State Senator Mike McGuire to Convene Hearing

February 19, 2016:

The purpose of next week’s joint hearing in Sacramento is to discuss the lessons learned from previous closures of developmental centers, to examine the proposal for the closure of California’s three remaining Developmental Centers and to receive an in-depth briefing from the DDS on the closure process.

The Joint Hearing of the Senate Human Services Committee and the Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee will be held on at 1:30 pm Tuesday, February 23, at the State Capitol in Room 4203. The public is invited to attend. To watch via livestream, visit

Please click on the link below to read the following article.

State’s developmental centers to be reviewed in Sacramento by McGuire, others

Provided courtesy of the Sonoma Index-Tribune staff report.

February 2016 SDC Update: Sustaining Commitment through the Ups and Downs

February 11, 2016:

“Even cowards can endure hardship; only the brave can endure suspense.”
Mignon McLaughlin

In this political season, the word “campaign” is everywhere, and we all know how the script can dramatically change from week to week. In 2015, the rapid pace of change related to the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) demanded sustained action and focus from all of us. Galvanized by the closure announcement in May, the Transform SDC Project, the SDC Coalition and the community at large rallied and worked together in what felt like non-stop fashion through the completion of the closure plan last October.

The proposed closure of SDC by the end of 2018 is likely too short a timeframe to safely move the remaining 375 residents, and to plan a future for the site that meets the vision of the Sonoma community. We have to plan for a multi-year campaign that may extend well beyond the next two years. Like any lengthy, complicated undertaking, there are going to be periods of intense activity, and there are going to be lulls. Lulls are difficult. It can seem like nothing is happening. Even worse, it can seem like no one cares anymore. The flurry of very public activity may have temporarily diminished, but the daily work is continuing both locally, and in Sacramento.

The Transform SDC Project continues to retain the Center for Collaborative Policy and the Potrero Group to guide our community organizing, and to engage in technical analysis of different models for creating a financially and environmentally sustainable reuse plan for the site that remains in harmony with the surrounding community. We have also been working closely with our political leaders at the County level and in Sacramento to develop a political strategy for the upcoming budget hearings, and the Legislature’s consideration of whether to approve the closure plan.

Here’s recap of what’s happened over the last few months, and a preview of where we are headed:

  • The closure plan was submitted to the Legislature in late October, which is during their fall-winter recess. The Legislature reconvened in early January, so look for action alerts or updates from us on a regular basis.
  • As we enter 2016, we have been analyzing our options and next steps. For instance, Sonoma County has commissioned a feasibility study of whether a health clinic could be operated at SDC for people with developmental disabilities who live in the North Bay. Additionally, the Transform SDC Project leadership team (Sonoma County, Parent Hospital Association, Sonoma Land Trust and the Sonoma Ecology Center) is identifying how we can best follow up on the recommendations of the Potrero Group’s Site Transformation Study.
  • The Governor submitted his Fiscal Year 2016-2017 draft budget to the Legislature in early January, and the budget committees will start debating the approval of the SDC closure plan and closure-related expenditures by the Dept. of Developmental Services in early March. This will be the time when we will likely need community letter writing and grassroots engagement to ensure that our many recommendations for the future of SDC are considered and supported.
  • We are developing a database of all the comment letters filed as part of the public comment period on the closure plan. Many of you wrote letters that detailed the stories and experiences of your family members who live at SDC, or that articulate your vision for the future of the site. We do not want all your hard work and ideas to get lost in the shuffle, so we are combing through the hundreds of comment letters to make sure we know what was said, and to capture the stories that describe why the care provided at SDC has been so important to so many people.

It may feel like this whole effort has been “keeping you in suspense,” and that’s an uncomfortable state for all of us, and especially for the families with loved ones at SDC. Please know that we are still 100% committed to realizing the community’s vision for SDC, and that we will continue to provide information and leadership as we enter a more active stage of this campaign in the coming months.

Thank you for all your activism and support of the last year, and let’s be ready to come together again on behalf of the people, staff and land of SDC.

John McCaull
Land Acquisition Program Manager
Sonoma Land Trust
Samantha Thomas
Community Planning Coordinator
Sonoma Land Trust

A Pledge to the Community: Transform SDC Project Prepares Advocacy Strategy for 2016

December 23, 2015:

The Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) has touched so many lives. A mention of SDC invariably prompts a story of how this incredible facility has been a source of inspiration to our community for generations. 2015 has undoubtedly been a very challenging year for the residents, staff and families of SDC. The state’s announcement in May that they intend to close the Center by the end of 2018 is a life changing decision that will impact hundreds of families and SDC employees. As the Center readies for its 125 year anniversary in 2016, there are many who wonder what the future will bring.

