Notes from Glen Ellen: Many Voices. One Community.

The Sonoma Developmental Center is the last large undeveloped property in the Sonoma Valley.


“Flakey Glen Ellen” no more. This tiny crossroads of a town is getting it together.

Through the Glen Ellen Forum, a voice of Glen Ellen is emerging. At a recent Monday night meeting at historic Mayflower Hall in the Community Church on O’Donnell Lane, two important issues were explored.

To begin, 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin discussed the idea of a Municipal Advisory Council for our unincorporated village. Without taking a position yay or nay, she listed the advantages. Building a Municipal Advisory Council from Glen Ellen would enable representatives from our village to have a direct voice to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. It’s a way to ensure that the needs of Glen Ellen are “heard” by the Board of Supervisors. It would provide better standing with the County, provide some funding, assist with minutes, assist with budget and website, and possibly help with insurance. Supervisor Gorin would select MAC representatives from nominations submitted by Glen Ellen residents. Individuals would receive training on administrative details, Roberts Rules of Order, meeting decorum, the Brown Act, Sonoma County policies, and more. A vote in favor or against will be taken at an upcoming Forum meeting.

The second highlight of the meeting was the ongoing discussions about use of Sonoma Developmental Center land when that facility closes in 2018. It is appropriate to begin calling this area “Eldridge,” as when SDC is gone, the 180-acre area known as Eldridge will remain, separate from, but within the boundaries of Glen Ellen.

Supervisor Gorin applauded the work done by Forum representatives who are in ongoing talks with a state-hired urban planning and design team, Wallace Robert and Todd. All participants seem to agree on several goals: maintain a rural character, preserve the current footprint, encourage a wildlife corridor between Sonoma Mountain and the Mayacamas range, preserve historic character, reuse celebrated buildings where able. Yet to be hammered out are modes of governance, housing opportunities, economic drivers, and specific uses of the property.

The question about a viable economic driver is huge. The State of California, owners of the property, insist that the property be self-supporting. How much revenue needs to be generated, and how are questions yet to be answered. Gorin suggested general ideas such as a new tech industry location, artists’ rental spaces, a maker lab, for-profit career and vocational education programs.

Then there’s the question of potential uses for the remarkable buildings and land. Everybody has an opinion about the exciting possibilities for this significant and scenic spot. Here are some, consistent with agreed-upon goals of all the stakeholders: It could house a community center, theater company, community garden and farmers market, music or art school, a research institute, a SRJC or SSU satellite, housing, health center, nature preserve, history museum, veterans’ services, a senior center, re-open camp Via, a healing and wellness center and more. There is so much room there could certainly be several of these choices. (Details of these discussions are found at, Committees, SDC/Eldridge Transition, Documents.)

A Town Hall Forum specifically on the topic of the future of Eldridge is tentatively scheduled for late October. Stay tuned, neighbors.

Contact BJ Blanchard at