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To the Editor

I just finished reading the article “Keep an eye out for elder scams” by Jay Gamel in the Nov. 15 issue of the Kenwood Press. That exact thing happened to me, too. Luckily, I was able to call the store that the gift card was purchased for and they did cancel all but one that had gone through.

It started when someone called saying that they noticed I had scammers connected to my accounts and they were helping me to “fish out” the different scammers. They told me there were 84 scammers on my account, and if I purchased the gift cards and then gave them the numbers of the cards, they could disconnect the scammers from my account. After I bought the first one, they said that they caught 16 of the scammers. That’s when they increased the amount to $500 cards. They actually asked me to go to another store when I had trouble purchasing more, like the lady in the article.

That’s when I went home and started calling to have the cards cancelled. The purchase store, Safeway, couldn’t. However, when I went back to see if they could cancel them, the manager and the clerk both told me they knew it was a scam. I wish they would have said something.

They recently tried again but this time it’s supposedly free money from the federal government for seniors. It came to me through a cousin’s Facebook messaging page. I was suspicious because it sounded too good to be true, and it was. They asked for a lot of money to have a check delivered the next day. I told them I was hanging up now and turning them in to the police. I did, too, but of course, cyber crimes are hard to trace.

In both instances, they had me call one or two separate phone numbers and to speak with different people trying to make it seem on the up and up. Also, both times they encouraged me not to tell anyone — that’s a sure sign that it is a scam!

Funny thing is, I thought I would never fall for something like that. But I did, once. So please spread the word; these crimes are prolific!!! They are convincing. If it feels like it is too good to be true, you’re right.

Anonymous (I feel ashamed for falling for it)

To the Editor,

The editorial by Tracy Salcedo, “Focus on the SDC: Small Bites,” comes down like a hammer on the three clones generated as choices for redevelopment of the SDC, scattering their cavalier proposals like trash over the urban wastelands they would project. Of course, each choice represents a burden too large for the fragile landscape embraced by Eldridge! Of course, each plops down a footprint too large for the area, just as we all have laid down footprints too large for Earth to accept any longer! When are we going to learn to quit making the same mistakes again and again?

We have scrap yards for our discarded vehicles, old folks’ homes for our post-work elderly, fancy retirement communities for those who can afford not to work and who enjoy the give-and-take of communal living. But we only have bridges and streets for the so-called indigent old.

We can dump our national treasure into the jungles of southeast Asia, the deserts of the Near East, and soon the waters of the South China Sea. But we can’t take over an abandoned state hospital and remodel it for the indigent elderly because we think of them as “undeserving poor.”

Michael James

Glen Ellen

To the Editor,

Are we being heard or herded?

For many in our community, helping to reshape the future of the SDC property has been a labor of love. We’ve known for years that the SDC would be closing its doors and the disposition of the land would become a major issue. Glen Ellen and Eldridge have coexisted for over 130 years and reside within the same footprint. Not unlike siblings, they are different in character but bonded together as family. These two communities are truly inseparable. It shouldn’t be surprising that this community wants to be heard and its wishes respected.

Planning ahead for the inevitable began early on. In 2015, shortly after the state of California declared its intentions to close the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), Sonoma Land Trust was one of the first to host a brainstorming session and to begin addressing what would eventually become one of the most important issues of the coming decade. The Vintage House in Sonoma was the venue chosen for “Transform SDC.” It was an opportunity for local communities to jumpstart the flow of ideas. Those who attended instinctively knew the importance of the moment. Nearly a thousand acres of pristine land at the base of Sonoma Mountain was at stake. Glen Ellen was well represented, as were many other valley communities. Vibrant discussions ensued and by the end of the session a bulletin board was filled with a myriad of bright and creative ideas. Everyone understood that we were about to embark on a process that would have far-reaching implications for Glen Ellen and the entire Valley of the Moon. This was just the beginning… There were other opportunities for the public to voice their ideas, thoughts, and concerns. As part of the closure process, the state mandated an independent assessment of the facility be completed prior to closure. In June 2016, Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) was contracted by the California Department of General Services (DGS) to provide architectural and engineering analysis, as well as a comprehensive study of existing conditions and a summary of opportunities and constraints. WRT was also required to gather community input. Potential stakeholders and community organizers lobbied for a seat at the table. Separate in-person interviews with individual stakeholders enabled groups to convey in detail their visions for future development. Community engagement was encouraged and several public meetings were held at the Slater building on the SDC campus. WRT’s presentations were quite thorough and engaging. Subcontractors were on hand to describe and explain their findings as well. Plenty of opportunity for the exchange of ideas and comments was offered. Overall, I felt WRT’s approach was professional and informative.

