Sept 8 Webinar Follow-up

Dear SDC workshop participants, 

Thank you for registering for the September 8 workshop on the SDC draft EIR and specific plan. If you missed it, please take the time to view the recording here. To learn more, please also visit www.transformsdc.com where we will be posting the presentation slides of the “Tips for Reviewing the Sonoma Developmental Center Specific Plan and Environmental Document” in the next few days. Remember to make your comments personal and from your own impressions and personal experience. 

As Sonoma Land Trust prepares our public comments for the upcoming Planning Commission hearing on September 15,  we will be focusing on how incompatible levels of development and new roads pose serious risks to the integrity of the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor. Roads and wildlife corridors don’t mix well, and insufficient buffers between new housing and commercial uses on the campus and the corridor itself threaten to eliminate an already narrow “pinch point” for wildlife movement.  

 
If you are looking for more information about SDC planning, sale, and open space transfers, here are some important links: 

·         California Department of General Services- SDC Surplus property RFP 

·         Council of Infill Builders:  www.councilofinfillbuilders.org 

·         Sonoma County Specific Plan website:  https://www.sdcspecificplan.com 

Please also remember that there is a parallel process underway for a long-held community goal of transferring the 750+ acres of SDC open space lands into state and county park ownership. To learn more about how this can happen, please review the SDC Land and Water Protection Proposal on our website. 

Keep an eye out for further communications from Sonoma Land Trust with future action items before the September 26 comment deadline on the Draft Specific Plan and EIR. 

Thank you, 

John McCaull 
Land Acquisition Director
Sonoma Land Trust

Free Webinar Sept 8

Please join Sonoma Land Trust and their partners in a free webinar that will help you understand the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and the County Specific Plan.

Public comments can be made at the September 15 Planning Commission meeting or via email or mail by September 26. We will discuss what you need to know to make your voice heard.

Understanding the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) Specific Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

Zoom Webinar Online

Thursday, September 8, 6:30-8pm

Register HERE

Urge Sonoma County to Engage in Meaningful Planning for SDC: Align the County Specific Plan with the State’s Request for Development Proposals

La versión en español está abajo

Please join Sonoma Land Trust in urging Sonoma County to engage in a meaningful planning process for the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC).

On August 10, 2022, the County released its Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Draft Specific Plan for SDC. Despite the Board of Supervisor’s direction to pursue a specific plan with fewer than 1,000 homes, the Drafts propose 1,000 residential units with extensive commercial development. 

This disconnect highlights the inadequacy and inefficiency of our current approach to planning and development. The draft specific plan fails to respond to the challenges of our time—including wildfire, drought, and biodiversity loss.

Further, because the Specific Plan and EIR were released before the State selected a development proposal, the Specific Plan is hypothetical. Neither it nor the EIR disclose the characteristics or environmental impacts of the proposal that will ultimately be accepted by the State. 

Why this matters:

Aligning the Specific Plan and EIR with the State’s RFP, would increase efficiency, save valuable taxpayer resources, and ensure thorough planning and environmental review. 
Review of the Specific Plan and EIR must be paused pending completion of the RFP process.

Take action now by sending a letter or email before August 24 to the County at: Brian.Oh@sonoma-county.org (Subject Line: “Draft EIR Comments: SDC Specific Plan”). Make sure to cc the Department of General Services at Gerald.McLaughlin@dgs.ca.gov

Urge the County to:

  1. Engage in meaningful planning for SDC by aligning the County Specific Plan process with the State’s RFP process and by moving forward with the County Specific Plan and EIR only after the State announces the RFP selection on October 24, 2022. 
  2. Re-draft the County Specific Plan and EIR to describe and analyze the impacts of the actual proposal that the State selects for the SDC property. Only after a specific development proposal is identified can the County Specific Plan and EIR provide the streamlined process they are designed to provide.  

Inste al condado de Sonoma a participar en la planificación significativa para el SDC

Tome medidas ahora enviando una carta al condado

Inste al condado de Sonoma a participar en la planificación significativa para el SDC: Alinee el plan específico del condado con la solicitud de propuestas de desarrollo del estado

Únase a Sonoma Land Trust para instar al condado de Sonoma a que participe en un proceso de planificación significativa para el Centro de Desarrollo de Sonoma (SDC).

El 10 de agosto de 2022, el condado presentó su Borrador del informe de impacto ambiental (EIR) y el Borrador del plan específico para el SDC. A pesar de las instrucciones del supervisor de la junta para aspirar a un plan específico con menos de 1,000 hogares, los borradores proponen 1,000 unidades residenciales con un desarrollo comercial extenso. 

Esta desconexión destaca la falta de adecuación y la ineficiencia de nuestro enfoque a actual con respecto a la planificación y al desarrollo. El plan específico del borrador no responde a los desafíos de nuestro tiempo; lo que incluye los incendios forestales, las sequías y la pérdida de biodiversidad.

Además, como el Plan específico y el EIR fueron presentados antes de que el estado seleccionara una propuesta de desarrollo, el Plan específico es hipotético. Ni el plan ni el EIR divulgan las características ni los impactos ambientales de la propuesta que, a fin de cuentas, será aceptada por el estado. 

Por qué es importante esto:

La alineación del Plan específico y del EIR con la Solicitud de propuestas (Request for proposals, RFP) del estado aumentaría la eficiencia, ahorraría recursos valiosos de los contribuyentes y garantizaría tanto la planificación como la revisión ambiental exhaustivas. La revisión del Plan específico y el EIR debe suspenderse hasta que se complete el proceso de la RFP.

Tome medidas ahora enviando una carta o un correo electrónico al condado antes del 24 de agosto a: Brian.Oh@sonoma-county.org (Asunto: “Comentarios del borrador del EIR: Plan específico del SDC”). Asegúrese de poner en copia al Departamento de Servicios Generales en Gerald.McLaughlin@dgs.ca.gov

Inste al condado a:

  1. Participar en una planificación significativa para el SDC al alinear el proceso del Plan específico del condado con el proceso de la RFP del estado al seguir adelante con el Plan específico del condado y el EIR solo después de que el estado anuncie la selección de la RFP el 24 de octubre de 2022. 
  2. Volver a redactar el Plan específico del condado y el EIR para describir y analizar los impactos de la propuesta actual que seleccione el estado para la propiedad del SDC. Solo después de que se haya identificado una propuesta de desarrollo específica, el Plan específico del condado y el EIR podrán suministrar el proceso agilizado que están destinados a ofrecer. 

Sonoma Land Trust Submits Comment Letter on SDC Specific Plan and Offers to Partner with State & County on Wildlife Corridor Studies

March 29, 2022 – Sonoma Land Trust has submitted detailed comments on the Notice of Preparation to Permit Sonoma, the planning body for the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), as part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process. In addition, Sonoma Land Trust is offering to partner with the county and the state to conduct the necessary detailed studies to document wildlife concentrations and movement at SDC.

“The negative ramifications of an incomplete and inaccurate Environmental Impact Report are often substantial and irreversible,” said Eamon O’Byrne, executive director of Sonoma Land Trust. “While we applaud the state’s focus to protect biodiverse areas and provide affordable housing, we feel the current SDC redevelopment proposals, as outlined, devastatingly fall short to do either. We believe there is a planning and development path that will support this unique piece of land ecologically, while providing support for those in need of housing.”

As outlined in the letter, the Notice of Preparation for SDC was developed to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) but fails to do so. The letter also details what the EIR for SDC must address, including the following:

  • The EIR must include a complete analysis of the environmental impacts of various types of development within this proposed range and must include these project variants in its core analysis rather than as alternatives to the project. The Notice of Preparation states that the SDC project will consist of between 450 and 1000 residential units. It does not provide specific details about the location or intensity of proposed uses at the SDC.
  • The State’s own 2019 governing legislation and the Plan’s adopted Guiding Principles require preserving the SDC’s ecological resources, including the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor. The EIR must accurately describe wildlife’s use of the Corridor and the SDC site and conserve and enhance irreplaceable habitat areas. The EIR must employ the latest scientific tools, datasets, and studies so that the public and decision-makers may fully understand, design around, and mitigate for development impacts to SDC’s ecological resources.
  • The Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor serves as a critical linkage in a larger corridor from coastal Marin County to eastern Napa County. Because of its regional significance, analysis of cumulative impacts on the Corridor should include an area that is large enough to account for the movements of local populations of the widest-ranging species present (i.e., mountain lions) and evaluate the impacts of all the different types of development proposed for the property that will impact the permeability of the Wildlife Corridor and the ecosystem services it provides.
  • The project must incorporate appropriate buffers between development and sensitive habitats, such as watercourses and wetlands, to protect the ecological value of the SDC site and the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor. This may require the removal of existing, unused structures. Buffers will be particularly critical to protecting the species that rely on the Wildlife Corridor.
  • The County must analyze wildfire risk and plan for safety to preserve the ecological value of the SDC site and the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor. The County cannot approve development that would require vegetation management in areas (or to a degree) that would negatively impact the Wildlife Corridor or build new roads that will fragment intact habitat areas and eliminate or significantly disrupt wildlife use.
  • The EIR must consider how development at SDC will increase future water demand at the regional scale and analyze the resulting ecological impacts from such water use. The EIR must consider the water use impacts on sensitive aquatic resources and groundwater, especially during drought conditions, and evaluate how these impacts will affect fish and wildlife that rely on local water sources for survival.

