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For Immediate Release

Board of Supervisors approves transformative plans to redevelop Sonoma Developmental Center

SANTA ROSA, CA | December 20, 2022

A Specific Plan for the Sonoma Developmental Center has been approved by the Board of Supervisors, one that calls for the permanent protection of hundreds of acres of open space, building hundreds of units of affordable and workforce housing, provides living wage jobs and creates a walkable community with neighborhood-serving businesses.

Supervisors approved the specific plan and certified the environmental impact report on Dec. 16 after a day-long meeting.

“Our community has expressed strong concerns over the scale of potential development in a rural area on the SDC campus and vulnerability to fire danger,” said Supervisor Susan Gorin, whose district encompasses the Sonoma Developmental Center. “While this compromise plan is not perfect, it visualizes a thriving addition to Glen Ellen with housing, jobs and protections for open space and natural resources. The journey is ongoing. With the state selection of a development team, our Valley will help to continue to craft a project that complements the existing beauty of Glen Ellen.”

“With this decision, we are meeting our commitment to the state to present an economically feasible specific plan focused on housing and open space preservation,” said Supervisor James Gore, chair of the Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors approved:

  • Open space protection for 700 acres, an enlarged wildlife corridor that removes current development from the north east corner of the main campus, and an expanded 100-foot setback to preservation of Sonoma Creek.
  • A base of 620 units of housing that would be subject to the County’s affordable housing program. The units would be limited to no more than 1,800 square feet in size.
  • The potential for the creation of more than 900 jobs that will provide diverse living-wage jobs in an economy dominated by agriculture and hospitality.
  • A walkable core with transit, pedestrian and bike paths to provide alternatives to automobile use.
  • Institutional uses focusing on research and education driving employment.
  • Commercial, recreational, and civic uses for residents, employees and the greater Sonoma Valley.

In September 2022, the California State Coastal Conservancy approved a grant of up to $250,000 to the county for exploring the creation of a Climate Adaptation Center at the site. The Specific Plan adopted by the board includes flex and other zoning that could be utilized by the Coastal Conservancy for such a center.

Until its closure in 2018, the Sonoma Developmental Center provided services to people with developmental disabilities for more than 120 years and, at one time, was the county’s largest employer. The property includes a historic campus, agricultural lands and vast open space resources, but would require an estimated $100 million to pay for rehabilitation and infrastructure repairs and upgrades. State law requires any redevelopment plans for the site to focus on open space preservation, to prioritize housing, especially affordable housing and housing for people with developmental disabilities, and that the plan also must be economically feasible.

The state owns the site and has forged a unique partnership with Sonoma County to allow local input in charting the future of the property. This approval comes after three years of community-focused planning efforts, including eight community engagement events, 15 meetings with the planning advisory team and refining the plan based on public feedback.

The Sonoma Developmental Center represents the first time the California Legislature has delegated land use planning responsibility to a local agency for the redevelopment of a state psychiatric facility. The State of California has solicited proposals for the disposal of the property. The new property owner will be bound by regulations of the Specific Plan.

For more information about the Sonoma Developmental Center and the Specific Plan, visit

Media Contact:
Bradley Dunn, Permit Sonoma Policy Manager 
(707) 321-0502
2550 Ventura Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA 95403