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SDC open space not at risk, says McGuire

SDC open space not at risk, says McGuire
The administration building on the SDC campus.Photo by Paul Goguen

By Christian Kallen

Sen. Mike McGuire (state senate District 2) contacted the Kenwood Press on June 23 to clear up what he felt were misunderstandings about the planning process for the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center, and the fate of approximately 700 acres of open space currently included in the property.

McGuire, who now holds the powerful majority leader position in the state senate, has been part of the future visioning of SDC since his time as a county supervisor (2010–2014). As a state senator, he was crucial in getting the authorizing legislation passed that includes a three-year period for the County of Sonoma to evaluate proposed uses of the property, to be codified through the SDC Specific Plan currently in development. This was the primary topic of our conversation.

McGuire: I want to clear a few items up [regarding concerns about] development on the open space portions of the land. Number one, in the original agreement between the state and the county, over 80% of the 945 total acres will be permanently protected from any future development.

There’s another layer of protection to this land. It’s also in state law, in the enabling legislation that was advanced three years ago that launched this process. The protection of over 80% of the 945 total acres is in state law.

For the remaining 180 that had previously been developed, that’s what’s in the first-of-its-kind community planning process that the County of Sonoma has been advancing.

The County of Sonoma, as you know, made the request to the state that the planning process would be managed by locals. That is why the community planning process is in the hands of the county. The state, of course, agreed that the planning for any potential future uses should be done at a local level. That’s what makes the most sense.

Kenwood Press (KP): When will the process move forward or become visible to transfer the state land to formal open space protection?

MM: In the original agreement, the state will transfer all land all at once, to, for example, an open space district or to a state or regional park agency, etc. That was in the original agreement with the county. That’s how it’s always been since the inception.

KP: Does that mean the open space will be transferred at the same time the developer is chosen for the core commercial acreage?

MM: So, first and foremost, the county will need to complete the local planning process, and that’s what’s advancing now … Once that planning process is completed, they will advance recommendations to the state. In my opinion, land would be transferred sometime in 2023.

Again, over 80% of the 945 total acres of the Sonoma Developmental Center campus will be protected from any future development forever, and that land would be transferred to a conservation nonprofit, regional, or state park agency that is yet to be determined. That permanent protection is currently in state law that was vetted in the original enabling legislation, so that’s not at risk.

KP: Will the county then advance suggestions for the disposal of the open space as part of their planning, or will the state make their own decisions?

MM: The state and the county … have worked together throughout this process, and that’s not going to change. Of course, we’re going to work with the county on subsequent ownership of that protected open space. I expect those conversations will be taking place once that planning process has been completed.

But the state won’t even engage on the final decision until the specific plan has been completed … I just want to make sure that we are clear on that.