Housing report

“The future of the community at stake”

Sustainable Sonoma formed in the summer of 2017 as a collaborative project, led by its director Caitlin Cornwall and coordinator Kim Jones, both of the Sonoma Ecology Center. Its stable of partners includes the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, Vintage House Senior Center, Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, La Luz Center, Sonoma Valley Unified School District and Sonoma City Police, among many other partners.

Cornwall is a biologist who leads planning and partnerships, and advises on technical projects, at the Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC). Jones, a Sonoma native who spent eight years in Sweden gaining dynamic experience in education and public relations, is also marketing director at SEC.

“You can call it a roadmap, or you can also call it a strategy,” Cornwall said. “It’s not as detailed as a plan or a set of recommendations.” But it is clearly about reaching consensus among its diverse group of partners to build momentum for a range of solutions, each in line with the “triple bottom line” of economy, environment and equity. .

The handbook is assembled as a series of interlocking talking points that lead to solutions, beginning with Strategy #1: “Building Public Will for Housing Affordability”.


“One of our key recommended strategies is to strengthen the voice of the community in support of affordable housing,” Cornwall said. “This recommendation is being implemented by people who live or work here who may not have seen housing as part of their field before.

“But in the research we’ve done and the experts we’ve consulted, Sonoma Valley has become a place with immense barriers to housing affordability, and changing that requires a bit of cultural change.”

Sustainable Sonoma produced this as an incentive or guide to take action. It’s not about being digested in one skimming session, but about referring and rechecking over time, a roadmap for directed community action. The pages are each designed to be visually informative and self-contained – each can be a document or social media post.

With limited affordable housing opportunities in the Sonoma Valley available to a population struggling with diminished economic options made critical by the coronavirus emergency, the report’s self-proclaimed “windows of opportunity” seem all the more pressing. They start at City Hall: influencing ongoing revisions to Sonoma’s development code, to make affordable housing more just and available.

On a slightly broader level, Sustainable Sonoma is drafting a verbal report to present to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Jan. 26 on the subject of Eldridge, site of Sonoma’s former development center, and its future, as ‘envisaged by the contribution of the community. “It’s an exciting conversation for a coalition like Sustainable Sonoma,” Cornwall said.

“The future of this place has unprecedented potential to incorporate the concept of triple bottom line – economy, environment and equity – it is a site where huge benefits for the valley and the whole region could be achieved in all three categories. .”

The report is related to the Sonoma Valley Fund’s 2017 “Hidden in Plain Sight” report, which warned that despite a thriving culture of philanthropy in the Sonoma Valley, the growing reach, intensity and interconnectedness Sonoma Valley challenges could overwhelm the region’s existing network of nonprofit organizations.

“The affordable housing shortage is incredibly complicated and presents thorny challenges for our community. In many ways, much more difficult than the problems we exposed in ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’ due to the size and scope of the problem, said Joshua Rymer, co-author of this paper.

Rymer found Sustainable Sonoma’s first state of evolution – a listening process – to be a luxury the Sonoma Valley Fund did not have the time or resources to undertake. “It generated a lot of ideas and some momentum – which will be crucial.”

Meanwhile, those time-sensitive windows of opportunity – as long-term plans for growth in Eldridge’s springs and future are being drawn up – are now open.

“If we don’t change the direction we are going as a community, we will have fewer and fewer children in the Sonoma Valley,” Cornwall said. “Already the parents and their children are leaving, they cannot come here. And the children who live here, as they get older, see no place for them here as adults.

“All of these factors are changing, but it takes real change, it takes intention, to make Sonoma Valley a welcoming place for children, their families, and young adults. And that starts with housing.

Email Christian at christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.