On Dec. 16, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is set to consider a plan to sell off 945 acres of state-owned land to a private bidder.
Known as the Sonoma Developmental Center since 1986, the Glen Ellen property was used as one of the state’s numerous mental hospitals beginning in 1883. In 2018, the center was closed and, ever since, the state has been itching to get rid of it.
As part of a state’s sell-off process, Sonoma County is required to create an environmental planning document which provides some parameters governing the future uses of the property. The county and state have accepted several rounds of public input over the past four years, but, judging from the reception to the county plan released in August, many residents feel that their requests were largely ignored.
Two public advisory groups, North Sonoma Valley Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) and the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission, both opposed the county’s plan, arguing that it is too dense for the area.
In a letter penned in September, the North Sonoma Valley group stated that “Given the tremendous amount of input from Sonoma Valley residents and business owners concerned about the project size and its impacts, as well as this MAC’s own request and the Board of Supervisors’ direction to scale back the Specific Plan, it is surprising that the proposed Specific Plan still contains over 1,000 homes and approximately 940 jobs.”
The core conflict between residents’ hopes and the county’s plan is that the state has requested that the plan is “financially feasible and sustainable,” more directly known as “profitable for the private developer which purchases the property.”
Throughout the process, various groups pushed for alternative plans, including refurbishing existing buildings instead of building new to cut down on costs and keeping the property under public ownership.
But, none of the community outcry seems to have slowed the process much. After a series of lengthy Planning Commission meetings, where members reportedly offered dozens of edits, the document heading to the Supervisors for final approval has largely remained the same as the one unveiled in September.
Information about the current plan is available at www.sdcspecificplan.com.