For Immediate Release
Permit Sonoma releases draft Environmental Impact Report for Sonoma Developmental Center
SANTA ROSA, CA | August 15, 2022
Permit Sonoma today released the draft Environmental Impact Report and a draft specific plan concerning the future development of the Sonoma Developmental Center site. The report evaluated 16 key areas of the proposed specific plan, a lower density alternative, a historic preservation alternative, and two alternatives where the County does not adopt a plan and the State leads development of the site. While the report found significant and unavoidable impacts in the areas of vehicle miles traveled and historic preservation, the impacts of the project overall are comparable to alternatives while being more fiscally feasible and providing more housing.
If enacted, the draft SDC Specific Plan would be a transformative effort that charts the future of the Sonoma Valley. The plan would include:
- Open space protection for over 700 acres and preservation of Sonoma Creek
- 1,000 housing units with 283 units of affordable housing
- More than 900 jobs that would provide a diverse set of living-wage jobs
- 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
Public participation identified three key areas of concern among the 16 areas studied: open space and wildlife, water, and wildfire risk and evacuation routes. The Environmental Impact Report determined that the proposed specific plan would not create significant and unavoidable impacts in these areas.
The plan responded to public feedback by providing extensive wildlife and open space protection, including permanently protecting over 700 acres of open space, 50-foot creek setbacks, and light pollution policies to prevent significant impacts from the project.
Staff worked with the Sonoma Valley Fire District and Sonoma County Department of Emergency Management to evaluate fire support in the area. The proposed plan includes a staffed fire station and a new connection to Highway 12 to help with emergency response and evacuation. The report found that the proposed plan would not substantially impair an adopted emergency response plan or emergency evacuation plan.
According to the report, the “proposed plan would not substantially deplete groundwater supplies.” Valley of the Moon Water District, the local water supplier to the proposed site and region, conducted a study and found that onsite water sources would be able to meet all future demands in normal and multiple dry years from 2025 through 2045.
The report found significant and unavoidable impacts in the areas of vehicle miles traveled and historic preservation. While the plan would involve significant historic preservation including the reuse of the Main House and Sonoma House, there would be significant and unavoidable impacts on contributing buildings in the build-out of the campus.
The proposed plan includes innovative policies to reduce vehicle miles traveled including establishing a Transportation Management Agency to lessen automobile demand and multi-modal transportation improvements. However, it is unclear exactly to what degree the strategies would be in offsetting the effects of induced trips.
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, the center 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 costs. State law requires the redevelopment to prioritize housing, especially affordable housing and housing for people with developmental disabilities, and be economically feasible.
Permit Sonoma will seek public comment on the draft Environmental Impact Report for 45 days from Aug. 10 until Sept. 23, 2022. The complete draft report is available for review at Permit Sonoma at 2550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95403 and online at https://www.sdcspecificplan.com/.
Comments on this Draft Environmental Impact Report can be submitted via email to Brian.Oh@sonoma-county.org or addressed in writing to:
Brian Oh, Comprehensive Planning Manager, Permit Sonoma County of Sonoma 2550 Ventura Avenue Santa Rosa, CA 95403