Nov 082023
 

Walks and Talks on Sonoma Mountain

In October SMP hosted two walks in the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), the beloved and beleaguered institution in Glen Ellen that’s slated to be sold to a developer whose current plans call for leveling much of what’s beautiful, historic, and unusual on the campus.

The first event, a reprise of SMP’s popular “History, Horticulture, and Future of the SDC” hike, was led by California Naturalist Carolyn Greene and featured an impromptu presentation by photographer Christian Pease, a former SDC employee and a leading member of the Eldridge Cemetery Memorial Committee. At the newly completed cemetery memorial, which overlooks the unmarked graves of nearly 2,000 SDC residents, Pease described the memorial’s components, the forgotten history that prompted its creation, and the political and administrative process that got the project done. The names of everyone buried in the cemetery have been etched in granite slabs on the ADA-accessible viewing platform, which can be reached via a short walk uphill from the campus via Orchard Road.

The second hike, “Fall Birds and Migratory Words on Sonoma Mountain,” was led by author, scientist, and avid bird-watcher Rebecca Lawton, who guided a half-dozen hardy participants through intermittent downpours to secret spots on the campus and along the trail to Fern Lake where the birds — in surprising numbers and variety — were hanging out. Among the species seen or heard were a tree-full of bushtits yelling “head’s up” as a Cooper’s hawk swooped overhead, a couple of ruby-crowned kinglets, more than a dozen dark-eyed juncos and lesser goldfinches, a few northern flickers, a Hutton’s vireo, a hermit thrush … two dozen species and seventy-four birds in all. Lawton also shared poetry with the soggy but happy participants, including a work by our national poet laureate Ada Limón, who was raised in Glen Ellen. You can read Lawton’s SDC-inspired poem, “The Night the County Supervisors Met to Sell the Mountain,” here.

A new slate of guided walks on the SDC and elsewhere on Sonoma Mountain is currently in the works. We’re hopeful these two wonderful guides will be back to lead again, and that they will be joined colleagues who can share their special connections to the mountain with fellow mountain lovers.


~ Tracy Salcedo, SMP vice chair and “sweep”

Participants at the memorial platform at Sonoma Developmental Center.
Participants at the memorial platform at Sonoma Developmental Center.
Nov 082023
 

The Night the County Supervisors Met
to Sell the Mountain

by Rebecca Lawton


I arrive late to a dream where ushers fold arms across their chests at theater doors. A man,
linebacker big, waves a county pass, rushes by the box office, parts the ushers like the Red Sea.

You’re too late, says an office clerk, though he can sell me tickets to A Charlie Brown Christmas.
It’s the one where Charlie finds the last real tree on the lot. He gets back to town with his dying
fir or spruce, only to be mocked by children with black holes for mouths.

Of course Charlie is depressed.

I shake off the dream and the clerk’s hungry eyes. Wide awake, I follow the mountain’s middle
path, empty of hikers and cyclists and dogs, who are all at the real-life meeting. I climb on, as
chickadees buzz in oak branches. Jays scold. Red-tailed hawks scream.

The meeting will go past midnight. Citizens will pour out their hearts, some to keep the mountain
wild, some to sell it and clear forests and fields for a town. Everyone’s dogs will grin with hope.
The supes will handshake folks on both sides of the room, pat poodles and retrievers alike.

Meanwhile I will walk the wooded mountain that saved my life twenty years ago.

Back then, nursing a bruised heart not far from here, I raised my daughter alone. I rose at dawn
to work long days in the woods, gauged the mountain’s creeks and springs, stood knee-deep with staff and stopwatch in chilly flow. Owls called, resting in shadows. Muddy deer trails bore lion prints the size of tea-plates, mixed with hieroglyphic scrawls of turkey and heron.

Ducks flew up from Mexico to winter here. Gulls strayed in from the coast. One hot day, a baby
vulture hid in a stump while raucous woodpeckers relayed along a shaded creek. Wild lilies, shell
fungi, orchids no bigger than dandelions pushed up through leaf litter. I took my girl to see them.

It was all there. It is up there still, though the meeting went the way such meetings go.

My friends say they’ll chain themselves naked to trees and rocks when the backhoes come, when the supes sell the mountain to a high bidder, as they’ll do. Like that clerk, they’ve got to hawk it, get tickets moving for a show we’ve all seen many times, about a boy who longs for nothing more than a full and living tree.

