September 17, 2021
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Sen. Dodd: $250K for Sonoma Developmental Center Cemetery Memorial

July 16, 2021

Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, announced he and his fellow legislators secured a $250,000 budget allocation to help create a memorial wall at the Sonoma Developmental Center cemetery where more than 1,400 people are buried in unmarked graves dating back to 1892.

“People laid to rest at this institution should receive the respect and dignity they deserve,” said Sen. Dodd. “Their lives will be remembered. It has been an honor to advance this funding effort along with my colleagues, Sen. Mike McGuire and Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, who have been great partners. Of course, this project wouldn’t happen without the hard work of my Chief of Staff Ezrah Chaaban and the dedication of family members and disability rights advocates.”

Sonoma Developmental Center closed in 2019 after 128 years of service. Future plans for the 880-acre property include preservation of open space, including the cemetery where former residents and at least two former employees are buried. 

“We are grateful to Sens. Dodd and McGuire and their chiefs of staff for all the attention to detail and hard work invested to secure this funding to build a proper, accessible-to-all memorial, at this historic, beautiful, and yet poignant site,” said Christian Pease, a photographer and former SDC employee whose portraits helped record the center’s last residents.