the feedback we received on the draft vision and guiding principles–is now available. Please follow the link below to read the report which is designed to guide the County’s specific planning process and clarify the hopes and wishes articulated by the public to date.

Eldridge workshop summary_12-13-19_final

Sonoma County Prepares to Kick-Off Reuse Planning for SDC in 2020

December 16, 2019.  After several months of negotiations, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is set to approve an agreement with the California Department of General Services (DGS) that will release $3.5 million in funding to prepare a Specific Plan for the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC).  As the staff report for the December 17, 2019 Board meeting states:

“A Specific Plan is needed to represent the community’s vision and facilitate the site’s redevelopment. The overall goal of the Specific Plan effort is to guide future development to achieve an attractive and sustainable vision, which includes viable mixed uses and economic development, affordable housing opportunities, open space and resource conservation, cultural and historical preservation.The development articulated through the Specific Plan must be compatible in scale with the surrounding community, and consistent with State, County, and community goals”

Sonoma County has selected the urban and regional planning firm Dyett and Bhatia (D&B) to prepare the SDC Specific Plan as part of a $1.476 million contract. The goal is to have the plan prepared for Board consideration by December 2021 after D&B has completed a public process to “inform, engage, and solicit input from all segments of the community…” Their work plan includes:

  • Prepare a market demand analysis that will guide the selection of land use alternatives
  • Identify the infrastructure and public service needs/costs to facilitate future development
  • Explore alternatives for reuse of existing facilities and buildings
  • Establish a land use and policy framework to guide future redevelopment to be compatible and in character with the surrounding community
  • Promote healthy neighborhood design guidelines and enhance opportunities for alternative modes of transportation
  • Create design guidelines that promote an attractive and vibrant, pedestrian and bicycle friendly community
  • Develop a plan to connect to and preserve open space and natural resource areas, including wildlife corridors within the campus area
  • Prepare an Implementation and Financing Plan to facilitate improvements in accordance with the Specific Plan
  • Prepare an Environmental Impact Report in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

In addition to public meetings, workshops, and soliciting comments on the draft Specific Plan, the County has also appointed a 15 member “Planning Advisory Team” (PAT) to work with County staff, consultants, and the public on the SDC Specific Plan. The PAT’s mission is:

to promote a Specific Plan that reflects community needs and goals for the site while recognizing future development opportunities and constraints. The PAT will seek to represent the broad interests of the community, review Specific Plan materials and documents, and serve as ambassadors to the public, sharing information and encouraging participation in the planning process.”

We expect that the County will hold the first meeting of the PAT in early 2020, with public meetings to follow in the 1st quarter of the year. For more information on the process, visit Permit Sonoma’s website at: Sonoma Developmental Center Specific Plan.

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 of SDC.  For more information, please post a response on the blog site, or email John McCaull  at   johnm@sonomalandtrust.org.

Sonoma County Seeks Applicants for SDC Planning Advisory Team

September 4, 2019.   Sonoma County has taken the first step in what will be a multi-year effort to create a specific plan for the former site of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) by releasing an application for community members to serve on a Planning Advisory Team to help develop the specific plan.  Follow this link to Sonoma County’s dedicated page to SDC for the advisory team application. The application deadline is October 4, 2019.

As the Sonoma County website for SDC states,  “The SDC Specific Plan will guide future development at the SDC site. The Plan seeks to define and achieve a clear vision for the future of the site, which includes consideration of mixed uses, economic development opportunities, affordable housing, open space and resource conservation, as well as cultural and historical preservation.”

The County is also committed to engaging with the community to build a consensus vision for the site’s future.  As Supervisor Susan Gorin stated in the press release for the application announcement, “There has been a tremendous amount of community engagement in the Sonoma Developmental Center. The Planning Advisory Team is a great opportunity for community members to build on this work to create the vision for the future of this special place.”

The three main task of the Team are to (1) advise county staff and consultants as a sounding board for plan development (2) review specific plan materials and (3) serve as ambassadors to the public.  The Team’s composition will include 13 members as follows:

  • 2 will be representatives of community organizations active in the Glen Ellen-SDC area, selected by the Permit Sonoma Director
  • 3 will be community members with technical expertise relevant to planning for the SDC site
  • 8 will be community members at large, at least 5 of the members will reside or work within 2 miles of the SDC site

The County has developed the following mission statement, core values, and duties to inform potential applicants of what to expect if selected for the Team. This will be a considerable time commitment for Team members, with likely monthly meetings over the three year planning time frame.

For more information about the County’s specific plan process and to sign up for their email updates, go to:  https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/PRMD/Long-Range-Plans/Sonoma-Developmental-Center/.

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 of SDC.  For more information, please post a response on the blog site, or email John McCaull  at   johnm@sonomalandtrust.org.

For Your Consideration: A Draft Vision for SDC

On June 15, the SDC Coalition will host the Eldridge Vision Workshop, where the public is invited to learn more about the forthcoming specific land use planning process and provide feedback on a draft vision statement and guiding principles for redevelopment of the Eldridge property (formerly the Sonoma Developmental Center). The vision statement and guiding principles, provided in advance for your consideration, were distilled from input gathered over the past five years and are intended to help guide Sonoma County and California officials throughout transition and into the future. Your comments and feedback are welcomed and important!