Sonoma Mountain Aerial view at SDC

Becca Lawton
First published in Deep Wild Journal
Winter 2022-2023

May 012023
 

Developer chosen for SDC campus

By Melissa Dowling and Tracy Salcedo
Originally published in the April 15th edition of Kenwood Press

California’s Department of General Services (DGS) has selected Rogal & Partners and The Grupe Company as buyers for the 180-acre developed campus of the former Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC)

The April 3 announcement comes three months after the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a Specific Plan and environmental impact report (EIR) for the campus that allows for construction of at least 620 homes, more than 400,000 square feet of commercial space, and a resort hotel. The EIR currently faces a legal challenge contending it violates a number of provisions in the California Environmental Quality Act.

At least three groups submitted proposals for purchase of the campus, including a homegrown coalition, the Next 100 Years Plan, which envisioned retaining the property in public ownership via a special district. DGS, the state’s real estate branch, determined that the Grupe/Rogal team’s proposal “was most in keeping with the County’s plan for the site and has a track record of successfully delivering projects like this,” said Jennifer Iidapublic information officer with DGS.

Selection of a buyer initiates an exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) process, which Iida explained is “an agreement between two parties that establishes processes and expectations for the sale of the property. It is just an initial step.” No firm timeline for the ENA has been established, Iida added, and the pending lawsuit against the county challenging the EIR “does not impact the timing or process” for the ENA.

“There will not be community outreach during the ENA process,” Iida noted. DGS also declined to provide a copy of the winning proposal until the purchase and sale agreement for the core campus is executed.

Selection of a buyer does not affect the anticipated transfer of approximately 750 acres of surrounding open space to California State Parks, Iida said. The state budget for fiscal 2023-2024 includes $3 million to enable that transfer.

The winning bidders

Rogal & Partners have either successfully redeveloped, or are in the process of redeveloping, two properties in the Napa Valley. A visit to the website www.rogal.net highlights the Carneros Inn project, which transformed “three separate and deteriorating properties” totaling 27 acres into a mixed-use resort hotel encompassing 96 hotel cottages, three restaurants, and 41 residences.

Napa Pipe, a redevelopment encompassing 168 acres along the Napa River, is also featured on the website. Yet to be built outs, Napa Pipe is described as “a compact, walkable, urban neighborhood, with great streets, parks and public amenities, expressly designed for the needs and desires of today’s smaller households of all ages and incomes.” Senior (150 units), affordable (190 units), and market-rate (755 units) housing is planned for the site, along with a hotel, restaurants, light industrial and office space, and a Costco.

The website states development of Carneros Inn and planning for Napa Pipe has included “substantial” and “unprecedented” community engagement and outreach.

The Grupe Company has developed “more than 12 master-planned communities [and] more than 50,000 homes in 35 cities nationwide,” according to its website (https://grupe.com), as well as “preserved wildlife habitat areas and open spaces” associated with those developments Current and past projects include single family subdivisions, apartments, and storage facilities in the East Bay, Sacramento, Lodi, and Nevada.

Keith Rogal of Rogal & Partners, responding to questions from the Kenwood Press via email, said, “We feel honored to have been chosen by DGS as the right team to take on such an important responsibility.” He noted that the SDC is an “extraordinary property, with so many exceptional attributes. We are thrilled by the opportunity to work with the community in protecting and preserving natural resources of the SDC, enhancing the landscape, and creating a built environment that can meet present and future County needs and goals.”

Asked what he believes compelled the state to chose the Grupe/Rogal proposal, Rogal said, “We don’t know which factors were at work in the State’s decision process, but our two companies have deep experience in complex, mixed-use projects, specifically in and around small city and rural settings. We understand and care passionately about sustainability, natural resource conservation, the design of parks and open spaces, and the creation of vibrant, walkable communities for persons of all ages and incomes.”

Looking to the future, Rogal explained that, “a top priority is to review with great care the many comments already provided by members of the community, through the Specific Plan process. We have also put up a website at www.SDC-community.com to provide a place for interested parties to get their thoughts to us directly, and/or just to let us know they’d like us to keep them informed as the process moves ahead.

Addressing a timeline, Rogal said, “from now through summer and on into the fall, we will be principally in an information-gathering mode, and community input is central to that foundational planning work.”

