13 residents sought for planning team to reimagine Sonoma Developmental Center's future

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Residents interested in shaping the future of the 800-plus-acre Sonoma Developmental Center can apply to participate in a three-year planning process as part of a 13-member planning advisory team.

Sonoma County supervisors will hire a consultant to work with Permit Sonoma to come up with a vision for the site, which for nearly 130 years served individuals with developmental disabilities before the state last year ordered it to close. It still features 700 acres of open space and 140 buildings, while a cemetery there is the final resting place of 1,400 former residents.

In a unique arrangement prompted by public outreach and Sonoma County efforts, the state of California has agreed to postpone sale of the land until Sonoma County submits its specific plan for the site. Also, the state agreed to pay $3.5 million toward the county’s planning work, as well as ongoing maintenance costs previously pegged at $1 million a month.

Public officials have hinted at what they hope to see, including Supervisor Susan Gorin’s promise of housing and jobs. But they’ve also stressed the need for community input.

“There has been a tremendous amount of community engagement in the Sonoma Developmental Center,” Gorin said in a prepared statement. The planning advisory team will be an opportunity for community members to build on this work, she said.

That team will be comprised of two representatives from community organizations active in the Glen Ellen-Sonoma Developmental Center area, three residents with technical expertise relevant to planning for the site and eight residents at large, including five who live or work within two miles of the Sonoma Developmental Center.

Those interested must apply by Oct. 4 and can do so online at

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