Northern California Engineering Contractors Association

May 23, 2022

Potentially Big Project in Sonoma County Moves Towards an RFP From Developers:

The opinions expressed in the Soapbox are not necessarily the opinions of the ECA.  I am speaking my own mind and not stating any collective ECA opinions.


On May 10, five leading economists presented the State of the Construction The Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) was originally purchased by the State of California in 1889 and utilized as a live in residential care facility until it was closed in 1985 and phased out the care facility.  The Department of Developmental Services ceased operations completely in 2018.

Of the State’s Original Acquisition of 1700 acres, the State has sold or transferred land to the County of Sonoma (“County”) for the Sonoma Valley Regional Park, conveyed conservation easements to the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District on Sonoma Mountain, and annexed a portion of the SDC to Jack London State Park resulting in an approximately ±180 acre developed core campus (“Subject Property”) surrounded by over ±700 acres of open space.

In the October 2015 Plan for the Closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center, the State Department of Developmental Services recognized the unique natural and historic resources of the property and acknowledged that it was not the intent of the state to follow the traditional state surplus property process.

In December 2019, DGS and the County finalized a three-year agreement for the County to develop a Specific Plan and related Environmental Impact Report, complete technical studies, and provide for robust community engagement in land use planning to facilitate disposition of the property.

Location:  The SDC, covers about 945 acres located at the northern edge of Eldridge, a census-designated place (“Eldridge CDP”) and south of the Glen Ellen, a census-designated place (“Glen Ellen CDP”) in Sonoma County. The SDC is located 6 miles from the plaza in downtown Sonoma and 15 miles from downtown Santa Rosa. The SDC is bisected by Arnold Drive and Sonoma Creek. Jack London State Historic Park borders the SDC to the West and Highway 12 and the Sonoma Valley Regional Park borders the SDC to the East.

In December 2019, the state of California Department of General Services (DGS) and the County finalized a three-year agreement for the County to develop a Specific Plan and related Environmental Impact Report, complete technical studies, and provide for robust community engagement in land use planning to facilitate disposition of the property.


The County’s planning agency (“Permit Sonoma”) began its public outreach in January 2020. Significant community input has been gathered through community meetings, workshops, and online surveys. Information on community input gathered and work completed to date are available at the project website: Community members have also been engaged since 2015 on their vision for the SDC site, with numerous community members providing input over a span of years prior to the current Specific Plan process. Community outreach will continue as a Specific Plan is developed and finalized.


On February 9, 2022, Permit Sonoma filed a Notice of Preparation for a Program Environmental Impact Report (“Program EIR”) for the Sonoma Developmental Center Specific Plan (“NOP”) with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, State Clearinghouse. The NOP can be found here: Sonoma Developmental Center Specific Plan ( The NOP describes a development program for the core campus (“Project Description”) consisting of the following:

  • A housing development program ranging from 450 to 1,000 residential units within the existing 180-acre developed core campus, including market-rate and affordable housing, to meet a diversity of community needs. Housing unit types would include small-lot single-family and attached housing, multifamily housing, and “missing middle” housing that reflects the needs of Sonoma County community and workforce, and housing types that support a range of options including family, co-housing, and senior housing, and support services and/or shelter for the unhoused.
  • A non-housing development program within the existing 180-acre developed core campus including institutional, office, research and development, and other creative uses focused on sustainability and climate-focused enterprises, organizations, and businesses. o Small-commercial uses—such as restaurants, cafés, and small retail uses—to support neighborhood needs and walkable lifestyles. o Visitor and community-serving uses such as a hotel, meeting and event facilities. o Public and community uses, such as a museum honoring the legacy of the site, community center or gathering and recreational spaces, emergency command center, fire station, and social support services.
  • Parks and community gathering spaces and other green spaces within the existing 180-acre developed core campus, including areas dedicated to wildlife habitat and movement and areas that serve to buffer the community against future wildfire risks.

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  • Potential creation of a new vehicular route to connect Arnold Dr and Hwy 12, either as emergency access or full-time multi-modal access.