Asked if there are specific plans yet for the development, Rogal said, “Our plan is to implement the vision defined by the County in the SDC Specific Plan. At this early stage, we do not have additional detail above and beyond that which was created by the County planning process.”

County and community response

In a press release announcing the selection of the Grupe/Rogal partnership, First District Supervisor Susan Gorin said, “We’re deeply grateful for the state’s work on this and for naming a developer for this vital site in the heart of Sonoma Valley … We look forward to helping ensure the developer provides numerous opportunities to outreach and hear from the community to develop a project that reflects the qualities of Sonoma Valley while addressing the needs within the guidelines of the SDC specific plan.”

Sonoma County isn’t part of the sale process, noted Bradley Dunn, policy manager with Permit Sonoma, which is responsible for ensuring redevelopment complies with the Specific Plan.

Permit Sonoma may enter into a development agreement with the buyer once the sale is finalized, but because the developer “initiates a development agreement,” Dunn couldn’t comment on what that might entail “or the timeline for a hypothetical agreement.” If a development agreement is reached, however, Dunn said “it would require hearings with the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Both would include public participation.”

Teresa Murphy of the Glen Ellen Historical Society (GEHS) and a member of the Next 100 Years team, composed a letter to the editor expressing that group’s frustration with the outcome. “Hundreds of hours of testimony, meetings, and planning were based on the dream that this community could actually influence the outcome” of redevelopment of the SDC, she wrote. “The dream was dashed with the award by [DGS] to the Napa developer Rogal and Partners and the Grupe Company.”

Speaking only for himself, not as a representative of any organization, Bean Anderson, a community stakeholder affiliated with the GEHS and the Next 100 Years Plan, worried that selection of the Grupe/Rogal partnership threatens the integrity of the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor, which includes the campus. “Future zoning changes at the request of a large developer could easily destroy what little is left of the wildlife corridor,” he said.

Both Anderson and Murphy asserted the need for continued community advocacy for the campus and its retention as public land.

“The protection of the ecological, historic, and environmental integrity of the area depends upon the land being managed for the public good—by remaining in public hands or in a responsible trust. This should be our goal,” Anderson stated.

For details on the Specific Plan and the EIR, visit www.sdcspecificplan.com. For information on the lawsuit, visit the Sonoma Community Advocates for a Liveable Eldridge (SCALE) at scaledownsdc.org.

Tracy Salcedo is an award-winning writer based in Glen Ellen. She is a board member of Sonoma Mountain Preservation, which is part of SCALE.

Apr 022023
 

Support the Lawsuit to Save SDC

Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors has approved a plan to build 620 homes, 410,000 square feet of commercial space, and a resort hotel on the 180-acre campus of the former Sonoma Developmental Center. A deeply flawed environmental impact report sanctioning up to 1,000 dwellings was approved alongside the plan.

The plan and its EIR thumbed its nose at you, and hundreds like you, who spoke up in letters and showed up at meetings with ideas that should have been integrated into the plan and concerns that should have been studied in the EIR, but weren’t.

The county’s decision could have been the end of the SDC’s transformation story. But that story is still being written.

Your concerns and ideas form the foundation of a lawsuit filed in January 2023 challenging the validity of the SDC Specific Plan’s EIR. The goal of the plaintiffs, Sonoma Community Advocates for a Liveable Eldridge, and Sonoma County Tomorrow, Inc., is to ensure that this redevelopment in the heart of Sonoma Valley is based on solid science and real-world experience, scaled appropriately for the site, and environmentally sound. As we tackle the balancing act of preserving our natural resources while also adding needed housing, the SDC project needs to be evaluated for its effects on the lives of everyone in the community—including wildlife—and not constrained by economics and politics.

Challenging the status quo requires funding. We need your help. Your generous donation to the SDC Legal Fund will support the ongoing grassroots campaign that began a decade ago, when stakeholders first began to reimagine the SDC. Any amount will help. You can:

  • Make a tax-deductible donation at scaledownsdc.org/donate
     
  • Send a check, payable to: “Sonoma County Tomorrow,” to PO Box 983, Sebastopol, CA 95473. Put “SDC” on the memo line. Or use the Paypal option at www.sonomacountytomorrow.org.  Also tax deductible.
     
