Is the urbanization of SDC lands truly inevitable?

Posted on March 31, 2021 by Sonoma Valley Sun

I was touched by the column about the sad beauty and inevitable decline of the Sonoma Developmental Center by Josette Brose-Eichar. But I wonder if the “progress and reality” as described must happen, knowing what we’ve lost in the past to “put up a parking lot,” as Joni Mitchell famously sang.

The lands at Eldridge are owned by the people of California, so we all have a say in what happens. This property is really the heart of Sonoma Valley. It provides clean water and clean air. The open space acts as a greenbelt buffer to reduce wildfire risk to nearby communities. It is a well-documented wildlife corridor for bears, mountain lions, and other far-ranging animals. It is a critical ecosystem link that connects the mountain ranges as far east as Snow Mountain to the coast and Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Such precious natural resources are essential to responding to climate change challenges.

While open space protections are promised, the state wants to sell the lands including the main campus to the highest bidder. It refuses to clean up the site so it can easily be repurposed. The latest report from county planners suggest it is a good spot for a new community with ample housing, a hotel, grocery stores and shops, and a giant parking garage since everyone will be driving. Sounds like old fashioned urbanization to me.

What happened to a visionary new climate-resilient transformation for a precious landscape?  What about trails and campgrounds? The solar panels? The organic farm? Where are the bear crossings? These ideas have been suggested over the past five years in various community meetings, but seemingly overlooked in the planning process to date.

The Governor recently set a goal of conserving 30 percent of that state’s lands by 2030 to protect biodiversity and boost climate resilience.  Why not add the total 945 acres of SDC lands to forward that goal and preserve these natural resources forever? We have a state budget surplus right now. Maybe we should even consider returning the land to the people who were here in the first place.

— Teri Shore, Sonoma 

9 thoughts on “Is the urbanization of SDC lands truly inevitable?

  1. Thank you Teri Shore for your thoughts on the future of SDC land. I applaud and second all of those feelings.

  2. Thank you Terri, I have participated in a couple of virtual meetings on SDC. I have been dishearten by how little real community input is being gathered. And recently I found that a questionnaire/ survey was given to only 500 people. The county needs to hear from us and they need to talk to many, many more of us. I would love to see an overwhelming flood of e-mails to the board of supervisors and a huge turn out to speak the next time SDC is on the agenda for the sups.

  3. I agree with Terri. Only in America do we take historical places and allow them to deteriorate. There are many historical buildings on the property. Some of the architecture is unique and should be preserved. This is a special place and should be treated similar to the Presidio Land Trust.

  4. I suggest a beautiful resort off of highway 12.
    Hidden from Arnold drive by trees and beautiful landscaping.
    This would bring lots of jobs and modern hotel rooms and limited convention space.
    Arnold drive should remain like it is a serenity.
    We don’t want hundreds of new homes or apartments there.
    We also don’t want to have building boom like they have over by Sonoma State college.

  5. I agree , thank you Terri. There is enough land to meet many of the needs of this county. I feel some low income housing would be great along with open space, hiking, dog runs. I do not want to see it become a full housing devoplement for million dollar plus homes or a hotel.

  6. The county has been directed by the state to approve protecting 700+ acres of open space. Isn’t that enough?

    Ironically, if it weren’t for the strong public demand that it be preserved as open space, we might have seen a more creative use of the entire property.

    “Urbanization” applies to the “core campus.” While not a very inspired solution, it could help to defray the county housing crisis to the degree that it offers truly affordable housing.

    Harping on preserving the whole property as open space when we have plenty of open space and not enough housing seems unconscionable, and since it ignores the enormous costs of renovation, $100 million or more for the water system alone, it is not realistic.

  7. I do not think Teri or any of us who live in the valley and have concerns about the future of SDC feel the entire property must remain open space. We all recognize that the campus area that now has buildings can have a purpose. But, we all want to see it done wisely. We have a true need for real affordable housing for our workers. What we do not need is an other large hotel/ center for wealthy tourists. We can not now provide housing for hospitality industry workers and they must commute from elsewhere. So why continue to grow the tourist industry and and make our housing shortage worse. My hope in this process is that any commercial use provide good paying jobs, provide space for community needed services, real affordable housing and do this with the understanding of real sustainably. I find it interesting that people can buy a run down house in my hood that has no central heating, no viable electrical system and a ruined structure and for $200,000 turn it into a beautiful renovated home. I see many of the smaller structures at SDC and know the same could be done there. Even the campus area has more than enough space for solar panels. SDC has a good water supply and with conservation and gray water systems would be self sustaining.

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