Sen. Dodd: Contractor to Begin Sonoma Developmental Cemetery Memorial

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


ELDRIDGE – Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, announced today that a local Sonoma County contractor has been selected on a long-sought memorial wall at the Sonoma Developmental Center cemetery where more than 1,400 people are buried in unmarked graves dating back to 1892

“The memorial is about reinforcing dignity and respect for the people who were laid to rest here,” said Sen. Dodd. “We owe it to them and their families to ensure their lives are remembered. I am happy to see the work get started following a multi-year effort to secure funding. I’m grateful for the dedication of everyone who helped get us to this point, especially my chief of staff, Ezrah Chaaban, who has been absolutely essential to realizing this memorial.”

Sonoma Developmental Center closed in 2019 after 128 years of service. The open space at the 945-acre property, including the cemetery where residents with developmentally disabled residents and at least two former employees are buried, is preserved in perpetuity under state law.

The contract for the memorial project was awarded this month by the Department of General Services to the low-bidder, FRC Inc. of Windsor. The memorial is expected to be completed by the fall of 2023, if not sooner. Design work was previously done by Torrance-based JC Chang & Associates Inc. under the auspices of the California Memorial Project, with stakeholder input.

Senators Dodd and McGuire, along with Assemblymember Ceclia Aguiar-Curry, worked with the Department of General Services to secure the latest funding, enabling the approximately $700,000 project to advance to construction. Prior funding was secured in the 2021-22 state budget by Sen. Dodd and initial funding came from the Department of Developmental Services which previously administered the property. The memorial will include the names of those laid to rest at the cemetery and includes a viewing platform and parking to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“This has been a 100% partnership,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg. “We’re grateful to Sen. Dodd, Assemblymember Aguiar Curry and the SDC families for their work on the memorial. The project will rightfully honor and remember the more than 1,400 residents buried in unmarked graves at the Sonoma Developmental Center. This is a long overdue tribute for the residents and their families.”

“I’m so grateful that finally the history of those who lived and died at Sonoma Developmental Center will be honored by a memorial at the cemetery,” Kathleen Miller, co-president of the Parent Hospital Association. “One of the big reasons this has gone forward is Sen. Dodd. Without his support I don’t know if this would have happened. We’re also thankful to Sen. McGuire, the Department of Developmental Services and the Department of General Services for helping to move this critical project forward.”

“This is an incredible milestone for the memorial project,” said Christian Pease, a longtime memorial advocate and photographer who has documented the cemetery. “On behalf of our committee, I want to thank everyone who worked on this for their commitment, diligence, and efficiency moving this effort forward towards its ultimate completion. This is something everyone can agree is a good thing.” 


Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Yolo, Sonoma, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. You can learn more about the district and Senator Dodd at