In recent years, Sonoma has been recognized by one or another reviewing entity as the nation’s first Citta Slow city, one of America’s friendliest cities, one of its most romantic cities, a best Fourth of July city, and on and on.
But most Sonomans might argue that none of those titles define their town.
Which could lead to the question: Just what is a true portrait of Sonoma? Recently, county officials have provided some kind of answer.
It’s not a simple answer and it’s filled with contradictory and paradoxical components, but if all the pieces are assembled into a statistically accurate and comprehensible whole, a picture emerges that begins to define the town in ways not seen before.
That picture, formally titled “A Portrait of Sonoma County,” was unveiled Wednesday evening before a packed meeting at the Sonoma Valley Grange.
The answer provided is embedded in a year-long statistical analysis conducted by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS), leaning heavily on research already completed by Measure of America, a nationwide survey of health, education and living standards, census tract by census tract, all across the country.
The ultimate purpose is to create a Human Development Index, or HDI, to show the quality of life in every neighborhood, ranked from 1 to 10, with 10 indicating that a community has fully realized its potential.
The nationwide HDI averaged out to 5.07. For California, the rating was 5.39 and for Sonoma County it reached 5.42.
Asian Americans, as a racial group, ranked 7.10, whites ranked 6.01, African Americans ranked 4.68 and Latinos came in at 4.27.
Broken down for Sonoma Valley, the highest HDI is the census tract labeled Downtown Sonoma, with a level of 6.95, and the lowest is in the tract called Fetters Springs/Agua Caliente West, with a rating of 3.41.
Those two tracts make for a stark comparison when compared side-by-side.
The Downtown tract is 14.4 percent Latino, has school enrollment of 86 percent, a median income of $42,835 with 53 percent of the workforce in management occupations and an average household size of 2.1 persons.
The Fetters census tract has a Latino population of 66.4 percent, with 68 percent school enrollment, median earnings of just $19,444 and an average household size of 4.5 persons.
An even more dramatic comparison was revealed when two schools from sharply different neighborhoods in Sonoma Valley and Petaluma were compared side-by-side.
Grant Elementary School in Petaluma was composed of 82 percent white students, 7 percent Latino and 11 percent other, and just 10 percent of the students come from a disadvantaged background. Only 2 percent of Grant students were English-language learners, 75 percent were proficient in English, 78 percent were proficient in math and 83 percent were proficient in science.
By contrast, El Verano School, in the Springs, has a 76 percent Latino population, 18 percent white and 6 percent other. Fully 80 percent of El Verano students come from a disadvantaged background, 67 percent are English-language learners, and their English proficiency was measured at 21 percent, with 27 percent proficient in math and 40 percent proficient in science.