  • Send a check to “Susan Brandt-Hawley Trust Account” with “SDC” on the memo line to: Brandt-Hawley Law Group, PO Box 1659, Glen Ellen, CA 95442; Attn: Jeanie Stapleton. Contact JStapleton@preservationlawyers.com for questions.

100% of your donation will go to the Sonoma Developmental Center Legal Fund.Add signature line 

PS: If you have already donated, we thank you. Your going support will ensure the SDC is redeveloped as a community asset, not an environmental disaster.  

Fern Lake at the Sonoma Developmental Center. Image by Scott Hess.
Dec 042022
 

Reciprocity: Giving back to the Sonoma Developmental Center
by Tracy Salcedo

We want so much from this land. We want it to host a thousand homes, or half that many, or something between. We want it to support workspace for a thousand people, or more, or less. We want it to be a resort hotel. We want it to be a climate center. We want it to be an historic district. We want it to be a park. We want an agrihood, a community center, a maker space, a school, playing fields, a coffee shop …

We want, and we will take. It’s what we do. We have parceled out this piece of land and now we fight over how much we want and where we want it. It is not land; it is commodity. 

We want, and we will take, but what do we give in exchange? The land doesn’t take money. 

I’ve been reading a book called Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, holder and teacher of Indigenous wisdom. A member of the Potawatomi Nation, she writes about reciprocity, about how the Potawatomi give back to the plants and animals that feed and sustain them. When they harvest, they harvest only what they need. When there isn’t enough, they don’t take. They choose with care and seek connection with the thing they need. They ask permission. They receive and then they reciprocate, sometimes planting, sometimes tending, sometimes with prayer. Sometimes they are simply grateful.

Reciprocity gives voice to the flower and the soil and the jackrabbit. Reciprocity asks us to acknowledge that they can be overused and abused. Reciprocity asks us to respect their rights, to leave them in peace, and to thank them for their gifts. Reciprocity acknowledges the give and take between people and all the others who share the planet we inhabit. “It is an odd dichotomy we have set for ourselves,” Kimmerer writes, “between loving people and loving land.”

So here we are, gifted with 180 acres of land that can — some say should — be developed, surrounded by 765 acres that can — some say should — become parkland, surrounded by a village that can — some say should — become urbanized, in a beautiful valley that everyone wants. We tug at this place with our desires and think only of how it can serve us. In our selfishness we are hurtful, and in our selfishness, we see that hurt as being inflicted only on ourselves, not on the land and all it nurtures. We don’t think about how this place is hitched to everything else in the universe.

What would it look like if we reciprocated at SDC? What would it look like if we abandoned the idea that this land’s future, and our own futures, are best decided by economic feasibility? What would it look like if we abandoned the idea that only by building more homes can we build more homes we can afford? What would it look like if we changed our politics and stopped calling each other names? What would it look like if we left behind the climate center, the historic district, the maker space, the coffee shop, the park?

What would it look like if, instead of needy and demanding, we were simply grateful? Would we temper our demands? Would we look with new appreciation at what is already here? Would we bring buckets of water to dampen the roots of thirsty trees? Would we sweep the sidewalks? Would we bring paint to the old buildings, to revive their tired walls, inside and out? Would we open the windows to let the fresh air in?

What would it look like? What would the land do? Everything and nothing, would be my guess. It would just be. It would continue to do the unappreciated things it does for us right now, in this moment. It would breathe for us, slow us down, let us sit and walk and play and just be ourselves, on it, with it, without judgement, without knowing us or labeling us or determining our value.

photo by Marc Longisto

And in this moment — a moment that stretches back to when a shovel first broke the earth to build a home, and stretches ahead to when someone drives a shovel into the earth and breaks it again — we can reciprocate. We can look closely at what we want and why we want it. We can be thankful; grateful. Then, maybe, instead of taking more, we will see a way to take nothing; to borrow only what is offered.

Tracy Salcedo is board member of SMP and an award-winning writer who lives and works in Glen Ellen. This essay originally appeared in the Kenwood Press.

Nov 122020
 

Glen Ellen and Eldridge/SDC Are Inseparable: 
This Reality Needs to Be Reflected in The SDC Specific Plan

This clear and impassioned description of the relationship between Glen Ellen and Eldridge/SDC was written by Tracey Salcedo, Glen Ellen resident and member of the Leadership Team of the SDC Coalition. As work on the SDC Specific Plan continues, SMP supports this view.

