Sonoma County

harminder dhesi photography via flickr

Sonoma County is one of the nation’s best examples of how a county and its cities can work together to preserve open spaces and promote smart growth. Land at high risk—threatened in the next 10 years—has dropped by 70 percent since 2012 to 4,100 acres.

Sonoma County’s success in protecting open spaces has relied on voters and elected leaders putting in place an impressive set of land conservation policies. With Greenbelt Alliance’s leadership, voters in each of Sonoma County’s nine incorporated communities have approved urban growth boundaries (UGBs), drawing distinct lines where communities can and cannot grow.

In 2016, Sonoma County voters dramatically expanded protections for rural lands between cities and towns called community separators. This designation limits the ability of county leaders to approve inappropriate development on key open spaces—mostly comprised of farms, ranches, and wildlife habitat.

Greenbelt Alliance led the campaign to more than triple the area of open space and farmland designated as community separators to 53,600 acres. Voters then renewed these protections for another 20 years, blocking any housing tracts, shopping malls, or resort hotels without a vote of the people.

While Sonoma County has made the region’s largest recent strides in land protection, the landscape remains at risk from sprawl, rural event centers, and subdivision of agricultural lands into smaller parcels.

Our Goals In Sonoma County

  • Add community separators that were identified but not included in the 2016 expansion.
  • Protect the most at-risk greenbelt land through the Vital Lands Initiative of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.
  • Increase protections for wildlife corridors, groundwater basins, and natural and working lands in next Sonoma County General Plan update.
  • Protect the Sonoma Valley wildlife corridor on Sonoma Developmental Center lands.
  • Support walkable, bikeable neighborhoods in downtowns and near SMART stations.
  • Continue to endorse smart growth projects that create homes for people across a range of incomes, like the DeTurk Winery Village in Historic Santa Rosa.
  • Renew Urban Growth Boundaries in Windsor in 2017, and Sonoma and Rohnert Park in 2020.
  • Reject projects on high-risk greenbelt lands such as the Roblar Quarry and Davidon luxury home subdivision on the edge of Petaluma.

Campaign Updates & Big Wins



Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sierra Club

Staff Contact: Teri Shore

photo: Harminder Dhesi Photography via Flickr

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