Page 3 ~ Val Robichaud


Items: SDC sold (?); final (?) Covid stats; was that a mtn. lion? and more…

Posted on April 16, 2023 by Val Robichaud

The Sonoma Developmental Center has been sold – or traded, or donated, or something – to a team of developers chosen by the land owner, the state of California. The sale price, if there is one, has not been disclosed (and we’re confused). Any revenue from a true sale would go into the state’s general fund. Whatever the terms, the state and county are purportedly off the hook for paying to clean up the toxins and detritus associated with running a hospital, sewer system, and industrial infrastructure for what was basically a self-contained small town for more than 120 years… What’s certain is that once redeveloped, SDC will generate hefty income for the County of Sonoma through hotel room tax, and payment for water delivery. The mothballed water treatment plant on the SDC property will never operate again, which means all the homes and hotel will receive water from the Russian River and the Sonoma Water agency. That will at least make it rain consistently, drought or no. 

The stats are in for our three years of Covid, and Sonoma County did fairly well compared to the rest of the state: it had the ninth highest vaccination rate; 20% percent fewer cases per 100,000 residents than California overall; 57% percent fewer deaths per 100,000 residents. “That really is a testament to our county and the residents and shows how well we have been able to do during the pandemic,” concluded Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were impressed; Mase has left Santa Rosa for a national gig there. In the disease game, that’s like getting a call from the New York Yankees. 


It’s a story that nearly writes itself, mainly because it’s the fifth time we’ve run it since 2020. Sonoma has a new City Manager: David Guhin (above). Guhin brings nearly two decades of government leadership experience including 18+ years at the City of Santa Rosa where he served as Director of Santa Rosa Water, Director of Planning and Economic Development, Interim Director of Transportation and Public Works, and finally four years as Assistant City Manager. Most recently he was Executive Director of Government Operations for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. Guhin holds a degree in Civil Engineering (Environmental) from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and a Masters in Organizational Development from Sonoma State University. Guhin starts the Sonoma gig ($236,000 per year) on May 7. First job is maybe sealing up that revolving office door.

The Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Committee continues to grapple with reaching consensus on a set of Winery Events Guidelines. The SVCAC sent its recommendations to the County a few years ago; they were rejected. So the committee formed an Ad Hoc committee to seek industry input, and is re-crafting. But like the view to a neglected vineyard, Tom Blackwood, a board member of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance, sees lots of weeds. The plan is choked with overbearing details, he says. “What’s the difference between the County Ordinance and the Guidelines? About 15 pages.”


Sonoma Valley Unified School District will soon vote on closing Dunbar School, effective this fall. The parents of the affected 93 students (21 special education) would have the option of choosing where to relocate. Three more campus school closures, within three years, are likely given the decreasing enrollment numbers… Whatever the alignment, here comes the next batch of students. The District will host a Preschool Fair on Wednesday, April 19, at  El Verano School. Parents and families can talk to each school, ask questions, and learn about schedules, curriculum and hours for each site. They can also find out about eligibility requirements and sign up for the 2023-24 School Year. For questions regarding preschool enrollment, contact Jo Fichtenberg at the district office, 707.935.6000 ext.4830.


Sonoma Arts Live Theater Company announces its Season 2023-24 on April 29 on the Rotary Stage in Andrews Hall at Sonoma Community Center. “Come on out and enjoy champagne, sweets and entertainment,” says Artistic Director Jaime Love. “We are excited to unveil the four musicals and two plays we’ve chosen with our audience in mind.” Rick Love, chair of the Behind the Curtain Committee, says the biggest upfront cost is securing the music and the rights for each show. “All musicals must be paid upfront,” he says. “That means we’re shelling out $10,000 a year per musical, sometimes a year and a half before we do it. Royalties per season can run anywhere from $30-40 thousand per season.”


Teri Shore isn’t the only fan of our local mountain lions. Years ago, driving home up a small Glen Ellen lane, I spotted and remarked on a big brown dog sauntering up the road. Daughter Annnie, an expert at age 10, knew differently – it was a mountain lion. We turned the corner and the sleek, gorgeous animal – trotting to a trail trailing to the regional park – looked back with a disinterested tail-flick. “Dad,” came the ruling. “That ain’t no dog.”

— Val Robichaud, [email protected]


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