First District Supervisor Susan Gorin, in her advocacy for a specific site plan for the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) that reflects the vision and concerns of the citizens of the Valley, has committed to making the SDC process a democratic one.
The Supervisor opened her thoughtful remarks at the January 25 Board of Supervisors meeting, where Permit Sonoma presented its draft fourth alternative for the SDC, with “Has this ever been a long time birthing, and it isn’t born yet.” We are grateful for her commitment to getting it right.
Gorin noted many of the dedicated stakeholders working with her to create a proposal for the people. She advocated for recognition of the indigenous Miwok people in the proposed history museum, and spoke of new housing/agriculture models such as those she had visited in Davis. She forcefully questioned the Permit Sonoma plan, which depends on housing to bear the entire cost of upgrades and buildout, citing housing’s usual inadequacy in that area. She asked why the state would not bear at least part of that estimated $100 million cost. She strongly called for the state to move forward in placing conservation easements on the undeveloped land and act quickly to annex it into Jack London State Park and Sonoma Valley Regional Park.
She highlighted the major issue of wildfire and evacuation, recommending downsizing total housing to between 450 and 650 units, with 50% affordable to low and very low incomes. She proposed a Crisis Stabilization Center on the campus, supports climate research there, and urged adherence to the county’s Climate Action Plan.
Unfortunately, and despite lip service to the contrary in the form of public forums, online surveys, a formal advisory team, and other community outreach, the county planners have shown themselves largely indifferent to significant public input over the two years the project has been under development.
But Gorin recognized the “cataclysmic response from the community” to the three draft alternatives put forward in November. She concluded that this public outpouring “may have mellowed a bit” the fourth alternative.
The planning process largely ignored the validity of the vision of citizens, including environmentalists, social scientists, biologists, educators, and urban planners. Both Springs and North Sonoma Valley Municipal Advisory Councils are affiliated with Permit Sonoma, yet the agency ignores both councils’ strong opposition to the present alternatives.
County planners, and their consultants, maintained that they were bound by a state mandate to make the property as desirable as possible to a commercial investor. In so doing, they neglected the plaintive voice of the Latinx community asking for housing and educational opportunities, not more hospitality jobs. And it certainly does not justify their resolute rejection of the necessity for a much higher percentage of affordable housing.
The process seemed determined to force a narrow interpretation of the State of California’s position. But we the people are the state as well. This is public land. And indeed the state is rolling in money at the moment, with a $29 billion surplus. This is a time to dream big.
Let’s seize the moment, this unique and wonderful opportunity for a visionary 21st century use of this land, to preserve it for all, and use it to serve the underserved people of the Valley. One of the main obstacles to building deed-restricted affordable housing is the cost of land, but this is public land. ‘We’ already own it.
Supervisor Gorin has declared that the future of the SDC is the reason she ran for reelection. Let’s take advantage of her advocacy, by speaking up at public meetings about the EIR. The first is on zoom, February 17 at 5:30.