After a long lull, the specific planning process for the former Sonoma Development Center property is kicking back into gear. The focus is on Eldridge, but the fact is that, given the intimate ties between Eldridge and Glen Ellen, my little hometown is also entering a brave new phase of its existence.

As I’ve encountered proposals for Eldridge and participated in the planning process, I’ve been struck by the fact that, over and over again, the ties between the two places are either overlooked or misunderstood. While I find it disappointing that explaining the ties would be necessary at this stage of the game, it’s also an opportunity. And it has an unanticipated upside: I’ve once again fallen in love with you, Glen Ellen. 

The Basics 

  • Glen Ellen and Eldridge are inseparable. If you look at a map, you’ll see that Eldridge is completely surrounded by Glen Ellen. As one local community leader put it, Eldridge is the hole in the Glen Ellen donut.
  • What happens to Eldridge happens to Glen Ellen. If Eldridge becomes a resort, Glen Ellen becomes a resort. If Eldridge is urbanized, Glen Ellen is urbanized. If Eldridge becomes a model of sustainability and resiliency, Glen Ellen becomes a model of sustainability and resiliency.
  • Eldridge is not a blank slate. Eldridge is now empty, hence the illusion. But Eldridge exists as part of Glen Ellen. Since their genesis in the nineteenth century, the twin villages have grown in tandem and possess the same intimate connections to the region’s wild places and to a legacy of caring. This connection can’t be monetized, but that doesn’t make the connection less valuable than money.

Glen Ellen in a Nutshell

  • Glen Ellen is a small, tight-knit, rural village of about 700 households at its center, and more within the sprawling 95442 zip code.
  • This language comes from the Land Use element of Sonoma County’s General Plan: Glen Ellen is a small village along Arnold Drive west of State Highway 12 … About 70 percent of the community is rural with rural residential and agricultural zoning.
  • From the Glen Ellen Development and Design Guidelines: The small town character of Glen Ellen promotes a sense of community and an inherent openness which recognizes personal freedoms and varied lifestyles. The maintenance and enhancement of this small town character is of utmost importance to its residents.
  • On the ground, Glen Ellen’s rural residential character looks like this: Homes on the north side of the Eldridge campus are on larger parcels, with the exception of those closest to the “downtown” area. It’s country living. On the south side of the Eldridge campus homes are closer together, but the mood is the same. It’s still country living. Whether you live in the apartments on Madrone or tucked in the woods on London Ranch Road, you live in a small town. You know the people in line with you at the grocery store. You meet up with neighbors to take a walk in the park or along the winding country roads. Your kids go to school and play sports with the neighbor kids, while you volunteer with the neighbors in classrooms or visit on the sidelines. You dance in the streets with your neighbors every October during the village fair.
  • A growing number of second home owners have purchased in Glen Ellen for the same reason full-time residents do—because it is rural, charming, and friendly. These part-time residents boost the economy of Sonoma Valley when they’re in town, while their absences add to the quiet of village life.

A Matter of Scale

The argument that Eldridge should be able to accommodate thousands of residents and workers because it used to house and employ thousands of residents and workers is not valid. At its most populous, most of the residents of Eldridge did not leave Eldridge. They couldn’t, because they were disabled. To drop an equal number of people who are not disabled into the same place doesn’t replicate Eldridge, it blows Eldridge up (and Glen Ellen with it). 

Many wonderful, innovative ideas have been proposed as part of the redevelopment process. Data collated as part of the previous community workshops supports these ideals. Bring on housing that’s affordable. Bring on housing for the developmentally disabled. Bring on community gardens and biodiverse agriculture. Bring on post-petroleum technologies. Bring on sustainable businesses. Bring on an “institute” that researches and implements principles of resiliency. Bring on visiting scholars. Bring on innovation.

But bring it on at a scale that both fits and benefits the village that already exists, on both sides of SDC. Bring it on recognizing that the existing village already embraces and lives by these ideals. Bring it on at a scale that ensures the children of local residents, as well as the greater community, can find their place here. Bring it on at the scale that enables the residents of the existing village to feel safe, and that cultivates, rather than dilutes, the small-town, natural values that drew us here and have kept us here.

To do this, it must be understood that the existing village is as important as the goal.

The Importance of Transparency

A number of proposals have emerged, developed by small groups of people reimagining what can happen on the property. There’s CEPEC, there’s the SDC Campus Project, there’s CAFF, there’s the Eldridge Enterprise, and there are other plans, without doubt, in the works.

