In 2008, the California legislature passed the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act. This requires regional planning organizations, like the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to develop Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS). These strategies are long range plans intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by coordinating land-use, housing and transportation policies region wide.
The Bay Area’s SCS, “Plan Bay Area,” identifies areas with potential for infill development as well as local support for improved housing options, a mix of residential and commercial uses, and transportation options like bicycling, walking and transit. These areas, called “Priority Development Areas” or PDA’s, are then eligible for transportation and grant funds to support development that is consistent with Plan Bay Area.
In 2012, ABAG created a sub-type of PDA’s called “Rural Community Investment Areas” or RCIA’s. These RCIA’s were created to support planning and development that would be consistent with Plan Bay Area and to expand funding eligibility for communities like the Springs. On July 19, 2012, ABAG designated the Springs as a “Rural Community Investment Area” or RCIA.
The Springs RCIA boundaries largely follow the prior boundaries of the Springs Redevelopment Project, while also including areas east of Highway 12 and to the north of the City of Sonoma including Donald Street, Verano Avenue, Robinson Road, and Lomita Avenue. Historically, this southeastern portion of the Springs area was part of the City of Sonoma’s sphere of influence (SOI). An SOI is a planning boundary outside of a city’s legal boundary that identifies likely areas of future city annexation or expansion of services. Recognizing this SOI and anticipating future annexation of the area into the city limits, the County put certain development limitations on the parcels in this area.
However, in 2000 and again in 2021, City of Sonoma voters approved an urban growth boundary that reduced the City’s sphere to the existing city limits and eliminated the potential for expansion or annexation until 2040. The Springs Specific Plan will now plan for these areas in a manner that better reflects the SOI.