The Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights is concerned that proposed development plans for the site of a former state hospital in Glen Ellen is overlooking stakeholders from marginalized communities, such as indigenous people and people with developmental disabilities.
Before it closed in 2018, the Sonoma Developmental Center was home to children and adults with developmental disabilities.
The commission, whose members are appointed by the county board of supervisors, works with county and state agencies to advocate for cultural diversity. It has released a statement on the development plan identifying key elements that county officials have not sufficiently addressed in their proposed plans.
“Stakeholders haven’t had enough time to evaluate and weigh options that include sufficient input from underrepresented and marginalized communities,” reads the statement from the commission posted to the county’s website.
California has taken the rare step of allowing Sonoma County to come up with a plan for the land, to dictate how the land will be used and what it will look like, for the most part, before the state sells the property.
The county commission would like to see increased housing in the plans carved out for developmentally disabled people, as well as housing for farmworkers and housing for low- to very low-income households.
Currently, the county’s plan is to set aside 250 units of affordable housing out of the proposed 900 to 1,000 total units.
The commission also wants to see indigenous people included in the process, job creation that focuses on equity and more emphasis on green energy and environmental solutions.
Another key element that the commission listed is to “preserve and maintain wildlife corridors and the local ecology.” The county has included that in its plan, with 700 of the 945 acres remaining a preserve.
The commission further states that the site “was never meant to become a tourist attraction” and should be an opportunity to “create a unique model that is equitable, resilient and sustainable.”
Currently, the site is poised to become what county policy manager Bradley Dunn has called an “intentional community” with walking and bike paths, eateries, a grocery store and housing.
An environmental impact report, the first milestone for any new development, is expected to be complete by summer, Dunn said.