Eldridge is the name of a large piece of land located in the heart of Sonoma Valley (originally +/- 1,600 acres) to which a school for children with developmental disabilities, California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble Minded Children, was relocated in 1890. This school soon expanded to also serve the needs of adults and was renamed Sonoma State Home (1909), Sonoma State Hospital (1953), and lastly Sonoma Developmental Center (1986). After 128 years of caring for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (IDD), the SDC shut its doors in 2018. Although the institution's name changed throughout the years, as did the size of the property on which it sits (down to 900+ acres after 600+ acres were transferred to Jack London State Park in 2002), the place where a culture of care took root and continues to define the community character of the surrounding area is still lovingly referred to by many as Eldridge.
Founded by a group of nature-loving Glen Ellen residents hoping to permanently preserve a large portion of the Sonoma Developmental Center property as open space, Eldridge For All - Save Our Space began as a grassroots fundraising campaign to benefit the Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC), a nonprofit dedicated to achieving and sustaining ecological health in Sonoma Valley. Eldridge For All - Save Our Space applauds the work of numerous local nonprofits working together to preserve the environmental, historical, and cultural resources that make the SDC such a unique and priceless asset. Eldridge For All - Save Our Space serves as a platform for sharing information regarding development of the SDC Specific Plan and related redevelopment issues.
To keep the public apprised of current developments, we have broadened our scope to include information about the land-use planning process as well as links to other organizations working toward the goals of:
Read about the June 6 protest in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/protest-in-glen-ellen-over-sdc-redevelopment/
June 7: Reasons for Protest
Seeing that 1) the Specific Plan Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) hasn’t been released (coming out sometime in late July); and 2) consequently, the public has not had an opportunity to provide input on it (two steps necessary to finalizing the SDC Specific Plan), it is truly shocking that on May 17 the CA Department of General Services (DGS) released its Request For Proposal (RFP). Why? Because DGS is now asking developers to prepare bids to purchase the 180-acre core campus with no concrete project description, no comprehensive site plan (which should have been part of the Notice of Preparation for the required environmental impact report per CEQA), no public comment on the Draft EIR, and no real guarantees that SDC open space will remain in the public trust or even open to the public.
What does this mean? It means developers are left to come up with their own plans with NO PUBLIC INPUT. The state’s Request for Proposals (RFP) outlines expectations from potential buyers and overlapping timelines that undermine Sonoma County’s specific planning process, which remains incomplete. This means public comment received so far by Sonoma County — all of our input into what was touted as a community-driven process — won’t be finalized and incorporated into plans before a developer is chosen by the state prior to adoption of the specific plan. The RFP does not specify how the ~750 acres of open space that surround the core, which elected officials and bureaucrats have always promised would be preserved as public parkland, will be dealt with. The fate of the SDC’s precious natural resources - and public access to those resources - remains in limbo.
In light of this total breakdown in the SDC Specific Plan process, a small group of community activists called for a peaceful Protest In Support of Stopping the Eldridge Disaster! (PISSED!). Having advocated for years to preserve SDC open space and protect the wildlife corridor from being undermined by overdevelopment of the core campus, organizers of the PISSED! Protest have 4 critical demands of County and State officials:
Approximately 75 people attended the PISSED! Protest on Monday, June 6 at 12:30pm on the SDC campus at the main entrance to the SDC (intersection of Arnold Drive and Harney). Protesters gathered on the day DGS had invited interested developers to tour the SDC property.
HOT OFF THE PRESS. READ ALL ABOUT IT!
Tracy Salcedo has written an excellent article, Focus on the SDC: Open space and the public trust, explaining why the DGS Request For Proposal (RFP) constitutes a betrayal of the public trust and paves the way for all of the SDC land - core campus and open space - to forever be removed from public ownership. Christian Kallen further details problems with the RFP in his article, Sonoma Developmental Center up for sale. You'll find these two articles in the Kenwood Press (June 1, 2022). Read them!
BY THE WAY...
The official website for the SDC Specific Plan (www.sdcspecificplan.com) has a page where all official documents are supposed to be posted. According to the website, documents are routinely posted at the TOP of the Documents page in the order they are released to the public. Hence, the most recent docs can, in theory, be found at the top of page. HOWEVER, to date, the DGS RFP (May 17, 2022) has been buried at the very BOTTOM of the sdcspecificplan.com DOCUMENTS page as the last item in Background Documents, which date back to 2015. The RFP has been out for an entire two weeks. Hard to believe that burying it in such an unlikely location could be a simple mistake. Update: As of several days ago, the DGS RFP is now accessible on the sdcspecificplan.com HOME page.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Listen to THE FATE OF SDC RADIO SHOW: https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/archives.ksvy.org/KSVY_2022-06-03__16_00_01.mp3
Click on the button below for contact info. Stay tuned for sample letters. Read this Call To Action for letter writing ideas.
