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Close to Home: Agreeing on a vision for the future of Sonoma Developmental Center

  • Protesters march around Sonoma Plaza on Sept. 14, 2013, to speak out against the possible closing of the Sonoma Developmental Center. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

Sonoma County is unique in many ways: our environment, our compassion, our commitment to community. Most notable is our ability to turn challenges into opportunities as we forge a sustainable future for our children.

We are again at a crossroads, facing a challenge that requires communal courage as we navigate the threat of closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center. It is not enough to hope the state of California will do the right thing; instead, we must demonstrate the dedication of our community for the humane treatment of our most vulnerable population, as well as our commitment to preserving the bucolic lands that surround the center.

The Sonoma Developmental Center opened in 1891 and is now the oldest facility in California established specifically for serving the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. For 123 years, the Sonoma Developmental Center has served as a critical resource to families in Sonoma County, as well as throughout the North Bay region. Additionally, it has been and remains Sonoma Valley’s largest employer.

Today, the center provides an extensive array of highly specialized services that promote ongoing health and increased independence for 453 residents and their families, including innovative social, recreational, educational and vocational training. Many of these services are not easily duplicated in a regional center or group home. Residents are one facet of the center.

The entire parcel is the last intact undeveloped land in the valley and provides a critical wildlife corridor for the North Bay.

The Parent Hospital Association, Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma County’s Regional Parks Department, Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and local grass-roots preservation groups have joined together in a broad-based community collaboration to develop a vision for the future that preserves the services and the land for future generations. This collaborative vision includes continuing services onsite for residents, developing complementary services to our community and providing public access to the preserved undeveloped land.

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