  • Adaptive reuse and new construction of existing historic contributing buildings such as the Main Building, Sonoma House and key buildings along view corridors. A majority of buildings are likely to be new construction at various heights to ensure efficient use of land and foster compact development, sustainability, and walking and alternative transit use.
  • Climate resilient and multimodal infrastructure may include the development of new streets and bicycle and pedestrian connections, and extensive upgrading of the existing infrastructure as a multi-modal, resilient and sustainable community. Other project components may include but are not limited to development of a microgrid and a recycled water plant/facility, in addition to other utilities and maintenance needs.
  • Open Space Preservation: The Project will also include policies to govern the retention and preservation of the open space surrounding the 180-acre core campus, which encompasses the vast majority of the SDC Property (approximately 765 acres) and includes two lakes, the Eldridge Cemetery, and Camp Via. Policies will address the use of infrastructure within the open space such as the existing water system infrastructure.

Specific Plan Schedule Permit Sonoma contemplates completing the Specific Plan and related documents pursuant to the following timeline:

Publish draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Specific Plan June 2022

Public Hearing on draft EIR July 2022

Publish final Specific Plan/EIR; Present recommendation to Planning Commission on final Specific Plan/EIR August 2022

Adoption of Specific Plan, Certification of final EIR by Board of Supervisors September 2022

The State of California and Sonoma County are moving forward with requests to find a development group that wishes to purchase and develop the Sonoma Developmental Center property that remains-basically a 180-acre core property surrounded by 700 acres of open space.

Although this information is not typical for a “Soapbox”, I felt it was important enough to pass it on to you good folks.  This is a potentially huge project that may gain the interest of a developer very quickly.  I know how some of your private work guys work, so I included the needed links so your team can pursue getting into the lineup to perhaps provide estimates to the prospective new owner of the property.

Get to work, and may the best hustler find the nugget!!

That’s All Folks!


Specification CommitteeMission Statement-“The Specification Committee is set up to be a resource for public agencies and ECA membership alike.  This Committee reviews standard specifications and special conditions with the intent of providing input to public agencies that will result in lowering overall costs to the public for projects, and also fostering communications between public works entities and the general engineering construction industry

–the Spec Committee met on Wednesday, 5-18-22 and discussed the following:

* Reviewed the proposed standards for private fire lines.  It was decided to put the drawings out to all the spec committee members and ask them to review them with comments back by June 14, 2022, to John, Dave and Geoff.

* Discussed conflicts that some members have with the current Spec Committee meeting dates and times, and Spec Committee meetings were moved to the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 4:00-5:30pm, at the NCBE small conference room.

* We discussed current “triggers” that make it necessary for having a grading permit with the County of Sonoma.  The existing policies come from the 2006 Grading Ordinance and SWPP requirements for stormwater runoff on impervious surfaces.  It is now a 50 cubic yard “trigger” with a combination of dirt to be moved plus rock and AC and concrete to be placed that makes a grading permit required.  Also, grading permits are taking up to 6 months to be issued and that is ridiculous.  Ways to mitigate these issues were discussed and it was concluded that a small amount of Spec committee time each month could be allocated to discuss these issues.

* Another issue discussed on a 1-time basis was the common complaint by City and County staff that they are short-handed and that is leading to delays in issuing capital improvement projects as well as delaying private development.  It was determined this is not the focus of the Spec Committee at this time.  John was encouraged to go find a district/municipality that has a good working plan to get projects to bid, and to advocate to the City of SR and the County of Sonoma to adopt the good aspects of the program so that projects go to bid sooner.

* Discussion on the 2 toughest departments at the County of Sonoma to deal with are Planning and Well/Septic.

* Next Spec Committee meeting to be held on June 15, 4-5:30 pm at NCBE small conference room.


Car Show Committee-led by our Chair Mr. Walt Turner announces the 27th Annual Father’s Day “Show and Shine” Car Show will be held at Julliard Park in Santa Rosa on June 19, 2022.  A Car Show Committee meeting was held May 18, 20 The following was discussed:

* Singer for the Star-Spangled Banner not lined up yet.  John has contacted Andrea Krout (David Rabbitt’s contract assistant) and has not heard back from her as to her availability.  Mary was to pursue the gal that sang at our last three car shows to see if she is available.

* We asked Dustin Abbott for help with convincing Recology to donate garbage cans and Dustin got Recology to donate!!  A savings to us of over $900.  Thanks Dustin and thanks Recology!

* Security issues were discussed, and it was determined we are in ok shape for security without spending any money.

* DJ is lined up as are tables, chairs, shade, generator, beer, and food vendors.  Minor issue of getting a cable crossing traffic tray is needed.  Walt was following up

* Raffle items are needed, and we are appealing to our ECA members as well as going out (thank you Paul Stathotos,  Bob Harder, and others!  We need restaurant coupons and battery/muffler/tire coupons in particular.

