Making sense of the Sonoma Developmental Center alternatives

Posted on November 6, 2021 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Sonoma County has released information about potential plans for Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC).

Sonoma Valley Collaborative (SVC) has views on SDC that could help community members make sense of the choices. Here is its response statement:

SVC members include Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, Sonoma Valley Unified School District, La Luz Center, Sonoma Valley Interfaith Ministerial Association, Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, Sonoma Community Center, Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley/Teen Services, and many others.

Earlier this year, SVC members hammered out objectives for SDC that met stringent criteria: each protects and restores a healthy natural environment AND improves opportunity and security for all by addressing social inequities AND advances a sustainable local economy. Luckily, SDC is big enough that these criteria can all be met there. SVC’s initial objectives are:

–A redeveloped SDC has the capacity to make substantial, positive, multi-generational contributions to Sonoma Valley and the North Bay.

–The 750 acres of SDC’s open space should be protected permanently, along with the wildlife and biodiversity resources, water, and wildlife passage across Sonoma Valley.

SVC member Richard Dale, executive director of Sonoma Ecology Center says “The lands and waters of SDC are incredibly rich. Protecting SDC’s open spaces and creeks, and the corridor for wildlife across Sonoma Valley, is our highest priority. We think this can be achieved if the land use plan makes the developed area smaller than the old campus, and is designed right.”

–The future SDC should have homes (“housing”) that are accessible to people who cannot afford Sonoma Valley market prices, whether to rent or to own. 

SVC member John Hennelly, CEO of Sonoma Valley Hospital, noted that “housing security aligns with health outcomes for everyone. This is a valley-wide concern.  Managing your health takes a back seat when you aren’t sure where you’ll be next week or next month. Housing hits close to home at the hospital.  We routinely lose great applicants when they realize they cannot afford to live here.  Even more concerning is the notices from existing staff that they may be looking for a new job as they can’t afford to stay.  The SDC campus offers a creative opportunity to address this crisis.”

–Housing at SDC should come along with community services, such as childcare, eldercare, transit, grocery, fitness facility, playfields, a health clinic, coffee shop, elementary school, and open space.

–We support a diversity of home prices and styles—single-family, cottage or missing-middle, multifamily—focused on ordinary-size homes for households who will live there full time. 

–Interim use and adaptive re-use of buildings might help with the extreme housing crisis facing Sonoma Valley. 

SVC member Mark Bodenhamer, CEO of Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, says “SDC provides a unique chance to diversify and strengthen our local economy. In addition to adding meaningful inventory of affordable housing, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attract and invest in new industries. SDC could be home to sustainable, high paying jobs that are consistent with where our local, regional and global economies are heading…if the land use plan allows for those uses.” 

After a tour of the SDC campus led by SVC, Sonoma Valley High School student Jennifer Teliez shared that she wants to see “centers that help youth and adults with opportunities for jobs and new skills, athletic and recreation areas, and live concerts”—hopes that were echoed by other Sonoma Valley teens weighing in. 

SVC is refining these and additional points of consensus with people across Sonoma Valley’s communities and interest groups, and will release more recommendations soon. 

Subscribe to the SVC newsletter at and follow them at @SonomaValleyCollaborative.

Readers are encouraged to submit their own comments about SDC to SVC at, to Sonoma County Supervisors (, at the public meetings on November 13, 15, and 16, and at SVC is hosted at Sonoma Ecology Center.

4 thoughts on “Making sense of the Sonoma Developmental Center alternatives

  1. Ecology AND products that we nurture in CA, especially for an evolving world.

    Perfectly suited as a college.

  2. Unfortunately none of the above is in the 3 alternatives the county is pushing. They just released a survey today that is totally flawed. I only lists the 3 alternatives the county has come up with and no choices to say none of the above and tell them what community members really want. Go to the specific plan web site and read the 3 plans carefully. Then let them know what you think. Attend the meetings on 11-13 and 11-17 and tell them what you think.

  3. These 3 alternatives are NOT suitable.
    Questions that need to be asked
    1) Does the county plan to fund and manage any of the development or are the alternatives only a roadmap to put out for bid to developers.
    2) If the county does not plan to fund the development and it is going to developers, how much is the minimum amount from developers needed to secure the gift from the state to the county for the county not to lose any money? Is the county trying to make money or break even.
    3) If the county is going to manage parts of the development, which parts are they and what is the estimated cost of those parts?
    The community needs to understand what is behind these suggested alternatives. We are capable of a far more thoughtful, intentional and balanced use of this resource.

  4. Development proposals are simply payback to donors for past Supervisor elections. Best use would be conversion to a Veterans home..nothing else even comes close.

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