Environmental Impact Study Next Steps for Sonoma Developmental Center

Permit Sonoma, Sonoma County’s planning agency, presented the project description framework to guide the redevelopment of Sonoma Developmental Center during this week’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors. The proposed framework incorporated aspects of the three alternatives previously presented to the public on Nov. 1, 2021, as well as feedback from two community workshops with over 250 participants, five community meetings and an online survey with over 720 entries.

“There is a lot of passion for the direction of this project with good reason,” said James Gore, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “A strong framework was presented and we have reason to be hopeful that it will continue to get better by ongoing community participation in this process.”

The proposed framework advances the following critical components:

Expansion of the wildlife and riparian corridors, including preservation of more than 700 acres of open space.
Increased distance of development from the wildland-urban interface for defensible space and vegetation management.
Construction of between 900 and 1,000 housing units, including 250 units of deed-restricted affordable housing.
Enhanced and better-connected inner campus green spaces and preservation of historic landmarks, including Eldridge Cemetery, the Main Building and Sonoma House.
Creation of approximately 1,000 new jobs from local-serving retail, office and visitor-serving uses.
Coordinated mobility system, including an emphasis on non-auto travel and a new vehicular connection to extend Harney Drive to Highway 12.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to reinvigorate a vibrant and sustainable community in the heart of Sonoma Valley,” said Supervisor Susan Gorin, whose district includes the Sonoma Development Center site. “There is a diverse set of perspectives on several key issues, including the level of development overall. I’m hopeful that we can build on the site’s rich historic legacy while meeting contemporary needs such as wildlife habitat preservation, civic uses, and community gathering places to make the center a hub of community life in Sonoma Valley.”

Permit Sonoma staff will continue to refine the project description and conduct community engagement through the environmental review process. A draft Environmental Impact Report is expected to be available for public review in June 2022. The Planning Commission will hold two public hearings in July and August 2022 to receive public comment on the draft EIR and potentially adopt a resolution recommending that the Board of Supervisors certify a final EIR and adopt a final Specific Plan in September 2022.

In 2019, the County of Sonoma forged a unique partnership with the State of California, which owns the site, to allow local input in charting the future of the property. This opportunity represents the first time the California Legislature has delegated land use planning responsibility to a local agency for the redevelopment of a state psychiatric facility. Sonoma Developmental Center provided services to people with developmental disabilities for more than 120 years and at one time was the county’s largest employer. The State of California closed the facility in 2018.

For more information about site plans, or general information related to the project, please visit www.sdcspecificplan.com.

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