DDS Announces Second Public Hearing on SDC Closure, September 21 in Sonoma

September 8, 2015:

The Department of Developmental Services has published the following public notice for A Public Hearing on the Transformation of Sonoma Developmental Center.


Senate Bill 82, signed by the Governor June 24, 2015, requires the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to submit a plan, or plans, to the Legislature by October 1, 2015, to close one or more of the state’s three remaining developmental centers. Efforts are underway to submit a plan to close Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) in Eldridge, CA by the end of 2018. A draft closure plan specific to SDC will be available for review at on September 15, 2015. DDS is seeking public comment on the draft plan at a public hearing. These comments will be considered in finalizing the closure plan to be submitted by October 1, 2015, for Legislative approval.

A Second Public Hearing on the Transformation of
Sonoma Developmental Center
Will be conducted by the Department of Developmental Services
Monday, September 21, 2015
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Conference Call Line: (866) 261-7147
The Renaissance Lodge at Sonoma — Sonoma Ballroom
1325 Broadway (Leveroni & Napa Roads)
Sonoma, CA. 95476

(Additional copies of this agenda may be obtained at:
Introduction — 9:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.
Public Testimony — 9:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

To assure that each person has an opportunity to speak, each speaker is requested to limit their comments to a maximum of 5 minutes.

Please click here to view the rest of the agenda for the day, along with information pertaining to accessibility, accommodations, the written comment submittal process, and the available conference line.

Thank you and hope to see you there!

Provided courtesy of the Department of Developmental Services.

DRAFT Site Transformation Study – Transform SDC

September 3, 2015:

The following report is intended to create a common language for discussing models for SDC’s future, envisioning a planning process, and navigating a path forward that is informed by lessons from other site transformations. This study is, by necessity of the closure plan timeline, preliminary and intended to inform a more comprehensive process.

Keep in mind that the report is still in draft form, and that it will be polished and put into a professional design before the October 1st submittal  deadline to the Legislature.

We’re excited to be able to share this with the community and hope that these examples and frameworks will enrich the conversation moving forward.

Please share your feedback with us and enjoy!

DRAFT SDC Site Transformation Study

Sonoma Land Trust Calls for Land Protection Strategy as Part of SDC Closure Plan

August 31, 2015:

In a formal comment letter to DDS from SLT’s Executive Director Dave Koehler, the Sonoma Land Trust has called on the state to develop a permanent conservation and stewardship strategy for SDC’s open space and natural resource lands. SLT continues to endorse the “Transform SDC” vision of a reinvestment and reuse strategy for the developed portion of the SDC property, with a particular emphasis on providing continuing health care services for people with developmental disabilities. SLT is concerned that the closure/transformation planning cannot outpace conservation planning for the natural lands and habitat resources on the property. This letter augments our August 7th comments submitted in conjunction with other members of the SDC Coalition.

If you have not yet submitted written comments to DDS on the draft closure plan, please use this letter and other information on our blog site to help craft your own comments.

Thank you for caring about SDC!

SLT Comment Letter on SDC Closure Plan

A World Apart, an Article on the Sonoma Developmental Center

August 28, 2015:

The article provided below gives an extensive look into the stories of those who reside at SDC. It paints a picture from the conservators point of view of the pain family members dealt with when leaving their loved ones at SDC as early as the 1930’s. But, it also describes the relief that came over the families knowing that their “Heavenly Guest” would be well taken care of.

“As the state makes plans to shutter the 124-year old Sonoma Developmental Center, some families of the 392 remaining residents come to terms with what closure will mean.”

No matter the outcome, the history of the Sonoma Developmental Center is one that will not, and could not be forgotten.

A World Apart – SDC, Sonoma Magazine

Provided courtesy of the Sonoma Magazine, by Meg McConahey and photography by Erik Castro.

Save the Date! Next Transform SDC Community Workshop, October 17

Save the Date!

Our next Transform SDC Community Workshop is set for October 17 at the Hanna Boys Center, 17000 Arnold Drive in Sonoma, from 9am to 1pm.

Please mark this date on your calendar and RSVP here as we hope all concerned with the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center can make it to this workshop.

Stay tuned for additional information, and if you have any pressing concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to email Samantha at or call (707) 526-6930 ext. 137.

Thank you and we hope to see you there!

Public Comment Deadline on SDC Closure Plan Approaching: Your Comments Matter!

August 21, 2015:

The Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) is slated for closure by the end of 2018. Please take a moment and submit an electronic comment via the Department of Developmental Services website or through the mail by September 1.

Visit the Transform SDC website, and utilize our SDC Coalition letter to DDS so you can echo the issues we have raised with the State. For those of you especially concerned about protecting the SDC lands, Sonoma Land Trust has developed a sample comment letter and natural resources fact sheet to help craft your message.

Let us know if you have any questions or need help with your comments.

Thank you!

McGuire’s Town Hall Meeting, August 20

August 17, 2015:

Local elected representatives will host a Town Hall meeting focused on the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center on August 20, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Altimira Middle School located at 17805 Arnold Drive.

Sponsored by State Senator Mike McGuire, State Senator Lois Wolk, Assemblymember Bill Dodd, Congressman Mike Thompson, and Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Gorin, the community forum will discuss the issues surrounding the closure of the facility.