To view the full letter to Permit Sonoma, please visit: https://sonomalandtrust.org/current-initiatives/sonoma-developmental-center/

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Facing Critical Decision on Scope of Environmental Review for SDC Specific Plan

On January 25, 2022 the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors (Board) will provide guidance and comment on a “project description framework” for the redevelopment of the 180 acre historic campus at the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). The Board will review a presentation from Permit Sonoma staff and their consultants that recommends a planning framework for “a mix of civic, residential, commercial, and institutional development” including 1000 new homes and “1,000 new jobs created from new local-serving retail, office and visitor-serving uses.” After receiving comment from the Board, Permit Sonoma will then “refine a project description and evaluate it as part of the project’s draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).”

The “project description” is a legal term used in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that means “the whole of an action, which has a potential for resulting in either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment…” The reason why the project description is so important is that it forms the foundation for evaluating the potential environmental impacts of all the different aspects of the SDC Specific Plan. The staff proposal that the Board is considering has not gone through any level of rigorous environmental review, and so the specific, likely impacts of the proposed development on concerns such as water quality and quantity, the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, climate change resilience, traffic, fire safety and the rural character of the surrounding area have yet to be identified and studied.

Once the project description is finalized, the county will release a “Notice of Preparation” and Initial Study for the Draft EIR. The minimum content requirements for the Notice are:

  • Description of the project
  • Location of the project indicated on an attached map
  • Salient environmental issues
  • Probable environmental effects of the project
  • A copy of the Initial Study which is a preliminary analysis conducted  to determine if a project may have a significant effect on the environment.

According to the schedule in the staff report, the Draft EIR and Draft Specific Plan will be available for public review by June 2022. The Planning Commission will then hold two public hearings to receive public comment on the draft EIR in July 2022 and to potentially adopt a resolution in August 2022 recommending that the Board of Supervisors consider certifying a final EIR and adopt a final Specific Plan. Ultimately, the Board of Supervisors may consider certifying a final EIR and adopting a final Specific Plan in September 2022.

The Sonoma Land Trust has submitted the following comments to the Board on the project description framework and we urge you to contact your Supervisor to share your thoughts and concerns about the SDC Specific Plan by filing online comments at: https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Board-of-Supervisors/Contact-Board-of-Supervisors/. Once the Notice of Preparation is issued, we will provide more information about the CEQA process and how the public can effectively comment during the preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Report.

_______________________________________________________________________________

January 24, 2022

RE: SDC Specific Plan Project Description Framework

Dear Sonoma County Board of Supervisors:

SDC provides an opportunity for a major win for two critical state and county priorities: creating more affordable housing and using nature-based solutions to adapt to climate change. There is broad community support for zoning the most significant affordable housing project in the history of the Sonoma Valley at SDC (450 +/- units), and for creating the largest addition to our state and county park system in decades with precedent-setting land use protections for the wildlife corridor. That’s why we support the North Sonoma Valley MAC and the Springs MAC proposals as the starting point for the project description, as they have a more reasonable development footprint and density and 25% more affordable housing than what has been proposed by the county.

We are particularly alarmed at the proposal for an additional road linking Arnold Drive to Hwy 12 to allow for increased traffic from up to 1000 new homes and 1000 new jobs on the campus. Our decade of research at SDC indicates that this would severely damage the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor. The new proposed road would also run right through the community separator that Sonoma County residents put into place through Measure K to prevent the intensification of development and ensure land within community separators remains open and retains its rural character. Constructing such a road to facilitate increased development at SDC would conflict not only with the intent of Measure K but with many other goals and policies of the County’s General Plan calling for protection of open space and agricultural land.

While we understand that the California Department of General Services (DGS) has repeatedly refused to accommodate any requests for adjustment to the planning schedule, we believe that failure to do so will simply condemn the whole process to protracted litigation. This will harm the health of the wildlife corridor and postpone much-needed affordable housing in the County. Finally, we urge the County to partner with community groups and the Governor to support a greater state investment in the future of SDC. Facing the twin crises of climate change and affordable housing, a new paradigm is essential. This is implicitly recognized by the line item in the Governor’s proposed budget request for $100M in funding to promote the conversion of surplus state property into affordable housing sites.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.

Eamon O’Byrne

Executive Director

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.