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Proposals for Sonoma Developmental Center redevelopment released

The County of Sonoma released its three alternative designs for the Sonoma Developmental Center to redevelopment the now-defunct hospital, ideas that will be brought to the public for community commentary next week.

Each plan seeks to address urgent needs in Sonoma Valley including affordable housing, diversifying the economy and preservation. But the amount to which those needs are addressed differs with each alternative.

The public meetings offer a chance for the community to give its input on the designs, which may be augmented based on the feedback, before they are presented to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision on the future of the storied property.

“We have a long way to go,” 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin said. “The alternatives include a mixture of uses, not just housing, it is trying incorporate the concept or build the concept of a complete community.”

With nearly 1,000 acres on the property — 180 of which are on the SDC-campus area — there is a lot of potential for the land and its redevelopment.

The public is invited to provide input to the Board of Supervisors at two community workshops. The first will occur on Saturday, Nov. 13, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and the second will be a Spanish-language workshop on Tuesday, Nov. 16, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Zoom information to join these events can be found on the county’s website at sonomacounty.ca.gov/PRMD/Long-Range-Plans/Sonoma-Developmental-Center.

Conserve and Enhance

The Conserve and Enhance alternative imagines SDC as a historic site while complementing it with new housing. Large portions of the original site, including two “significant buildings” and “nearly all of the contributing buildings on the west side,” would be preserved and reused.

Nearly 1,000 housing units would be added with 670 single-family and 320 multi-family dwellings. In addition, the proposal would create 610 jobs for service, white-collar and government positions.

But there are bigger ideas for the eastern side “for new development and a site for much-needed housing, as well as a mid-sized resort hotel that connects to the expansive preserved open space.”

The plan says that Sonoma Creek will act as a natural buffer to protect the watershed and and wildlife habitat. Leaders at Sonoma Land Trust have expressed the importance of preserving the wildlife corridor for the ecological health of the whole region.

Core and Community

The Core and Community proposal emphasizes a walkable, concentrated development contained within a quarter-mile of the main lawn that creates connection with the Sonoma Valley’s natural environment.

This alternative would add nearly 1,300 new housing units, roughly split between single- and multi-family housing. It would also create slightly fewer jobs than the “Conserve and Enhance” plan, but re-imagines the main building as a hotel.

New “infill development” would be built next to historic buildings on the site, with the densest areas being closest to the center and lighter development toward to edges of the campus.

“Additional open spaces and wide pedestrian paseos branch off of the creek setback on both the west and the east sides, providing connections with the site’s natural beauty and recreation areas for the residents,” the alternative plans states.

The plan stresses mixed-used buildings in the center, with offices, community facility and multi-family housing.

Renew

The final plan, dubbed simply “Renew,” is drawn up as an “innovative regional hub” that still preserves some of the historical resources of the site. However, a majority of the campus would be “redeveloped with cutting edge designs for efficiency and resiliency.”

The plan would create 1,080 new jobs, close to half of which would be in the field of research and development. This proposal would remove some historic buildings to “(provide) space for large floorplate buildings with space for tech startups.”

The plan also proposed nearly 1,200 new units of housing, with 150 more single-family units than multi-family ones.

Various types of housing would be spread throughout the site, including an “agrihood” that brings back the historic farming uses of the land. The main lawn would be surrounded by commercial and community uses, surrounded by space for “cafes, community resources and gathering areas.”

This design would use the most land by more than 200,000 square feet due to its emphasis on low-density housing.

“In the end, I think that we will get to the appropriate scale of the improvement and the mixture of the improvements,” Gorin said.

Contact Chase Hunter at chase.hunter@sonomanews.com and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

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