Request for bids launches SDC acquisition process
Ambitious three-year timeline set for sorting out many issues
A complicated and ambitious timeline has been designed for Sonoma County to work up a specific plan for allocating and developing the lands and buildings of the now-shuttered Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). Having closed the 130-year-old medical facility in 2018, the state’s Department of General Services (DGS) is looking to offload the property as soon as possible, putting up $43 million to take care of the grounds and buildings over the next three years and subsidizing Sonoma County staff time to work on a feasible plan for using and developing it.
Maintaining the grounds and buildings is costing the state $12 million a year.
The state’s agreement to dispose of the SDC property in accordance with local guidelines is unique. The county has doggedly pursued keeping the SDC’s 795 acres of open space intact, including wildlife corridors, forest and meadows, and to see that the 150 acres of mostly run-down buildings are redeveloped under local control. The state has promised that the open space will remain open, and see that the rest is allocated under local guidelines, including some affordable housing.
A consultant is being sought to design a Specific Plan that will establish those local guidelines over the next two years.
According to a Request for Proposal (RFP) sent out on May 24, the Specific Plan is intended to “enable development and investment in the property that reflects the conditions of the site and the vision of the community. The Plan and its associated environmental review must provide clear direction for prospective buyers and investors in the property. Therefore the Plan must be realistic and actionable.”
The final plan must be adopted – and its associated Environmental Impact Report certified – before the DGS can seek proposals for site development.
Milan Nevajda, deputy director of planning at Permit Sonoma, will shepherd the process as it unfolds over the next three years.
With $3.5 million provided by the DGS to spend on the consulting, Nevajda has high hopes for an enthusiastic response from qualified consultants.
“We are excited to have this out and see who bids on it,” Nevajda said. “Given the scale and scope of the project, we can hope to attract the usual bidders, but perhaps some national and international players, too.”
Permit Sonoma will host two meetings with any interested bidders in June, and bids must be submitted by July 12.
“This is the application deadline,” Nevajda said. “Then we will start interviews and negotiations.” He projects that the winning proposal could be approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors by November of this year, though nothing is certain that far out in any of the proposed timelines.
A timeline for the next three years was also released on May 24, closely detailing the milestones for the process.
“It’s important to see what the process looks like,” Nevajda emphasized. “We will pin down the engagement process, prepare a background analysis of conditions at the site, come up with conceptual alternatives and select a preferred version, which will become the backbone of the Specific Plan document.
The overall goal of the Specific Plan effort is to “guide future development to achieve an attractive and sustainable vision, which includes viable mixed uses and economic development, affordable housing opportunities, open space and resource conservation, cultural and historical preservation. The development articulated through the Specific Plan must be compatible in scale with the surrounding community, and consistent with State, County, and community goals.”
Nevajda repeatedly emphasized that the public will be engaged throughout the process.
Once the contract is let, Nevajda said the consultant would likely take over guidance of the planning process, incorporating the people and groups who have been working on the issue for the past three years, such as the TransformSDC Coalition.
The consultants chosen must “see that community engagement is front heavy and plays out through the whole process,” Navajda said. “The team needs to have detailed and robust community engagement plans.” Workshops and multi-day events will happen next year, as the planning process ramps up.
The Specific Plan and alternatives, along with a Planning Environmental Report, should be delivered and adopted by December 2021.
Until a consultant is hired, SDC Coalition will continue to hold monthly public meetings to discuss events and plans, Nevajda said.