After what has sometimes seemed like an interminable delay, the wheels are starting to turn on the rollout toward closure of the Sonoma Develomental Center.
At least that’s how it looks now that the state Department of General Services has announced that a $2 million contract has been signed with a Bay Area engineering firm to perform a “site assessment” of the 860-acre SDC campus for use after the closure of the facility, scheduled for the end of 2018.
San Francisco-based Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) entered the contract with the state in mid-April. The first step will be a “kick-off meeting” and team introduction, with the goal to develop a project schedule and define areas of responsibility and research for WRT and its subcontractors.
That meeting was scheduled for Monday afternoon, May 15, at the Slater Building on the SDC property. A final report of the group’s assessments is due in late December, after a number of intermediary benchmarks.
1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin, who’s also on the leadership team of the Coalition to Preserve SDC, said she’s “anxious” to work with the site assessment team and help facilitate community meetings so “they can fully gauge the community’s concerns, interests in eventual reuse of the campus and constraints to development.”
Wallace Roberts & Todd’s other regional projects have included the Richmond Civic Center, Oakland’s Lake Merritt and the Windsor Town Green.
The contract between the State of California and WRT specifies a number of subcontractors that will be working with WRT, including architects, surveyors, landscapers, design engineers and others. Among their areas of evaluation will be assessments of the property’s boundaries and topographical features, a building inventory, historical uses, traffic and other transportation data (bicycles, pedestrian facilities, etc.), and hydrologic, sewage and ecological systems.
“The really great thing is that, of the subcontractors on the list of firms in the contract – many are folks we worked with, folks we hired as part of Transform SDC,” said John McCaull of the Sonoma Land Trust, one of the key members of the Coalition to Preserve SDC. He specifically noted the Sacramento-based Center for Collaborative Policy, which managed the May 2015 Transform SDC workshops.
Transform SDC is the aspirational name the coalition adopted even before the December 2018 deadline was established for moving all of the current residents of the facility to other housing. Coalition members include Sonoma County supervisors, the Parent Hospital Association, Audubon Canyon Ranch, the Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma County Regional Parks, the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association and others.
Two paragraphs in the WRT contract’s “scope of services” point toward evaluating the future use of the property, not just coming up with historic or technical evaluation. One goal is for WRT to review “analog projects for ideas, new program uses, concepts and lessons learned” from similar reuse of existing public facilities. The Presidio in San Francisco is often cited as a model for creative localized reuse of government property.
In addition, there’s the expectation that town halls and project reviews will be open to the public at various stages in the assessment’s development, possibly in September or October, prior to a final report due from WRT before the end of the year.
But missing from the site assessment spec is any mention of the current residents of the developmental center, an oversight not lost on Kathleen Miller, president of the Parents Hospital Association.