At times the problems facing our Valley can seem insurmountable. But we know from experience that with enough patience, commitment and teamwork, there is no obstacle that can’t be overcome. Which is why we’re proud to announce a new initiative dedicated to making our home a better place today and for future generations: Sustainable Sonoma.
Sonoma Valley, with its mild weather, rural character and beautiful open spaces, remains one of California’s best places to live. But concerned citizens are realizing that without better coordination among its many agencies, nonprofits, businesses and individuals, the Valley is in danger of being overwhelmed by a worsening housing market, environmental degradation and other challenges. These concerns prompted local leaders from the realms of business, health care, social justice and environmental protection to find new and better ways to work together for the common good.
First proposed by Sonoma Ecology Center, Sustainable Sonoma seeks to harness the abundant energy and goodwill found in the Valley, organizing it to more efficiently tackle our greatest challenges – the housing crisis, the wealth and education divide, groundwater depletion, preserving our rural character, the future of Sonoma Developmental Center, economic diversification and our tourism economy, to name a few. As a growing body of evidence makes clear, these issues require a more coordinated response because they threaten our community’s people, environment and economy simultaneously.
“After 25 years of working with our community to take care of this remarkable place, we realized that we cannot accomplish our mission of ecological health in Sonoma Valley without systemic change that’s supported by the whole community,” said SEC’s executive director, Richard Dale, explaining why we first proposed this new initiative.
Underscoring the need for collaboration, a recently released report by Sonoma Valley Fund titled “Hidden in Plain Sight” states that despite a thriving culture of philanthropy in Sonoma Valley, the increasing scope, intensity and interconnectedness of Sonoma Valley’s challenges – “the lack of adequate and affordable housing, increasing poverty, the rapid rise of our senior population and the environmental pressures created by population growth” – could overwhelm our existing network of nonprofits.
Sustainable Sonoma’s partners to date include Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, Sonoma Valley Health Roundtable, La Luz Center, Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, and Health Action. As Sustainable Sonoma matures, it will take on its own identity – a standalone staff, independent funding – so that it belongs to the whole community, not any particular organization. Over time, the founding partners will become just a few of the many interests at the table.
The initiative’s first step has been to engage our community in order to build support, and a shared vision and agenda, across the sectors of health care, economic development, social justice, housing, transportation, tourism, land use, recreation and environmental protection. We welcome everyone who lives or works here to join in crafting Sonoma Valley’s future – and as a first step, all are encouraged to visit our site and provide input on projects already underway as well as a vision for the Valley going forward.