When we publicly launched the Transform SDC Project in early 2015, we did not anticipate the pending closure announcement in May. Based on a January 2014 Report issued by the California Department of Health and Human Services, we knew that the state intended to “transition” away from being the operator of historically large residential living facilities for people with developmental disabilities. When the federal government rejected the state’s appeal of a decision to decertify seven patient units at SDC and strip their Medicaid funding over findings that care for hundreds of disabled patients was deficient, the closure process was put on the fast track. The 2018 closure timeline was formalized in a July settlement agreement between the State of California and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the state subsequently submitted a draft closure plan to the California Legislature in October. If you need a refresher for what is in the closure plan vis-à-vis community input, please review the comparison chart on our blog site.

The closure plan makes a commitment that the state will “work with the SDC Coalition, Sonoma County and other interested parties to identify potential options for the future use of the SDC campus… and to explore future services that could perhaps be provided at SDC.” This is a promising opening on the part of the state, but there are some critical, unresolved issues that need detailed answers:

  • What existing health care operations will continue past closure?
  • What new health care programs is the state willing to consider and possibly implement concurrent with the closure process?
  • What is the mechanism (both interim and permanent) to protect the open space and natural resource lands of SDC?
  • What is the state’s role in the formation of an SDC Advisory Council and a potential “trust” organization to govern the transformation/reuse process after closure?
  • What strategy will ensure the long-term financial sustainability of a transformed SDC?

As we prepare for 2016, the first order of business is the Legislature’s consideration and approval of the draft closure plan. The plan is not “official” until endorsed by the Legislature, and this will likely happen as part of the approval process for the 2016-2017 state budget. The Legislature reconvenes in early January, and our local coalition will be working closely with our state elected officials to develop a cohesive, unified set of priorities that will guide our advocacy and community organizing. Expect to see a summary of our advocacy strategy in early January.

It’s been a tough year, but the Sonoma Land Trust is committed to continuing the Transform SDC Project in close coordination with our many partners. The Project Steering Committee is made up of Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, Kathleen Miller of the Parent Hospital Association, Richard Dale of the Sonoma Ecology Center, and John McCaull from Sonoma Land Trust. There are many community groups and individuals too numerous to mention who have volunteered, attended and testified at hearings and educated their friends, families and community about the importance of SDC. We are all stronger together, and please know that the support of each and every one of you is making a difference.

Finally, we would like to give some special thanks during this holiday season. The Transform SDC Project would not exist without the generous financial support of Impact100 Sonoma, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Resources Legacy Fund, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services, Sonoma County Regional Parks Department, the Sonoma County Water Agency, and several donors from the community who have made major gifts to the Sonoma Land Trust on behalf of our Project. The Parent Hospital Association has also made significant contributions from its internal budget to the overall effort. With this funding, we have been able to retain the services of the following top-notch professionals and consulting firms:

  • Baseline Consulting
  • Center for Collaborative Policy
  • Conservation Strategy Group
  • Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Potrero Group
  • Prunuske Chatham, Inc.
  • Tom Origer & Associates
  • UC Berkeley- Hopland Research and Extension Center (Adina Merenlander and Morgan Gray)
  • Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger

Happy Holidays to all of you, and we will be back strong in the New Year!

John McCaull                                                                                         Samantha Thomas
Land Acquisition Program Manager                                                 Community Planning Coordinator
Sonoma Land Trust                                                                                  Sonoma Land Trust


Senator McGuire to Host SDC Town Hall Follow-up Meeting this Saturday, December 19th

December 16, 2015:

Correction:This meeting is only for families and members of the Parent Hospital Association and SDC employees. Apologies for any confusion.

This Saturday, December 19th, Senator Mike McGuire will host a public meeting at the Sonoma Developmental Center’s Gymnasium located at 15000 Arnold Drive, Eldridge, CA 95431 at 10 a.m. This gathering is a follow up meeting to the Senator’s Town Hall Meeting that he hosted back in August, and he and his staff have prepared a response to many of the questions and concerns raised at that meeting.

Please come out for an update on the current situation related to the SDC closure plan, and anticipated next steps for 2016.

Decreasing Aid For People With Developmental Disabilities

December 15, 2015:

“The Arc is a national nonprofit with chapters across the country that offer programs and services for people with developmental disabilities. “It means a lot to me,” Palone says. “It gets me out of the house, and it helps me interact with people.”

But in California, aid for people with developmental disabilities is decreasing due to lack of funding for these programs. Please click on the link below to read more about this developing issue.

In California, Aid Withers For People With Developmental Disabilities

Provide courtesy of NPR from KQED, by Melissa Hellmann.