The assumption of some committee members of the Glen Ellen Forum, and of the larger community, has been that the specific planning process, and the proposals it generates, would be community-driven. Most of the circulating proposals remain outside the specific planning process. The Eldridge Enterprise, developed by a “working group” of the SDC Coalition, is a troubling exception, especially as it begins recruiting endorsements. It is not community-driven. The specific planning process for Eldridge must remain transparent, otherwise trust in a community-driven process is broken.

The Myth of NIMBY

With the formation of the Glen Ellen Forum in 2016, Glen Ellen has helped host forward-facing community workshops to shape a vision and guiding principles for Eldridge’s redevelopment. The community’s approach to that redevelopment is pragmatic and realistic, but constrained by the realities of being unincorporated.

We know change is inevitable. All we want—and I feel confident saying “we” here, because Glen Ellenites helped collate the feedback from the Hanna and Dunbar workshops—is for change to be moderated so that the existing community survives and has the ability to define itself, even as it absorbs change. The interests of the immediate community should carry the same weight as the interests of prospective developers, the broader community, and private, commercial, nonprofit, and political interests.

A Vision for Eldridge

“Eldridge is a place where people of diverse backgrounds and interests live and work together, where natural resources are conserved and enhanced, concepts of sustainability and resiliency are put into practice, cultural legacies are honored, and compatibility with surrounding communities is preserved.

—Vision Statement Developed for Community Consideration at the Hanna Workshop, June 2019

As we’ve had to circle up, yet again, to create a vision for the site, I feel like we, as representatives from Glen Ellen, are now outside the process. We are forced to be reactive to proposals developed outside the process, rather than proactive in helping develop proposals. In light of recent developments, I have to ask: What does community-driven mean? To me, it means that no matter where proposals originate, whether in the city of Sonoma, or Oakmont, or Santa Rosa, or the hills of Healdsburg, they reflect not only the desires of their proponents, but also an understanding of what is fundamental: Glen Ellen and Eldridge are inseparable. What happens to Eldridge happens to Glen Ellen.

Look at it this way: Glen Ellen is the village about to be inundated by the dam. The powers-that-be believe the dam is a greater good, and the little village in the valley should just roll over and accept obliteration. My response is, if you inundate Glen Ellen and Eldridge—their rural characters, the peace that comes when you drive up Arnold Drive into the embrace of oaks and open space—you destroy exactly what you seek to exploit.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The residents of Glen Ellen will be the most profoundly impacted of all communities by what happens in Eldridge. Everyone else gets to go home, but we have to live with it—the density, the traffic, the change. All we want to do is inform that change.

Community is priceless. And worth fighting for.

 Tagged with:
Apr 062019
 

SDC 3-Year Agreement Between County and State

If you are interested in details of the agreement between the State and County regarding the SDC “hybrid” transition plans, the four documents below provide a fairly robust idea of what’s going to be happening.

The State has committed to $11-12 million/year for 3 years of maintenance. The County has committed to making a Specific Plan, changing zoning, doing Design Guidelines (see current Sonoma Mountain Design Guidelines at http://sonomamountain.org/design-guidelines/), and other planning measures. All monies spent by the County on this, up to $3.5 million, will be reimbursed by the State.

Of note is that housing will definitely be part of the developed footprint mix.

Also of note going forward (though not part of the documents), is that SMP has been a part of the SDC Land Committee for several years. There is a strong collaborative vision for what should happen on the 745 acres of open space. On the 200 acres of the developed “footprint,” we have suggested creek setbacks, wildlife corridor protections, and other ecologically sustainable measures.

SDC Summary SDC Summary

Attachment A Budgetary Resolution Attachment A Budgetary Resolution

Attachment B Resolution Regarding Land Use Planning and Disposition of the SDC Site Attachment B Resolution Regarding Land Use Planning and Disposition of the SDC Site

Attachment C SDC Transition Proposal Attachment C SDC Transition Proposal

posted  4.5.19

 Tagged with:
Apr 022019
 

SDC Agreement—Woo Hoo!

Legislators Announce Tentative Agreement on Sonoma Development Center 4/2/19

ELDRIDGE – Senators Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, announced today a tentative agreement on the Sonoma Development Center that will empower neighbors, the community, and the County of Sonoma to conduct a comprehensive community planning process focused on the potential future uses of the Sonoma Developmental Center, while also protecting the sacred open spaces of the undeveloped land.

