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Community meetings on SDC alternatives slated

Community meetings on SDC alternatives slated
An overhead photo of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) campus. Three community meetings to gather public comment on the newly released and long-awaited alternatives for redevelopment of the SDC have been scheduled.Photo by Paul goguen

By Tracy Salcedo

Three community meetings to gather public comment on the newly released and long-awaited alternatives for redevelopment of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) have been scheduled.

While meeting details couldn’t be confirmed by the press deadline, the first is slated for Saturday, Nov. 13, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The second is set for Tuesday, Nov. 16, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., and will be in Spanish. The last is slated for Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting on Nov. 17 will be a joint meeting of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC), the North Sonoma Valley Municipal Advisory Council (NSVMAC) and the Springs Municipal Advisory Council (Springs MAC). This last meeting will be virtual; the Zoom link will be posted at sdcspecificplan. com. The specific planning process review timeline

Now that the county has released its three official alternatives, the public will have several opportunities to weigh in on the different scenarios. According to the timeline posted on the SDC Specific Plan website, after this first round of public input, a preferred alternative will be selected in January 2022 and presented for review by the Board of Supervisors in a public meeting.

The preferred alternative will then be subject to environmental review, as well as several rounds of review and input from the Planning Advisory Team. Public review and comment on the preferred alternative and its draft environmental impact report (DEIR) is set for June or July 2022. Because the specific plan will include rezoning the property, the Sonoma County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing about a month after the preferred plan and DEIR are released. Finally, in September 2022, the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors are set to approve a final plan.

In a parallel process, California’s Department of General Services, which is currently maintaining the SDC property in warm shutdown, will proceed with its disposition process. With a specific plan in hand designating the types of development permitted on the site via zoning and design regulations, a developer purchasing the property can proceed knowing what kinds of land use will be allowed on the site.

Given the pandemic, wildfires, and the complexity of the planning process, the timeline for community input on the three alternatives and selection of a final plan has been compressed. That’s why, according to stakeholders, it’s important that all community members educate themselves on the three proposed alternatives and submit comments and questions in public meetings, as well as in writing (sdcspecificplan. com/[email protected]). While these won’t be the last chances to provide feedback on redevelopment plans for the SDC, they are very important.

Do you see what you said?

For those who have been following the closure and specific planning process for the SDC over the past decade or so, another round of community engagement may seem redundant. Three well-attended community meetings took place before the specific planning process got underway. The first was in 2015, hosted by Transform SDC, a partnership of the Sonoma Land Trust (SLT), the Parent Hospital Association, Sonoma County, the Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC), and others; it was attended by more than 200 people. The second, hosted by the Glen Ellen Forum, the Glen Ellen Historical Society, the SEC, and the SLT, was in 2018, and drew about 260 people to Dunbar Elementary School in Glen Ellen. The third, hosted by the SDC Coalition, took place at Hanna Boys Center in 2019; about 170 people were in attendance.

The priorities established at these community meetings have been consistent. According to summaries available online, these include preservation of the property’s open spaces/wildlife corridor, providing affordable and workforce housing at a scale compatible with the surrounding land uses and rural character, preserving the SDC’s legacy of care and historical attributes, ensuring redevelopment is environmentally responsible and sustainable, and exploring the idea of a Presidio-style trust as a governing body.

Two community outreach events have been hosted by Sonoma County planners and Dyett & Bhatia, the consulting firm helping develop the Specific Plan. Both took place on virtual platforms due to pandemic constraints. The first was a kick-off event featuring informational webinars and a virtual walking tour of the property. The second, held in November 2020, was a workshop focused on developing a vision and guiding principles for the Specific Plan, and was attended by about 250 people. A comprehensive summary of the feedback received is posted on the SDC Specific Plan website, but again, preservation of the wildlife corridor and open space, provision of affordable housing and housing for peopole with developmental disabilities, honoring the site’s history, and promoting “sustainability and resiliency” were key themes.

Your opinion counts

The best way to ensure your comments are heard by Permit Sonoma planners, the consultants from Dyett & Bhatia, and elected officials, is to show up at meetings in person.

If you are unable to attend scheduled events, you can submit your comments via email at [email protected] com. The SDC Specific Plan website ( is the official informational portal on the process and contains background reports and other information about redevelopment of the site.

Eldridge for All (eldridgeforall. org) has compiled a comprehensive archive of materials related to redevelopment of the SDC and the specific planning process; visit eldridgeforall. org for more information.