Please join the conversation on June 15, from 9 a.m. to noon, at Hanna Boys Center (17000 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, CA 95476).

Read the draft vision statement.


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 of SDC.  For more information, please post a response on the blog site, or email John McCaull  at   johnm@sonomalandtrust.org.

“Protecting What We Love”: October-November 2018 Events to Honor Closure of SDC

“Protecting What We Love”
Honoring the Closing of Sonoma Developmental Center after 127 Years in Operation

Eldridge, CA. As the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) in Eldridge, CA prepares to close its doors at the end of this year, the broader Sonoma Valley community is coming together to honor the people who have both worked and resided at this essential facility for persons with severe developmental disabilities. This is a bittersweet milestone. For those whose family members were long-time residents that had to be relocated, this has not been easy. For those who dedicated themselves to a career at SDC, this has not been easy. The SDC closure will have lasting effects on the residents and employees, the SDC land, and the surrounding community.

Under the theme of “Protecting What We Love“, the Parent Hospital Association, Glen Ellen Forum, Sonoma Land Trust and The Eldridge Portraits Project are serving as a host committee to sponsor three events commemorating and honoring the workers, residents and families of SDC (see below). “Protecting What We Love” captures the true essence of what the services and property represent to Sonoma—a lasting legacy of client care and stewardship of more than 860 acres of land. Each of the event sponsors brings a unique perspective and a history of working together to advocate for the people and the land of SDC.

Through the SDC Coalition chaired by Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, these groups have partnered with Sonoma County agencies and other nonprofits to advocate for the needs of SDC residents as they move into community living arrangements, and to call for the preservation of SDC’s 700 acres of open space lands—especially those very special places on the property where time was spent with loved ones. The future of the SDC’s open space and wildlife corridor lands has not yet been determined, but the broader community is working together on a common vision for the property.

According to Kathleen Miller, PHA Co-Chair, “Such a critical event as this closure must be given the respect it deserves, and not simply erased and quickly forgotten. We must honor the past if we are to learn from it and if we are to move on. Now we must gather our resolve and look forward. While we must do everything we can to protect the legacy of SDC, our most critical task is to continue our advocacy to protect what we love – the people and the land.”

Protecting What We Love Community Events

Saturday, October 27 through November 4, 2018: Arnold Drive through the Village of Glen Ellen is being transformed into a gallery with imagery from the Eldridge Portraits Project. The Eldridge Portraits Project is comprised of a series of images of SDC residents and families taken by photographers Christian Pease and Joe Garappolo with Light11B. For more information on this compelling photo collection, see the May 15, 2018 article in the Kenwood Press.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018: SDC is hosting its final annual Halloween Parade starting at 10:30 am on Harney Circle on the SDC campus. Community groups are participating with float entries in honor of SDC employees who are expected to be furloughed December 31, 2018. This event is open to the public. PHA and Sonoma Land Trust are also hosting a lunch buffet for SDC employees to thank them for their many years of service.

Saturday, November 3, 2018: A thank-you and farewell celebration for the general public at the Hanna Boys Center, 17000 Arnold Dr.,Sonoma, CA from 3 to 6 pm, with a brief program at 4 pm. The Eldridge Portraits Project compilation of SDC clients and family photographic prints will also be on display at the event. Advanced registration through EventBrite is required, and the event is free to the public. Due to space constraints at Hanna, the event is limited to the first 350 registrants. To register, please follow this link: 11-3-18 SDC Commemoration Event Invitation.

Action Alert: Let Governor Brown Know You Want Progress on SDC Governance, State Funding, and Land Protection

August 20, 2018. The Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) is preparing for final closure after 127 years of operation. The State of California has acknowledged the unique natural values of the property, and the central role SDC has played as the largest employer in the Valley. Over the last several months, Sonoma County has thankfully taken a leadership role in negotiations with the state on how to transition the governance, ownership, and use of this remarkable property.

As the 2018 legislative session concludes this month, it does not appear that the Governor, the Legislature, and the County have been able to come to an agreement on how to manage the transition. We are concerned that if no agreement is in place before Governor Brown leaves office, it will be much harder to maintain community trust and engagement in what state officials have consistently described as a “unique and collaborative effort” to plan a new future for SDC.

We need your help! Please take a moment to sign our petition, and write a letter to the Governor telling him why SDC is so important to you, or your organization. The message is simple: we are asking the state to keep its promises, and to provide the financial support and legal authority to Sonoma County to protect and steward this incredible community asset, and to plan a visionary future for the property.

We have provided a sample letter (see below), and we ask that you send the letter to the Governor (hard copy and email), and that you also send electronic copies of the letter to our local Sonoma legislators and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. We have also attached a handy document with all the postal and email addresses you will need. And, if you can send a copy of your letter to us, we can then keep track of how many of you have weighed in. Please send copies to John McCaull at johnm@sonomalandtrust.org.

Thanks for your assistance, and now go and write that letter to the Governor!

Sample Letter to Governor Brown on SDC 8-20-18

Addresses for Governor Brown and Other Officials