Released to the public on May 17, 2022.
Read the approved declaration defining the boundaries of Glen Ellen.
These meeting boards, released in March 2022, detail Permit Sonoma's plans for the SDC. Use these meeting boards to learn what Permit Sonoma is hoping to push through regarding:
The NOTICE OF PREPARATION (NOP) is a document stating that an ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT (EIR) will be prepared for a project. It is the first step in the EIR process. The primary focus is on notifying public agencies about the project. Issuance of the NOP and responses to the NOP (known as scoping comments) mark the beginning of the Administrative Record for the EIR. In addition to sdcspecificplan.com and eldridgeforall.org, the NOP can also be found here.
Vicki Hill, land use planner, Planning Advisory Team member, and Glen Ellen resident, has prepared a thorough explanation of the EIR process. Click on the button below to learn more.
In response to broad public rejection of the Sonoma County Planning Team's proposed alternatives for the SDC Specific Plan, the North Sonoma Valley Municipal Advisory Council has written a letter to Sonoma County Supervisors. Support their efforts by signing this petition. Click below to sign.
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During the the two months between release of Project Alternatives and settlement on a Preferred Plan, the public is encouraged to review the alternatives and provide comments to the County via the County website. If you care about the future of the SDC, now is the time to speak up!
Please take a look at the SDC Specific Plan project website for new content, such as a recently developed Community Engagement Strategy and an Ambassador Toolkit, meant for community members to share with their neighbors.
The Adaptive Reuse Potential Evaluation (March 2021) "outlines initial assessments for potential for adaptive reuse, preservation, and redevelopment of existing structures, with the goal of defining the intersection of historical significance and reuse/adaptability potential that will inform subsequent work, including preparation of alternatives." This 63-page report builds on work done by WRT in 2017.
The Key Informant Interviews Report (Feb. 2021, revised March 2021) "summarizes findings from interviews with key informants on topics related to the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) Specific Plan."
These and other important documents pertaining to the development of the SDC Specific Plan can be found by clicking on the button below.
To jump start your ideas, we have provided a list of suggestions below. Also, here are just a few, among many, questions to consider:
IMPORTANT: READ DYETT AND BHATIA'S MARKET DEMAND ANALYSIS!!! (Chapter 9 of the Profile and Background Report; access by clicking on the SDC image above in the sidebar)
TO READ GLEN ELLEN FORUM SDC COMMITTEE ALTERNATIVES IDEAS, SCROLL DOWN TO THE PDF BELOW OR LOOK FOR IT ON OUR PUBLIC RECORD PAGE.
For a downloadable map of the core campus, SCROLL DOWN. Dyett and Bhatia's Profile and Background Report (September 2020) contains numerous maps as well.
If you'd like to learn more about residential density concepts, check out the link below to a very useful tool. This Residential Density Guide was published in Australia where the unit of land measurement is the hectare as opposed to the acre. Our focus should be on the number of units per acre, and this density issue will vary at different locations on the site. 1 hectare = about 2.5 acres. https://www.landcom.com.au/assets/Publications/Statement-of-Corporate-Intent/8477325cc1/Density-Guide-Book.pdf
1. Provide more affordable housing than merely required by State law
2. Provide housing for disabled population
3. Provide some work force housing
4. Ensure that the size, scale, and density does not compromise the wildlife corridor and open space resources and preserves Glen Ellen's community character and quality of life
5. Provide limited commercial uses to serve the site and nearby community
6. Allow some smaller scale institutional uses like SEC and other non-profits
7. Reuse existing buildings to the maximum extent feasible, reducing demolition/construction impacts
8. Create a phased development approach to minimize impacts
9. Maintain the open feel of the property by clustering buildings and avoiding new fencing (similar to the Presidio)
10. Maintain the open spaces along Arnold Drive
11. Use architecture that fits in with the community and historic resources
Investigate potential relocation of Dunbar School to the site to better serve the community and reduce traffic
12. Be mindful of the existing adjacent neighborhoods and rural Glen Ellen Village and the existing G.E. Development/Design Guidelines; ensure continued viability of downtown Glen Ellen
SHOULD NOT INCLUDE:
1. Large lot single family residential
2. Tourism, exclusive resort uses
3. High density development that is not in character with the surrounding area and would impact wildlife corridor
4. Large scale commercial activities
5. Substantially increased vehicle trips on Arnold Drive
6. Close off campus
The Vision Statement and Guiding Principles for the SDC Specific Plan are subject to revision. Follow their evolution by reading the entries below. Check back here for updates.
