Sonoma Ecology Center’s Vision for the Former SDC Campus.

If Sonoma Ecology Center has learned anything from 30 years helping our community care for its environment, it’s that everything is connected.

Read Sonoma Ecology Center’s Recommendations on the SDC Specific Plan Alternatives

Tolay Lake Regional Park
If we want to succeed at solving the most pressing environmental issues, including climate change and the biodiversity crisis, we must find solutions that address multiple challenges simultaneously: environmental, social, and economic.

SDC is a place where all these interests come together. We have a chance to do something meaningful in this place for the site, our Valley community, and perhaps for life on earth. In the coming weeks, SEC will be engaging with the SDC Specific Plan process. The public has been invited to make recommendations on draft versions of this plan. Following are some of our recommendations, which are not adequately reflected in the current alternatives.

Protecting the SDC Campus’ Wild Spaces

First, new development on the site needs to protect the site’s wild spaces, especially its significant wildlife corridor. We would like to see the wildlife corridor expanded at its narrowest point along the north and northeast side of the campus, by pulling the boundary of the developable area inward. Setbacks along Sonoma Creek should be larger–100 feet–to make room for a reestablished floodplain, riparian habitat, steelhead recovery, and groundwater recharge. The wetlands in the eastern meadows should be protected and restored. The site’s many water features–reservoirs, springs, streams, wetlands–should be managed holistically to produce multiple benefits to the entire Valley’s people and ecosystems. Developed areas should all have foot trails connecting to natural spaces, for all the benefits that occur from human connection with them, while assuring that they retain their ecological function. Paths and recreational areas are good, but they should keep away from the wildlife corridor and Sonoma Creek. Built areas and paths should use Dark Sky standards.

Housing for Current and Future Generations

Second, we would like to see housing created that serves the needs of current and future generations, with homes for people of diverse economic and developmental capacities. Any housing plan for SDC must go beyond market-driven factors that are driving people—up to and including the middle class—out of the Sonoma Valley. Housing at SDC should be a model for reversing this trend, not exacerbating it. SEC calls for 75% of the site’s housing to be affordable to below-AMI residents, including a mix of rental and owner-occupied units, whether via subsidy or affordable “by design”. Community land trusts are an excellent tool for creating permanently affordable housing. Frequent flexible transit is key for reducing driving and pollution.

Economic Resources for a Resilient Future

Third, we would like to see an economic engine, at the right scale for the sustainability of the wildlife corridor, the land, and the community, that serves current and future community residents with work that is meaningful and that provides a pathway for those who grow up here to stay. Combining work with housing reduces vehicle trips and creates a sense of place. For example, to tackle our planetary crisis, we propose a climate response center at SDC that researches, designs, and develops products and processes that mitigate and adapt to climate change. It can be funded by a partnership of public, private and social sectors– including the state of California, which recently pledged $15 billion to climate efforts–and governed using community-driven guiding principles. The center would offer higher-paying jobs plus educational opportunities from internships to vocational training. An associated meeting and classroom space, with housing, could be shared by several institutions. A nonprofit hub could house local organizations–including SEC–that are involved in the site, and interpret the site’s natural resources to students of all ages.

Better Options

The general consensus in Sonoma Valley is that the three land use “alternative” plans released by Sonoma County’s consultant team were not responsive to the vocal community input provided over recent months. The plans offered for the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center campus do not sufficiently protect wildlife and water, would produce unacceptable impacts to the site and its surroundings, do not produce enough affordable housing which is desperately needed in this county, and lack an interest-based, multi-benefit approach to resolving the issues and opportunities that come together at the site.

Sonoma Ecology Center is participating in several conversations to create better options for the SDC campus. By centering both ecological health and benefits for a wide spectrum of communities, SEC is helping shape a future for the SDC campus that stands at the intersection of human and environmental needs. We believe there is a creative and collaborative option possible that brings to life a beneficial future for all who make their home here.

Get Involved:

This property offers a vanishingly rare opportunity to protect an irreplaceable ecological legacy while also providing housing and jobs for generations to come. Sonoma Ecology Center embraces this vision and invites you to join us. There are multiple ways to get involved, virtual meetings are listed below, and if you are unable to attend one, all community members are encouraged to make comments via email at: engage@sdcspecificplan.com.

Upcoming Meetings:

All scheduled SDC Specific Plan Public Meetings have passed. We will update here as more are scheduled or you can check for the most up-to-date list of in-person public comment opportunities on the SDC Specific Plan Website