Started 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.
Over three years have passed since the inception of Eldridge For All - Save Our Space, and activity is gearing up on the SDC transition front with the April 5, 2019 agreement between the State of California and Sonoma County regarding disposition of the 900+ acre site. 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:
1) protecting SDC wild lands in perpetuity
2) advocating for mindful redevelopment of the core campus
3) envisioning a future for the property that best serves the interests of communities adjacent to the site, Sonoma Valley, and Sonoma County as a whole.
Register below for the first of 5 planned Community Workshops throughout the SDC Specific Plan process. It will consist of a brief presentation about big takeaways from the Background Report and small group discussions responding to proposed guiding principles and brainstorming a vision for the SDC site.
November 14 Workshop participants will be able to put their comments on the vision/principles via virtual sticky notes. This exercise will be 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 people might consider making during the workshop. These issues may 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 for easy reference during the Zoom community workshop.
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.
Glen Ellen in a Nutshell
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 whereby these uses complement 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 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 as change is implemented.
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 envelope of oaks and open space that embraces them—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.
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The SDC Planning Advisory Team has been selected. Follow this link to read member bios:
Dyett & Bhatia, a San Francisco-based urban and regional planning consulting firm, has been hired by Sonoma County to help prepare the SDC Specific Plan and Program Environmental Impact Report: http://dyettandbhatia.com
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. Your comments and feedback are welcomed and important! Please share your thoughts in the contact form below.
Proposed Vision Statement and Guiding Principles for Eldridge
(former site of the Sonoma Developmental Center)
Proposed Eldridge Vision Statement
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.
Proposed Guiding Principles for the Eldridge Specific Plan
Drawing on the expertise and talent in the region, a community-led, public-private partnership will plan the future of Eldridge through the County’s specific plan process to address local challenges and create a higher quality of life in the Sonoma Valley. These principles provide the necessary level of detail to guide a specific planning process.
Since 2012, a coalition of nonprofit and community organizations has been working with Sonoma County agencies and departments to plan for the anticipated closure and repurposing of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). Beginning in 2015, the SDC Coalition launched the “Transform SDC” Project, which has served as an educational and organizing platform to imagine a new future for SDC after its closure as a residential hospital for people with developmental disabilities in December 2018.
Permit Sonoma will be launching a $3.5 million land use planning process to create a “specific plan” for Eldridge—the place name and census tract for the SDC property. The specific plan is needed to represent the community’s vision and facilitate the site’s redevelopment, and also to meet various statutory priorities for reuse contained in the State of California’s FY 2019–2020 budget, which is funding the County’s planning work. The specific plan process is anticipated to begin in September 2019 and must be completed by December 2021.
A committee made up of representatives from the Glen Ellen Forum, the Sonoma Ecology Center, and the Sonoma Land Trust has drafted this proposal for organizational consideration and endorsement, and public review and discussion. The draft vision statement and guiding principles emerged from the many public meetings, workshops, and interviews conducted between 2015 and 2018, and we hope this document will inform the next phase of our community’s conversation about the future of SDC.
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