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
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 email@example.com.