The framework is the result of a three-and-a-half-year collaborative process between the Sonoma County Legislative Delegation, state agencies, and local stakeholders led by the county.

“This plan ensures a community-driven approach to the reuse of the core campus while preserving undeveloped land as public parkland and open space,” said Sen. Dodd. “I want to thank Senator McGuire, Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry, the governor’s team and our local partners for all their work to get to this point. We need to leave future generations a vibrant, sustainable world, and this property should come to reflect that vision.”

“We have always committed to an open, transparent and community-driven process on the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center, and this plan will do just that,” Sen. McGuire said. “We are grateful for the partnership of Senator Dodd, Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry, the County of Sonoma and the Governor’s Office for the collaborative first-of-its-kind approach for the future of this sacred site.”

“I am proud of the many hours that Senator Dodd, Senator McGuire, the Administration, Sonoma County, and the community have put into making sure that the plan for the disposition of the Sonoma Developmental Center results in a safe, respectful, and beautiful property for the long term,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry. “This agreement takes into account the importance of local engagement and County leadership in the development of the scoping plan.”

“The state, county, and community have worked hard to pull together this agreement, the first of its kind in the State of California.  We extend sincere thank yous to our state elected delegation, state agencies and the county to get us to this point.  But this is just the beginning of the process for the community to work together to develop a vision for the future of the Sonoma Development Center in recognition of its special place in our valley,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a special hearing at 9:30 am this Friday, April 5 to hear from legislators and state agency representatives, including state General Services Director, Daniel Kim. The board is expected to vote at the hearing to direct staff to initiate the local planning process set forth in the agreement.

The deal outlines state funding for a county-managed specific plan land use process, including a robust community engagement process focused on transition and overall vision and related environmental review. During this time, which is expected to take a few years, the state will continue to control and operate the property. That includes all funding needs encompassing on-going maintenance, security, firefighting, landscaping and fire prevention. The agreement, which will be described in detail at Friday’s board meeting, will also outline the tentative plan to preserve the open space and woodlands as public parkland and wildlife habitat. This preservation of open space could include a future collaboration with state parks, regional parks, or a combination.

The Sonoma Developmental Center opened in 1891 as a state-run residential care facility dedicated to serving individuals with developmental disabilities. Located in Eldridge near the community of Glen Ellen, the property is comprised of a developed campus covering approximately 180 acres and approximately 700 acres of open space adjacent to the Sonoma Valley Regional Park and the Jack London State Historic Park.

In the October 2015 plan for the closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center, the Department of Developmental Services recognized the unique natural and historic resources of the property and acknowledged that it was not the intent of the state to follow the traditional state surplus property process. The Department of Developmental Services concluded residential operations at the Sonoma Developmental Center in December 2018 after relocating all residents to homes in the community.

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Sep 302014
 

“Why I Love Sonoma Mountain”

“No summit within miles carries the cachet of the mountain I live on” writes Tracy Salcedo-Chourre, author of this post.

Seems I’ve always called a mountain home. I used to live on a mountaintop—at least by California standards. This was in Colorado; our home on Circle Drive was perched on a nameless summit at 8,500 feet. That qualifies, even if neighboring Bergen Peak, at nearly 10,000 feet, got all the glory.

Now I live at the foot of Sonoma Mountain, which by Colorado standards is a hummock. Never mind that, though: It’s as steep and imposing, in its context, as any Rocky Mountain. And it’s the iconic one—no summit within miles carries the cachet of the mountain I live on.

Nearing the summit o Sonoma Mountain
Nearing the summit of Sonoma Mountain

It’s odd, though. I am a walker, by both nature and profession–Tracy of the Trails. But I have never been to the top of Sonoma Mountain. It’s been off-limits, private property. I’ve been as close as the trails permit, gazing upward in mild frustration at the grassy apex, contemplating trespass but turning around instead because I am not, by nature, a trespasser. Especially in parks and preserves. I know how much work goes into setting parkland apart, and I would never violate the trust that exists between parkland and neighboring private property.

So I am elated at news that Sonoma Mountain’s summit will soon be accessible to walkers like me, by dint of private/public negotiations that have yielded new deposits into the Sonoma County Open Space land bank and a new stretch of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Hikers will now be able to explore the top as well as the bottom of the mountain.