Please show your support and let your voice be heard by coming out to the meeting!

Pieces provided courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Sun website.

SDC Coalition Submits Comments on Closure Plan

August 11, 2015:

The attached document was provided to the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) at a meeting on August 7th  in response to the request from the Department to sit down and talk about what the SDC Coalition would like to see in the Center’s closure plan. This memo represents our best effort to summarize all the feedback we received from the community at our May 2nd “Transform SDC workshop” in Sonoma, and our technical analysis of what we need to see in the closure plan in order to meet our overall objectives for the future of SDC.

It remains to be seen how much of what we proposed will make it into the draft closure plan. The public comment deadline is September 1st, and we expect that a draft closure plan will be publicly released in mid-September.  DDS has indicated that they will also likely hold another public hearing to solicit feedback on the draft plan prior to the October 1st submittal deadline to the Legislature. If you or your organization are planning on submitting comments to DDS prior to September 1st, please feel free to use this memo as a basis for your comments.  The meeting on the 7th is also covered in today’s Index Tribune article by Christian Kallen, “Upcoming SDC meetings: public, private.”

Recommendations for the SDC Closure Plan, SDC Coalition

Sonoma Land Trust Testimony, DDS Public Hearing



JULY 18, 2015


My name is John McCaull, and I am a Land Acquisition Program Manager for the Sonoma Land Trust.  I currently live in Glen Ellen, and have lived and worked  in Sonoma County for the past 10 years. In my role with the land trust, I primarily focus on advancing our conservation agenda in the Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Mountain region. I also serve on the steering committee for the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) Coalition chaired by Supervisor Susan Gorin.

SDC has been a defining institution of the State of California and the Sonoma Valley for over 125 years.  There have been 23 Governors-if you count Jerry Brown twice-who have served since Robert Waterman  became Governor in 1891. As we face a decision by Governor Brown and the California Legislature to close SDC by 2018, we need to make choices over the next few years that honor the legacy of this incredible facility, and the remarkable natural lands that surround the developed campus.

Because time is limited today, I want to focus my testimony in outlining how the Sonoma Land Trust and the SDC Coalition intend to provide input to the closure plan, and the discussion of future uses of the property. Today, we are just submitting these general comments. By the September 1st comment deadline, we will also submit much more detailed written comments  addressing many of the different aspects of closure, and potential  reuse ideas for the property.

In addition  to our organization’s comments, we are working through  the TransformSDC Project and the SDC Coalition with a team of consultants and the entire Sonoma community to produce a feasibility study for different use scenarios for SDC. This study will look at comparable models from around  the country for other facilities and properties that may have faced similar choices while going through  a major use transition. We will submit a draft of the feasibility study by September 1, and a final draft sometime  during the month of September.

Based on the community workshop held in early May in Sonoma, we have also distilled a draft mission/vision statement for a transformed SDC:

Create a public-private  partnership driven by community ideas and values that showcases the site’s history, maintains critical services for the developmentally disabled and preserves the natural resources and open space of the site.

We have been calling these our pillars for a transformed SDC: a new regional hub for housing and health care services for the developmentally disabled and a protected and intact natural  landscape.  We believe this is also the vision that an overwhelming majority of Sonoma residents support.

Under the California Welfare and Institutions Code, whenever  the Department of Developmental Services proposes  to close a developmental center, they have to hold at least one public hearing prior to submitting the closure plan to the Legislature. Until this past year, the law has been unclear on the actual impact and substantive weight of public testimony.  The law only states  that DDS has to “summarize public comment” in the plan.

If the purpose  of today’s hearing is just to patiently sit through  hours of testimony and then summarize and categorize comments, this will have been a waste of everyone’s time.  I believe that the DDS staff here today, Director Rogers and Secretary Dooley are all committed  to the idea that the SDC closure planning process is different than any previous effort in California.  I believe that DDS is making a conscious choice by using the “transform” language on their web site and the notice for this meeting to return  to the spirit and recommendations from the January 2014 “Task Force Report on the Future of Developmental  Centers in California.” Transform  is a very different word than close, so I hope the real purpose of today-and the work we do together  over the next few months-is the beginning of a creative and collaborative  discussion about what a “transformed” SDC looks like, how do we fund it, and how do we make it happen.

One of the things that is certainly different from previous closures is our local legislators and Sonoma County spent months advocating for improvements to the closure law to ensure that we have a real voice in shaping the future of SDC, and influencing the manner  in which “closure” happens. There are new requirements adopted  as part of the state  budget that dramatically increase the specificity of what needs to be in a closure plan, and a new requirement that DDS “shall confer with the county in which the development center is located, and shall consider recommendations for the use of the developmental center property.”

In the months to come, we are going to spend a lot of time talking about how to realize our vision, what the various costs and practical consideration are, and how to identify other complementary uses that are consistent and compatible  with the two pillars we have identified.  What we ask of DDS, Secretary  Dooley and Governor Brown is true collaboration and a commitment to treat Sonoma as an equal partner in determining the future of SDC. That is the only real way to honor the legacy of this amazing institution.

Thanks very much.

To view a PDF version of Sonoma Land Trust’s testimony for future reference or to print it at your convenience, please click here.