Editorials ~ Sonoma Sun


There’s no place like home

Posted on June 20, 2024 by Sonoma Sun

People have lived here for a very long time. Western and Asian cultures are recent arrivals; for countless centuries America’s indigenous tribes enjoyed this rich and verdant territory. From Anishinaabe, Pomo, and Algonquin tribes to Ohlones and Coast Miwoks, for at least 10,000 years people gathered, fished, hunted, lived together, and cared for the land of the North Bay. Its natural geology of basin and range produced some of the finest agricultural soil in the world. Truly, the Sonoma Valley is an extraordinary place.

The qualities that make Sonoma Valley so special are the very same ones that prompt exploitation by those accumulating wealth, and our area has repeatedly been subjected to the whims of empire builders more intent on getting rich than caring for this land, its people, its wildlife and its beauty. For them, Sonoma Valley is a project, but for most of us who live here, Sonoma Valley is home.

Sometimes government treats this place as a project too. Although government’s mission is not about accumulating wealth, running government is very expensive and government needs more money every year. In practice this sometimes means that money tops everything else and the line between the interests of those who want to exploit and the interests of those who live here, for whom government is intended to regulate development, gets blurry. 

What’s happened to the Sonoma Developmental Center is a perfect example. Despite years of public meetings, government studies, and required analysis, government’s mishandling of the SDC property is an embarrassment. Between the greed of business interests and the clamor for income by government, a precious and unique piece of our Valley is at risk of being lost forever to exploitation. It comes as close to a land use tragedy as we can imagine; it is the  outcome of seeing our valley as a project instead of a home, not just for people, but for the plant life and the different species recently documented as living on the SDC land..

Before the age of fast travel and communication, our valley endured. Periodic floods enriched the soils while fires, often intentionally set to manage the landscape, prompted growth of beneficial species. Land ownership for private use did not exist. We are long past any chance of returning to that era, but the society we have created with its economic excesses risks destroying what we all appreciate about living here. This is a global problem, not just local, and formulating workable solutions is clearly difficult.

We believe that treating Sonoma Valley as home rather than as a project is the only viable path forward. We must recognize that when developers and government think in terms of “project” they turn our home into an object of exploitation, and priorities shift for the worse. When considered “home,” planning for Sonoma Valley looks entirely different. The needs of who and what live here, the people, wildlife, plants and living systems – their housing, health, and welfare – assume a proper priority in decision-making. As long as money comes first, our valley will suffer.

When priorities are correct, attention is paid to first principles: recognizing our place in the natural living system that sustains us. It means respecting, understanding, and caring for each other and the environment. It means paying attention to those of us who live here and providing affordable housing rather than developing expensive market-rate homes for new residents.

There’s no place like home. We who live here are family. It’s the only way forward.

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA