The final Environmental Impact Report and Specific Plan for the former site of the Sonoma Developmental Center has been released after a protracted process between the county and community to determine the future of the 945-acre Glen Ellen property, the county announced.

The county has been grappling with how to develop and preserve the site that formerly housed a state hospital.

According to Permit Sonoma, the county’s land use planning agency, the final Specific Plan incorporates public comments to the draft that enhance something important to many — the preservation of more than 700 acres of open space and the need for affordable housing.

State law now requires any new development to contain affordable housing, some of which will be set aside for adults with developmental disabilities. The Sonoma Developmental Center was once home to many people with disabilities throughout the 2oth century.

It has a shameful past of being the nation’s epicenter for forced sterilization and other abuses and is a bad memory for many elderly people with developmental disabilities that grew up there.

As California moved towards a more independent living model for people with disabilities, the site slowly lost residents and the state realized that it is cheaper to give people their own places to live under the case management of regional centers. The Sonoma Development Center eventually closed its doors in 2018.

If enacted, the finalized plan for the land would erect 1,000 units of housing, 283 of which would be slated as “affordable.” Sonoma Creek and 700 acres of open space and its wildlife will remain protected from development. A walkable core will be created with transit, pedestrian and bike paths to discourage autos amid a mini-city with commercial, recreational and civic uses for residents.

Proposed designs combine housing and infrastructure while at the same time enhancing the site’s historical character and natural beauty, according to the county. It is what Sonoma County policy manager Bradley Dunn calls an “intentional community,” with walking and bike paths, eateries, a grocery store and housing.

“It’s somewhere that is a vibrant community that people want to live in, where they can walk, where they can interact with their neighbors,” he said in January.

The county is also touting the estimated creation of 900 living-wage jobs centered around agriculture and hospitality.

The Sonoma County Planning Commission will consider the final EIR and Specific Plan at an Oct. 27 hearing, followed by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 16.

Katy St. Clair got her start in journalism by working in the classifieds department at the East Bay Express during the height of alt weeklies, then sweet talked her way into becoming staff writer, submissions editor, and music editor. She has been a columnist in the East Bay Express, SF Weekly, and the San Francisco Examiner. Starting in 2015, she begrudgingly scaled the inverted pyramid at dailies such as the Vallejo Times-Herald, The Vacaville Reporter, and the Daily Republic. She has her own independent news site and blog that covers the delightfully dysfunctional town of Vallejo, California, where she also collaborates with the investigative team at Open Vallejo. A passionate advocate for people with developmental disabilities, she serves on both the Board of the Arc of Solano and the Arc of California. She lives in Vallejo.