I watched the movie Koyaanisqatsi when I was in my thirties. The images stay with me to this day.
The movie is all images, no dialogue. We see our world speeding from its natural state to the world we live in today, at dizzying speed.
Attending the board of supervisors meeting on January 25, I was prepared to hear once again that there was really nothing the county could do to create a better plan for the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). I expected the same old litany that it was not the state of California’s responsibility, it was not Sonoma County’s responsibility to do anything other than make sure a plan was financially feasible. But, instead I heard from Supervisor Gorin words of balance and a willingness to create a plan that will provide affordable housing for our valley and protect this beautiful piece of our earth.
Our community still has a divide, when we need some unity to assure the best outcome at SDC. Many feel that there can be no end to development, that we must build and build until every square inch of the valley is covered in housing and development. They feel that the inequities of our society will be solved if we ignore the natural world and just keep building and building. Those that support less housing at SDC are labeled as rich, white, and old. Even the word racist is thrown in from time to time.
Wisdom does not always come with age, but if we think about other societies, the council of elders is listened to. They have experienced more, they have observed more. In my first column for the Sun, I wrote about the SDC in the context of where I grew up in Minnesota. I wrote about how over my lifetime I watched a rural area with open space, farms, and forest become a paved pile of suburban sprawl.
Native people and many older people recognize through observation that we need to find balance. We cannot just continue to create a new Walnut Creek or San Jose on every square inch of earth we have left. Time and observation tell us that this does not create lower cost housing or solve the inequities in our society. New ideas are needed, as we build. SDC is an opportunity to create a balanced environment that can be an inspiration for others to follow. We can assure that all housing and development at SDC rests lightly and responsibly on the land and is given only to those that need it and at a cost they can realistically afford.
The idea of a trust governing structure will ensure that we can create a new framework that will insure the wealthy do not benefit from this development and that it serves our community by providing housing, while still being in balance with the natural world.