A sensible conversion of the Sonoma Developmental Center – Sonoma Sun


Posted on October 2, 2021 by Josette Brose-Eichar

I recently heard of a plan that had been submitted for the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). That plan is the campus project. She suggests using many of the smaller existing buildings for cooperative living. Think of the small buildings that look a lot like houses. The idea is to repurpose these buildings instead of tearing them down and starting over. I liked the plan because that’s how I live my life, trying to use what I have and making as little influence as possible

I posted the link to the Springs Community Facebook page because I thought it was interesting, especially since affordable housing seems to be the number one topic in the valley these days. I got some feedback that it sounded like a good idea, but I also got feedback from those who totally hated the plan. Here are some of the comments: poor people parking in the middle of nowhere, buildings can never be tidy or habitable, they are not earthquake-proof, housing equals cars and traffic, there is no affordable grocery store for these new residents, what about fire evacuation and more.

Now consider that this plan does not apply to the overall planning of the SDC, but only to some of the existing structures. This plan is a little out of the box. I would ask you to read it and think about it. We often think of redesigning a room or spot as a big master plan where everything looks the same and has the same architecture. We also often think that bigger is better and that we can’t do things in steps or phases.

Why can’t the SDC be many different things in one place? Open space, affordable housing, some businesses and services, organic food growing, community service, educational facilities, and more. But not a huge one percent world class tourist resort, please. I think we already have enough of them, but also no affordable housing for their employees.

Why can’t people imagine that this piece of land is diverse, supporting many different uses that are beneficial to the entire Sonoma Valley community? There’s no reason the already-developed area can’t support this while maintaining the existing open space for hiking trails and a viable wildlife corridor. I’ve wandered the vacant area for years, and having people in the existing built-up area shouldn’t change that experience in any way.

A great source of ideas for the SDC is Eldridge for all / Save our Space (SOS) https://eldridgeforall.org/. Be sure to click the More tab and see all of the suggestions.

Too often we let our individual prejudices or preconceived notions close our minds to innovations or new ideas. The SDC will change and we need to make sure that it is for the common good. The SOS website has what I think is a comprehensive list of what we should and shouldn’t do. I would like to ask this question to those who say that there should be no affordable housing on the existing campus. If you were a worker in one of our shops, wineries or restaurants, would you think that living in a beautiful place, the opportunity to live with like-minded people and grow your own food would park you in the middle of nowhere and such? be a wretched life?

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