The former Sonoma Developmental Center, closed by the state in 2019, features a sprawling campus surrounded by more than 700 acres of vital open space. It is the also the longtime home of Sonoma Ecology Center, which keeps our main office next to Sonoma Creek not far from SDC’s iconic brick building. Indeed, we are currently the only tenant remaining on the entire campus!
For these reasons, Sonoma Ecology Center has been closely involved in the closure process, a complex ongoing discussion among multiple agencies and stakeholders. Besides advocating for the well-being of SDC’s patients, families and employees, we’ve pushed for the permanent protection of a large area of contiguous open space from Sonoma Mountain to Lake Suttonfield and Highway 12 — land that can and should enhance the invaluable Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor.
To help with this process during the early stages, Sonoma Ecology Center provided our partners at Ag + Open Space with background data and text for a natural resources assessment of the property in 2015, and we worked with Sonoma Land Trust and other partners on a land protection strategy to help guide decisions about the property during its closure and transition. We’ve also served on the leadership committee of the SDC Coalition since its formation, and continue to work with elected leaders such as Supervisor Susan Gorin, Assemblymember Marc Levine, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, state Senator Bill Dodd, state Senator Mike McGuire, and Congressman Mike Thompson, always advocating for wise uses of SDC’s developed land and for the conservation of its undeveloped land.
For 135 years, this 860-acre facility served disabled children and adults, among other functions. Now Sonoma Developmental Center is no more, and the area is reverting to its original name of Eldridge. But SDC’s closure is more than just a name change: the majority of its land is immensely valuable for its forests, meadows, springs and streams, fisheries, and riparian regions — all of it vital for its habitat, water infiltration capacity, trails and views, and for the overall environmental health of Sonoma Valley.