.As Sonoma Developmental Center decisions near, groups push for public benefits

After years of public meetings, the future of the 945-acre Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) property may be determined in the coming months. 

The state agency in charge of the property, California Department of General Services, is considering three development proposals, while Sonoma County is drawing up a Specific Plan which the selected development plan will need to abide by.

With deadlines approaching on both tracks, community groups are pushing for changes which they hope will ensure the new development centers the needs of the communities surrounding the SDC.

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Community Benefits

On Friday, Dec. 16, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will hold a special meeting to discuss the county’s parameters for a future development. 

The plan, known as the SDC Specific Plan, has already been reviewed by the county Planning Commission which, among other suggestions, recommended the supervisors require the selected developer to “consider community benefits as part of a development agreement.”

As the name suggests, a community benefits agreement (CBA) is a deal between the community and a private developer. Such agreements can call on developers to build a certain amount of affordable housing, meet wage requirements or include amenities, like an accessible park, in a housing development. 

Supporters of the CBA include the North Bay Labor Council, which, in a Dec. 5 letter to the Board of Supervisors, wrote: “The status quo of development that focuses solely on profit, largely catering to wealthy tourists at the expense of neighbors, workers, and the environment, will not fly at SDC. SDC is an opportunity to create a project that works towards equity and sustainability.”

The North Bay Labor Council’s letter mentioned the following as possible items to include in a CBA: ​​”living wage and worker protections, local and targeted hiring, workforce housing, funding for job training, economic and educational opportunities for people with developmental and/or physical disabilities, small business support, and local outreach for affordable housing.”

The Board of Supervisors’ SDC meeting will be held at 10am on Friday, Dec. 16, online and in-person. Details are available at sonoma-county.legistar.com and sdcspecificplan.org

Public Plan

Another group of community members is focusing on the state track. The “SDC Next 100 Years Proposal” was submitted to the California Department of General Services by a group of residents in September, offering an alternative to two plans submitted by private developers.

The proposal, unveiled at a meeting at the Hanna Boys Center last week attended by over 160 community members, calls for keeping the property in public hands instead of selling it off to a developer seeking to profit. The 100 Years Proposal would require the creation of a new public agency to develop and manage the sprawling property. The agency could partner with private companies to work on financing and construction.

Among other things, the 100 Years Proposal calls for 470 housing units, “most of which will be truly affordable to Sonoma Valley essential workers,” with some homes designed for people with disabilities.

By comparison, the Specific Plan heading to the Board of Supervisors would allow a private developer to build up to 1,000 housing units—as many as 362 of them designated low-income—a hotel, stores and offices. The details of the other two developers’ plans submitted to the state are still unknown to the public.

Bean Anderson, a member of the 100 Years Proposals’ steering committee, said he expects the state to pick a development plan early next year, though a solid deadline is unclear. 
Information about the Next 100 Years Proposal is available at sdcnext100.org.

Will Carruthershttp://www.wrcarruthers.com
Will Carruthers was the news editor of the Pacific Sun and North Bay Bohemian. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @Carruthers_W.


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