But were the top never to open—or were I never to reach it—wouldn’t matter to me in the long run. It doesn’t make me love the mountain more. Just to be clear: The paths on the lower reaches of Sonoma Mountain have imprinted themselves forever on the soles of my wandering shoes. I know pockets of the eastern flanks intimately; Jack London State Historic Park and the open spaces above the Sonoma Developmental Center are my backyard. I return again and again to the old familiar, where the vistas never fail, the woodlands are always fragrant, the flowers and grasses demonstrate the seasons in a parade of blooms that mature to seeds and begin again.

SDC wildlands
SDC wildlands

Yes, I’ll be able to get to the top soon, but I’ll be found on the paths I’ve walked for years, around my home at the base.

By Tracy Salcedo-Chourre

Jun 112014
 

Home-Coming:

The Lee Family on Two Moon Family Farm

two moon family farm raised beds sonoma mountain preservation

In 2009 we moved our family of 5 from suburban San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles County) to rural Glen Ellen. This was not ‘flight from the city’ but a home-coming; a chance to move back onto the property where my husband grew up, bordering the SDC and Asbury Creek, in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain. Our property has been in the Lee family closing-in on 40 years, but the history is rich here, and previous owners included Vallejo, Chauvet, and Pagani. As I sit watching the clouds lick at the ridge of the Sonoma Mountain to our west or look up from our orchard to see how the sun is playing off Mt. Hood to the north, I think about the other folks who have occupied this flank of the mountain, looking up from their work to those exact same views.

Our 5 acre parcel was once covered in vineyard, one of the oldest in the valley. If you ride on our mower you can still feel the undulating ghost of the grape rows under the blade. The vines are gone, but we are continuing the ag tradition from those early days of Chauvet and Pagani’s viticulture, morphing into vegetable gardening and animal husbandry passed down through my in-laws, and then expanded by our little family. What started as our ‘quaint’ desire to ‘get back to the land and grow our own food’, has blossomed over the past several years into a small family farm business. As Two Moon Family Farm, we sell eggs and produce to several local restaurants and at the farmer’s market (Kenwood Community Farmers Market). In addition we raise goats and the occasional turkeys and lamb for our own family. Our children understand where food comes from and we are carrying on the tradition of having a small homestead farm on the side of Sonoma Mountain.

It is amazing to live on an interface between the wilds of the mountain and the village of Glen Ellen. Our farm is surrounded by open, natural habitat. The wildlife we see every day is always a great form of entertainment for our long-time city friends when they come to visit ‘Camp Lee’. Out our window we’ve seen bobcats, jackrabbits, raccoons, quail, deer, skunk, ground squirrels, woodpeckers, turkey vultures, hawks, snakes, coyotes, etc… Currently we have three ‘families’ of wild turkeys wandering about- three hens with at least 10 chicks in tow. Steve has distinct memories of wild pig encounters while growing up here, although they have since been actively removed from the mountain. And, of course, there are mountain lions. Although we haven’t seen a cat directly, we know that they share this mountain with us, and we’ve seen the evidence of their behavior. Hikers on treks just up beyond our fence have reported them and we had a young goat taken by a lion early in our adventures, when we hadn’t yet fully secured our night-time penning situation. We love overlapping with the nature of this mountain even when predators ‘visit’ the farm.

It sometimes feels like a dream when I look up from my work in the garden to see the changing light on the hills and valleys on our side of the mountain. There is a sort of magic here. Just slightly up the hill to our north west is the ruin of Jack London’s Wolf House. I know he was drawn here by that same pulse. My husband knows almost every foot of this mountain, that he often refers to as ‘his backyard’. And it is…. but it is yours too…. with all of it’s history, wildlife, and magic.

Shannon and Steven Lee are trained marine scientists who have more recently taken on farming. They have numerous ‘jobs’ but are primarily science educators and researchers, respectively. They share the property with their three children, Steven’s parents, 10 goats, 20 hens, several roosters, and 2 barn cats.

Photography by Shannon Lee

This post is the first installment of the “Why I Love The Mountain” series of guest posts from local Sonoma residents on SonomaMountain.org – Thank you Shannon & Steven for your contribution and we encourage readers to like Two Moon Family Farm on Facebook and follow them on twitter at @TwoMoonFF