Thank you to everyone who came out for Sustainable Sonoma’s first Learning Lab and to our wonderful panel of speakers. Over 60 community members—a diverse audience, including people facing acute housing challenges, took part in an examination of how the housing affordability issue effects our local seniors, businesses, health and healthcare, Latinos, environment, emergency response system and safety, schools, youth and families.

Tell us what you would be interested in learning about at future events.



All of Sonoma Valley is talking about our housing situation: why it’s a problem, and how we can fix it. To address these concerns, Sustainable Sonoma and the City of Sonoma are holding upcoming forums where locals can discuss and learn more about this important issue.


On May 14, Sustainable Sonoma held a Learning Lab at Sonoma Charter School, the first in a series designed to further the conversation with a diverse panel of Sonoma Valley community leaders. Though the Learning Labs are intended for all Sonoma Valley residents, the City of Sonoma is separately holding its own Town Hall series to focus on the city proper.

Sustainable Sonoma’s Learning Labs are focused on making the entire Sonoma Valley community more whole, connected, profitable and fair by helping more of our community members – healthcare professionals, teachers, young families, first responders, seniors, business owners and others – be able to afford to live here. Anyone living in Oakmont, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, El Verano, The Springs, Vineburg, Schellville, or the City proper is invited  to attend Sustainable Sonoma’s Learning Labs to discuss the well-being of their own community.

For its part, the City of Sonoma is focused on housing within its two square miles, which is clearly critical to the future of Sonoma Valley. The City has held two town halls and plans an Interactive Community Workshop on June 20.

Valley’s Top Issue

The top issue facing the Sonoma Valley community, according to Sustainable Sonoma’s 2018 community survey, Voices of Sonoma Valley, involves homes for people who live and work here. We need more homes at multiple price points, in a diversity of sizes, while protecting our small-town feel and rural character. Individuals and organizations who agree are invited to sign the Sonoma Valley Housing Pledge.

Sustainable Sonoma’s alliance of 30 diverse community leaders has listened to this community need, and responded with a strategy to bring Sonoma Valley’s sectors together to increase, improve and protect housing within already developed areas that is affordable for people who live and work in the Valley.

The governments that oversee Sonoma Valley – the State of California, the County of Sonoma and the City of Sonoma – each have housing-related efforts that need to hear from an engaged and informed community.

Learning Lab I.

We were very excited to bring together a wealth of perspectives on Housing, Community, and Opportunity at Learning Lab 1. Speakers included:

  • Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin

  • City of Sonoma Council member Logan Harvey

Local leaders describing how the current housing situation in Sonoma Valley is harming their sector.

  • Priscilla Essert, Executive Director at Vintage House, representing seniors

  • Mark Bodenhammer, Executive Director at Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, representing local businesses

  • Veronica Vences, Associate Executive Director at La Luz Center, representing Latino community members

  • Ryan Pocock, Director of Development & Outreach at Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, representing health and healthcare

  • Tom Conlon, active with Sierra Club, Transition Sonoma Valley, and Sonoma Valley Climate Coalition, representing the environment

  • Marc Elin, director of Sonoma Charter School, representing youth, education, and teachers

  • Jim Comisky, battalion chief with Sonoma Valley Fire & Rescue Authority, representing

Caitlin Cornwall, Sustainable Sonoma's project director, described how this cross-sector leadership forum is uniquely situated to help improve Sonoma Valley's housing situation, and other challenges facing our community.

Alicia Gaylord, Director of Housing Development, MidPen Housing, showed a variety of solution pathways that other communities have had success with, and the barriers they overcame to achieve those successes.

Subsequent Learning Labs will dive into the wide range of specific solutions that could be effective in Sonoma Valley, and host interactive conversations among community members, housing experts, and representatives of Sonoma Valley’s various stakeholder groups.

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