Our community is at risk. In fact, our entire county is at risk.
Last December, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors rejected established land use planning policies of urban centered growth, transportation-oriented development, wild lands protection, and prioritization of affordable housing in favor of a Specific Plan allowing for large scale commercial and hotel development and a huge, mostly market rate housing development in rural Sonoma Valley. This site is the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), located in the tiny village of Glen Ellen.
If it can happen on this unique rural property with a critical wildlife corridor and extreme wildfire risk – no part of the County is safe from unchecked development.
The Board’s decision, which abandoned balanced development policies over the objection of hundreds of commenters, prioritizes 400,000 sq feet of commercial development and a hotel over affordable housing and protection of a critical wildlife corridor.
This decision cannot go unchallenged. The deeply flawed County plan must prioritize housing over commercial development, and the amount of housing must be balanced with site limitations.
If the Board’s decision to rezone the SDC property were to go unchallenged, it would set a dangerous precedent by making other rural areas vulnerable to rezoning. This precedent would obliterate decades of policies favoring city-centered growth, designed to preserve rural character, efficiently serve population growth, protect scenic beauty, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The SDC is a 945-acre state property that was closed and designated as surplus land in 2018 after serving people with developmental disabilities for more than a century. The site consists of a 180-acre historic campus and 765 acres of open space containing a major wildlife corridor for mountain lions, bears, and home to endangered salmon species that spawn in Sonoma Creek.
Yet, despite four years of County planning and hundreds of written and in person public comments, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve an environmentally disastrous Specific plan and a deeply flawed and inaccurate Environmental Impact Report (EIR) during their December meeting.
Located in the middle of a historic rural greenbelt adjacent to state and regional parks, the plan proposes over 750 new housing units with as many as 2,400 residents along with 400,000 square feet of nonresidential space including a new hotel, retail, and offices.
This intensity of development is completely out of scale with the rural community that surrounds the site and, because of the high wildfire risk, could endanger the lives of thousands of current and future residents of Sonoma Valley.
The EIR declared that adding 2,400 residents and about 1000 jobs to the site would have virtually no impact on wildfire evacuation travel time. This assessment is completely absurd, ignores the experience of residents when this area burned in 2017 and 2020, and recklessly puts lives at risk!
We advocate for prioritizing residential housing over commercial development and maximizing the amount of affordable housing on the site.
Recently, two community advocacy organizations filed suit requesting Sonoma County revise the EIR for the SDC Specific Plan and scale back proposed redevelopment of the SDC campus. The goal is to require the County to balance development with site limitations, revise the EIR to address critical environmental issues, and provide protective enforceable mitigation measures.
The advocacy coalitions, Sonoma County Tomorrow, Inc. (fiscal sponsor for Preserve Rural Sonoma County) (Sonomacountytomorrow.org) and Sonoma Community Advocates for a Liveable Environment (scaledownsdc.org), contend the EIR for redevelopment of the 180-acre SDC campus violates the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and essential workers, and individuals with developmental disabilities.
We have a fight on our hands and we can’t do it alone.
We need your support to help fund this lawsuit to stop this disastrous County plan from destroying the gem that is Sonoma Valley while setting a bad precedent for the rest of our county. Please help us today and join this critical effort.
Thank you for caring about this very special place we all call home!
To donate https://www.sonomacountytomorrow.org/donate