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Board of Supervisors approved an agreement by state and county to work together with community groups to determine the best use for this special property.
Board of Supervisors approved an agreement by state and county to work together with community groups to determine the best use for this special property. Photo:

Doing Something Different at SDC
Provisions Directing 
Priority be Given to Affordable Housing

Apr 29, 2019
by Stephanie Hiller


Dark visions of the “inevitable” conversion of the Sonoma Developmental Center to luxury development were banished April 5, when the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement hammered out by state and county to work together with community groups to determine the highest and best use for this special property.

Parameters can be seen at

It’s a landmark agreement, to be funded largely by the state, representing the first time in state history that future use of what would otherwise have been thrown onto the market as surplus public property is to be guided by a shared vision of what is best for the community and for the land itself.

According to the blog site, Transform SDC, posted by the Sonoma Land Trust, on April 22 – Earth Day! — the California Department of Finance (DOF) and the California Department of General Services (DGS) released budget documents today requesting over $43 million over three years to “manage the Sonoma Developmental Center and begin decommissioning activities through a warm shutdown until the final disposition of the campus is complete…” in 2022. 

The budget proposal includes “provisions directing” that priority be given to affordable housing…in the disposition of the [SDC] property” and that “all lands outside the core developed campus and its related infrastructure be preserved as public parkland and open space.”  

The full post, with links to the actual budget proposal, may be found at

Posted Board for comments, ideas and questions by the community. (

This is really a visionary achievement, one that honors and aims to fulfill the highest aspirations of our county, where dreams of creating a more balanced, holistic, earth-honoring way of life have long been cherished.  Many people worked hard for its accomplishment, and doubtless will continue to do so through the months ahead, including our district supervisor Susan Gorin and State Representative Mike McGuire who never gave up fighting for a fair deal, as well as Richard Dale of the Sonoma Ecology Center and John McCaull of the Sonoma Land Trust, the dedicated members of the neighboring Glen Ellen community and housing advocates. 

All deserve to be congratulated in meeting the two most commanding goals for the property, once thought to be incompatible: protecting the open space and providing affordable housing for the community. In addition, it will honor SDC ‘s 128-year healthcare history by prioritizing deed-restricted, affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities.

Truly remarkable! It should give us all a burst of optimism in these turbulent and discouraging times, that we the people, for all our flaws, are capable of rising above the forces of negativity, commercialism and greed, to step forward to meet the needs of our endangered planet while taking care of its people. 

Let us do our best to ensure that the transformation of SDC will include all the best methods of sustainability, and further, that whatever shape this agreement takes, it will honor and include the First Peoples who once thrived on these lands and who have shown us the way, through dark ages of oppression, to an indigenous way of life on this sacred planet.

If Sonoma County can make this leap, there’s hope for the world. Here’s to a real and abiding Green New Deal for us all.

Savory Sonoma by Stephanie Hiller




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