The Draft Vision Statement and Guiding Principles were updated on Jan. 11, 2021 to include Guiding Principle # 4:
Balance Redevelopment with Existing Land Uses. Use recognized principles of land use planning and sustainability to gauge how well proposed land uses protect public trust resources and fit the character and values of the site and surrounding area, as well as benefit local communities and residents.
Read the latest version updated on Jan. 11, 2021
Click here for the 2020 version of the Draft Vision Statement and Guiding Principles drawn up by Dyett and Bhatia, the land use consultant hired to help craft the SDC Specific Plan.
The 2019 Proposed Vision Statement and Guiding Principles were developed by a coalition of community organizations.
This Proposed Vision Statement and Guiding Principles for Eldridge (former site of the Sonoma Developmental Center) was composed by the leadership team of the SDC Coalition, chaired by Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin. The document was distilled from input gathered over the past five years and is intended to help guide Sonoma County and California officials throughout transition and into the future.
November 14 Workshop participants were able to put their comments on the vision/principles via virtual sticky notes. This exercise was followed by small group discussions creating group vision statement/headline for the SDC site in 2040, with discussion about priorities to achieve the vision. Priorities and tradeoffs could include: Housing: What kind, where, how much? Other uses § Historic preservation: Yes/no, how much? Infrastructure § Natural resources conservation.
Here are some questions/comments on the vision/principles that the Glen Ellen Forum SDC/Eldridge Committee compiled for people to consider during the workshop. These issues were intended to help in forming a vision and setting priorities in the small group discussions. Note: included at the bottom of this email are several key components of the June 2019 vision statement developed by community organizations and reviewed by the public in the June 2019 workshop. These components are missing from the current proposed vision.
Missing from Vision/Principles:
· Ensuring compatibility (e.g., scale, appearance, traffic generation, etc.) with surrounding Glen Ellen, which is adjacent to the site on both the north and south sides.
· Minimizing impacts on the viability of downtown Glen Ellen (by not creating a new downtown area that competes with Glen Ellen village)
· Acknowledging the rural character of the site and area (not within an urban growth area)
· Ensuring consistency with the County General Plan policies regarding protection of the rural village of Glen Ellen
· Creating land uses with designs that are consistent with Glen Ellen Development and Design Guidelines - new buildings should respect village architecture and historic buildings onsite (not urban style housing).
· Shrink the building footprint area to better protect riparian areas and wildlife movement within the campus, which is part of wildlife corridor
· Maintain open unfenced areas for wildlife movement through campus
· Integrate with neighborhoods north and south
· Minimize traffic on Arnold Drive through Glen Ellen (the village and SDC site are currently walkable due to low traffic levels on Arnold Drive)
· Be mindful of fire hazard area, moderating development in the Wildland Urban Interface area, evacuation routes, etc. (using fire-resistant building materials is not sufficient to mitigate the hazard)
· Land uses should also benefit the community.
· Focus on workforce housing demand in the valley.
· Density should be moderate to avoid over-concentration impacts on wildlife corridor and adjacent open spaces that have important biological resources.
Corrections/comments on Vision/Principles:
· The site is not surrounded completely by open space; it is part of Glen Ellen and is adjacent to homes and businesses on the north and south. The vision statement is written as if the site is isolated from the rest of the community.
· Too much emphasis on urban uses and urban design, as if the site is an existing urban area. The existing campus design does not have an urban feel.
· References to the site being a standalone community rather than a neighborhood within an existing community
· What does the reference to “visitation” uses mean? Are these tourism uses? Resorts, hotels, wineries?
KEY COMPONENTS OF JUNE 2019 VISION/PRINCIPLES THAT ARE MISSING FROM CURRENT PROPOSED VISION
• Planners and decision-makers will use recognized principles of land use planning sustainability to gauge how well proposed land uses protect public trust resources and fit the character and values of the site and surrounding area, as well as benefit local communities and residents. The density, scale, and design for new development or redevelopment at Eldridge must be compatible with surrounding communities.
• Stakeholders will create a specific plan for the Eldridge site that factors in the needs and land use priorities of the surrounding communities of Glen Ellen and Sonoma to ensure that future development will be compatible with existing land uses in Sonoma Valley.
• Housing should be based on the needs of Sonoma Valley with a workforce housing emphasis.
• Redevelopment will include replacement of economic and social benefits lost with the closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center. New institutional partners may include universities, colleges, government agencies, tribal entities, and nonprofit organizations, with the goal of expanding educational options, providing job training, and creating economic opportunities close to home.
Click below for a pdf of this list of crucial issues.