* Current signups are low, so the Committee decided to make a bigger effort to take flyers out to the public.  John, Paul, Walt and others distributed flyers to many local businesses on Thursday and Friday last week, and Walt and Bob Harder made a big sacrifice and went to the American Graffiti car show in Petaluma and handed out over one hundred flyers to car show enthusiasts.  Thanks Walt and Bob!

* Ghilotti Brothers stepped up and have 5 volunteers to park cars on June 19.  Thanks Casey Wood and GBI!!

All in all-the Car Show is in pretty good shape with a month to go!

Here is the link to the sponsor Flyer and the Registration form

Golf CommitteeWe have TWO Showcase Sponsors!
Thank you, Argonaut Constructors and Ghilotti Construction Company!!Folks-the golf tournament is our 2nd biggest fundraiser of the year, and we need to make certain you have a great time and want to come out for a day of fun and sun and food and mixing and mingling and maybe even some golf.  We know you have lots of tournaments to choose from, and we appreciate those that are choosing ours!  Signups are already over 105 golfers, and we will be filled UP with 5 more 4-somes so please do not wait until the last minute!!

Contact Mary ASAP if you want to sponsor.  Golf Tournament will be held July 29 at Windsor Golf Course!!  To To Sponsor click HERE!  To Register click here!

Auction Committee– The Days of Wine and Dozers Auction is to be held on Saturday, September 24, from 5:30pm until the “cows come home!” We are looking for silent and live auction items. Please email if you can help out!  Sponsor click HERE!

Community Relations CommitteeMission Statement – An ECA Committee dedicated to enhancing the influence of the ECA through community involvement-led by Chair Lacey Torkelson Smith, met with Walt, Tom Boylan, John on Thursday, 5-19 to discuss the following:

*We want to add some structure to the process we have to identify and qualify a project for consideration to be adopted by the ECA in the future.  A “point system” was agreeable to the committee that gave points to a potential project for the following:  a)  is the ask from an existing charity?, b) we wanted to keep the groups that we consider to help open rather than restrict the to just kids and women with abuse problems, but we assign points based on who the project would benefit and how many people it would benefit, and c) the work needed would have to be the kind of work ECA members do, and d) have a form available for charities to fill out and one of the criteria is whether they have enough dollars to actually do their project without our help in lowering the cost, and e) it was decided that including the “Mission Statements” for each Committee would be a great idea so ECA members could see why that committee exists

* The other part of the meeting was kind of historic as we discussed ways to broadcast the good work our members and this committee has done over the years.  It was decided that John and Lacey would contact Don with Sound Ideas with the purpose of making a video (SHORT VIDEO!) that would highlight some of the past projects and the past sponsors and donators of those projects with some video of before and after the projects to see what we built.  The purpose of the video is to allow us to embed the video in an annual letter to elected officials to promote the ECA’s role in supporting the community and make sure elected officials know what great impact the ECA has had on our communities over the years.  We also discussed embedding the video with our Dues letter that will go out in several weeks to help retain our members and perhaps to attract more members who want to be a part of making a difference in the community like the ECA does.  The video would be on our website, and in our newsletter also, so some smart firm would want to sponsor that video since the exposure would be HUGE!  Let me know if you are interested in sponsoring and getting your company name “front and center” on such a well distributed and seen video presentation!

ECA Nominating Committee has had its first meeting under Chair Josh Cleaver, and Josh has crafted a letter to go out to our membership requesting their input on 2022 nominees for award nominees and you can find his letter right here by clicking this link

If you have any ideas on any of those awards, please let Josh or me know.  We will be developing our list and finalizing and sending to our Board of Directors in September of 2022, so we have some time.

Government Affairs Committee-Mission Statement-To provide a continuous process of maintaining legislative/governmental awareness and knowledge of changes that affect the local engineering contractor industry to our members, and to develop a rapport with public officials.

This committee had a lot of decisions made by our Board on Tuesday, April 19 and the Committee, led by our Chair, Mr. Art Deicke, met again on Friday May 6 at 9am and discussed the endorsements and decisions made by the Board.

David Rabbitt needs letter to the editor for support. Click here for examples

ECA Endorsements: 

Sonoma County Supervisors David Rabbitt District 2

Sonoma County Supervisors James Gore District 4

Marin County Supervisors Eric Lucan District 5

City of Santa Rosa, Jeff Okrepkie District 6