Drawing the Lines: Boundaries for Glen Ellen identified in formal declaration
By Tracy Salcedo
Prior to closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), no one seemed to care about the boundaries of unincorporated Glen Ellen. But with politicians, community activists, and bureaucrats wielding “community” as a driver for what happens on the SDC campus — and with Glen Ellen being the “community” most profoundly impacted by what happens on the state-owned site — just where Glen Ellen begins and ends has become a subject of debate.
The North Sonoma Valley Municipal Advisory Council stepped decisively into the fray at its April 20 meeting, unanimously adopting a declaration that draws boundaries for Glen Ellen based on ZIP codes and how residents identify themselves, as opposed to online mapping programs and census designations.
“Notwithstanding occasional differences of opinion, residents of Glen Ellen agree that we share a common geography, history, and sense of identity, and recognize ourselves as a single, undivided community with many shared interests,” the declaration states, “Therefore, be it resolved, the [NSVMAC], in its role as the ‘voice of Glen Ellen’ within Sonoma County government, declares the boundaries of the Glen Ellen community to be as follows: The entire area encompassing the Glen Ellen zip code (95442);the entire area encompassing the former Sonoma Developmental Center (zip code 95431); and the area commonly known as the Rancho Madrone neighborhood (the portion of zip code 95476 within the Advisory Council’s boundary).”
The declaration was presented by Chair Arthur Dawson and addresses concerns that some political and bureaucratic entities, including Permit Sonoma, which is developing a specific plan for the SDC property, define Glen Ellen as the village north of the SDC, separate from “Eldridge” south of the SDC. Confounding the matter: South-side Glen Ellen is dubbed Eldridge by the U.S. Census and on internet mapping sites such as Google Maps.
“Census designations, online maps and other sources created for limited purposes without consulting local knowledge or considering residents’ affinities and identification with ‘Glen Ellen,’ have caused the area to be falsely characterized as consisting of two or more separate communities,” the declaration states. “This misrepresentation distorts perceptions of Glen Ellen both within and beyond the community, challenging residents’ solidarity and damaging residents’ ability to faithfully represent our common interests to the greater world in the face of current and future challenges.”
Residents of south-side Glen Ellen, including councilmembers Vicki Handron and Kate Eagles, welcomed the declaration. “People object to this being [called] Eldridge and not Glen Ellen,” Handron said, refering to her neighborhood. “This is identifying the community,” Eagles said. Sharon Church, another southside resident, told councilmembers she was “delighted to see this happening … I think you are doing the right thing.” Church, working with Lisa Hoxie, gathered about 100 signatures from the neighborhood on a petition declaring residents’ identity as Glen Ellenites; the petition has been submitted to the county.
Councilmember Daymon Doss, among others, addressed the political implications of the declaration in light of the SDC’s impending redevelopment. Using the SDC campus, which locals know as Eldridge, to split Glen Ellen has created frustration and confusion, potentially weakening the impact of the community’s voice in the planning arena.
“We need to be able to convince Permit Sonoma to acknowledge [the unified community’s] wishes. Permit Sonoma has their own ideas,” the Kenwood resident said. “There’s a sense of community here that [the county is] not acknowledging.”
Councilmember Mark Newhouser took it a step further, wondering whether the declaration should be codified legally. Permit Sonoma has a “bias and rationale” behind segregating the community, he said, noting it’s a “pragmatic move” that allows the county to work for the state rather than the local constituency.