Local grassroots efforts were major contributing factors as well. Spawned from several meetings at Tracy Salcedo’s home around her kitchen table (affectionately known as “the Kitchen Cabinet” meetings), a contingent of local organizations fostered a plan to engage the broader community and to solicit their input. Dunbar School’s auditorium was transformed into another brainstorming event. A packed house of locals from all parts of the valley were in attendance, and anxious to hear presentations from members of the Glen Ellen Forum’s SDC Committee, the Sonoma Land Trust, the Sonoma Ecology Center, and the Glen Ellen Historical Society. Breakout sessions ensued and a wealth of ideas, visions, and concepts was collected. The evening was considered a resounding success and the data was retrieved, collated, and made public.

There was a lot of enthusiasm and a collective sense of relief when word got out that the state and Sonoma County had struck a deal and agreed to a three-year specific planning process. Community organizers and stakeholders alike were pleased to see that the state was willing to work with the Board of Supervisors. We became even more hopeful that our voices were going to be heard. Communicating at the county level was surely going to be much easier than trying to address issues with the state. We looked upon this three-year plan as a victory for the people. The county was now at the helm. A Request for Proposal (RFP) was released and new consultants, Dyett & Bhatia, were eventually hired.

In all fairness, Dyett & Bhatia inherited a tough situation. With wildfires and COVID- 19 hampering communications, it was hard for all parties involved to get their messages across. Community workshops by way of Zoom were short and awkward to maneuver, and never felt productive, in my view. We were continually told to send ideas and plans to the consultants; that public input was important. With the Planning Advisory Team (PAT) having our backs, and a steady flow of visions and ideas being put forth, we remained confident that the county and Dyett & Bhatia would produce a well-balanced and equitable plan. With bated breath the entire Valley of the Moon waited for the release of their plan.

Right now, on Nov. 1, 2021, I’m finding it extremely difficult to put into words how I’m feeling about the three alternatives dumped into our laps by Dyett & Bhatia and Permit Sonoma. To say I am shocked or disappointed would be an understatement. I can only characterize it as being blindsided, or better yet, a feeling of absolute betrayal. All three of these alternatives are, without question, unacceptable. So, this is a community-driven plan?? It’s more like an early Holiday gift to all major developers. It certainly appears that the county and its consultants have willfully ignored the wishes of local communities.

This is not a plan. This is an assault! An assault on the wildlife corridor; an assault on affordable housing; an assault on SDC’s historic legacy of care; and an assault on the goodwill of a community that has worked tirelessly to preserve the character of this very special place — a rural village and the magnificent Sonoma Mountain that cradles it, and all that we have shared together. This is our home. We had put faith in this specific plan and its creators have failed us miserably.

Dear Dyett & Bhatia: In case you haven’t noticed, Glen Ellen is a small, rural community surrounded by Jack London State Historic Park to the west, Sonoma Valley Regional Park to the east, and a beautiful 900-acre Historic District that was home to thousands of society’s most vulnerable citizens for nearly 130 years.

Just the idea of taking an urban environment of this size and density and dropping it directly in the middle of this historic rural village is, frankly, beyond belief. The Guiding Principles clearly state that any plan should “…fit the character and values of the site and surrounding area, as well as benefit local communities and residents.”

In my view there’s no justification for even suggesting such a grandiose plan. Whether it’s plan A, B, or C, it doesn’t matter. They’re just slightly different versions of the same urban design. I do understand that developers are in a bind to create a plan that is financially feasible. The state bears most of the blame for this, as it has shackled any potential buyer with the burden dealing with an aging infrastructure. The state needs to step up and take responsibility for this.

These plans are insults to the citizens of this community, who have spent countless hours over the past seven to eight years sharing ideas, having kitchen-table discussions, putting together community events to educate and inform, and soliciting further input, all in an effort to help shape the future of our sister community.

These plans need major revisions! Perhaps the county should entertain the idea of having a real community-driven plan. Gee, what a novel idea!

As a concerned citizen, this feels like a “David and Goliath” moment for me, and somewhat intimidating as well. Still, I’m up for the challenge.

Being vigilant and engaged is what this community of Glen Ellen is all about.

We choose to nurture our small town, not destroy it.

So, state and county, get your priorities straight and realize the error of your ways. Work with this community to design a truly visionary concept, one that everyone can be proud of.

We demand a fourth alternative (or fifth, or sixth, if needed).

Gregg Montgomery