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Opened in 1891, the Sonoma Developmental Center is heading for redevelopment
photo credit: (Credit: PermitSonoma)
Practically half the size of the city of Sonoma, county planning officials released three potential plans for redeveloping the 945-acre Sonoma Developmental Center just south of Glen Ellen. 
 
Established in the 1890s to serve the disabled, the rambling, wooded property with a core of brick buildings...was declared surplus by the state several years ago. In something of a first, state agencies have given PermitSonoma a lead role in planning the site's future, something Bradley Dunn, policy manager at PermitSonoma is excited about.
"Our job is to work with the community to establish the version of the future for Sonoma valley that's the brightest," he said.
 
Other large publicly-owned sites have gone through a similar process, including Agnews State Hospital in Santa Clara, Naval Air Station-Alameda, Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard, Treasure Island and the Concord Naval Weapons Station.
 
Public outreach about SDC's future generated a multitude of ideas, Dunn said. These were winnowed to three potential concepts.
 
"Obviously with the housing crisis in Sonoma County and the greater Bay Area, this is a great opportunity to build high quality, affordable housing," he said.
  
All three plans would keep much of the land as open space. Each would include housing, community buildings, offices, a hotel and retail.
 
One plan maximizes home construction, another re-using existing structures and a third adds additional research and development space. About a quarter of the dwelling units in all three plans would be considered 'affordable.'
  
Despite a big financial push from Sacramento to house the homeless, with the state spending billions to rehab motels into supportive housing and provide services, Dunn is doubtful the SDC campus was a good candidate.
 
"Many of these buildings are too small or very specialized, do not make sense for kind of modern supportive housing uses. So, it's not like a turn-key operation that we could just say, 'hey, here's a campus you can use for supportive housing for homeless people because of the condition of the water facilities, the buildings themselves, that really wouldn't work."
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