Articles: Proposed Plans for the Future of SDC

November 9, 2015:

Close to Home: Transform, don’t close, the Sonoma Developmental Center
Provided courtesy of the Press Democrat, by Kathleen Miller (PHA).

“The coalition, known as Transform SDC, offers a unified vision that serves the needs of the community, residents, families and employees and honors the land. A cohesive plan for the SDC campus must come first and not as an afterthought.”

Sonoma Developmental Center closure plan goes to legislature
Provided courtesy of the Sonoma Index-Tribune, by Christian Kallen.

“The report characterized those additional comments as “reflecting” earlier public comment on the issues surrounding the facility’s closure. These include “the need for services to be established at SDC in perpetuity, further concerns that the proposed closure timeline is too short, requests that the plan needs to include safety-net services and a better description of what happens if individuals ‘fail’ in the community, [and] requests that the Department address the emotional and spiritual needs of individuals in transition.”

California health secretary defends closure plan for Sonoma Developmental Center
Provided courtesy of the Press Democrat, by Derek Moore.

“Dooley said she is “very aware of the specific targeted challenges that exist” with community-based programs and said she is “committed to doing what we can to address them.” At the same time, she said, for every community-based program that goes out of business another one opens, so that the number of providers is “relatively constant.”

Plans discussed for new Sonoma Valley Regional Park lands
Provided courtesy of the Kenwood Press, by Alec Peters.

“The SDC41 piece was once part of the state-run Sonoma Developmental Center, but declared surplus property in the 1990s. Open Space bought the property for $600,000 in 2007. The land was then transferred to Regional Parks. The 41 acres consists of oak woodlands and grasslands, some wetland areas, and also provides some panoramic views of the valley.”

Protecting green places between towns and cities
Provided courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Sun, by Teri Shore (Greenbelt Alliance).

“The green heart of Sonoma Valley is shielded from sprawl and subdivisions by the Glen Ellen-Agua Caliente Community Separator. It stretches across both sides of Highway 12 from Arnold Drive at Glen Ellen to just south of Madrone Road. It contains 1,400 acres of oak woodlands, vineyards, organic farms, parks and nature preserves and overlaps part of the Sonoma Valley wildlife corridor and the Sonoma Developmental Center.”

Update on Transform SDC: What happened at the workshop?

November 3, 2015:

It’s been awhile since there has been a post from Transform SDC. For those who attended the workshop October 17th, it provided an informative look at the Potrero Group’s work on the SDC Site Transformation Study as well as some background on the SDC Closure Plan.

In addition, we provided the Transform SDC Community Vision Statement to those in attendance as well as a chart that laid out the comparison between the community’s recommendation for SDC to the DDS Closure Plan.

If you’d like to view the Potrero Group’s slideshow from the workshop, please feel free to browse it here.

Thank you again to those who attend any and all of the SDC meetings and to those who have continued to follow the Transform SDC Project. We couldn’t be where we are now in the process without all of your support!

Stories aired of SDC residents and their families

September 28, 2015:

For those who were unable to view the Brian Heap interview that aired last Thursday, please click on the link below to view it on KCRA’s website.

NorCal families fight closure of developmental centers

In addition, there was also a taping done of Kathleen Miller and Brien Farrell by KPIX with their children, seen below.

Caregivers For Disabled Fight Proposed Shutdown Of Sonoma Developmental Center

Provided courtesy of KCRA news and KPIX, Channel 5 SF Bay Area news.


Media Coverage on the SDC Closure Plan

September 23, 2015:

Stated by John McCaull of the Sonoma Land Trust at the 2nd DDS Public Hearing, September 21st:

“The Draft Plan stops far short of our vision,” he said in a statement. “We appreciate the State’s recognition that they do not intend to sell or transfer SDC as surplus property because of its natural resources and historical importance, but we need to start planning for the future now… and not waiting until all the residents have been moved to begin developing a reuse strategy.” 

Senator McGuire, Assemblymember Dodd respond to SDC closure plan
Provided courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Sun website.

State’s plan to close Sonoma Developmental Center blasted by families, advocates
Provided courtesy of the Press Democrat website, by Derek Moore.

Stakeholders slam SDC closure plan
Provided courtesy of the Sonoma Index-Tribune website, by Christian Kallen.

SDC closure plan released
Provided courtesy of the Sonoma Index-Tribune website, by Christian Kallen.

Thoughts before the hearing on closure of Sonoma Developmental Center
Provided courtesy of the Press Democrat website, by Clark Mason.

Under the Sun: Anita Torres, home care worker interview
Provided courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Sun website, by Larry Barnett.