Steve Sheldon

August 19th, 1946 – May 10th, 2019

We lost a real leader in the green building community last month. Our chapter president, and guiding light died unexpectedly. We were shocked.

image pulled from Press Democrat article about the hemp house – link below

Steve spent his last day meeting with an inspiring new client, training for a San Francisco to Santa Barbara bike ride / climate fundraiser, playing with his grandson, and watching the Warriors pull off an epic last-minute win. As soon as it was clear his team had won, Steve was gone; far too soon for his family and friends.

Steve’s family evaded the Holocaust, immigrated to the US, and he grew up in Los Angeles in a working class multi-generational German-Jewish household. He had warm memories of his grandmother’s plum tarts and the gefilte fish she would prepare in the bathtub. His father took him fishing and inspired in him a love of classical music.

Since his childhood he dreamt of being an architect, which led him to attain a degree from USC in architecture. There he met a group of fellow students who would remain his closest friends and collaborators throughout his career. Upon graduating, he apprenticed with a builder and began working with his tools. For the rest of his life, he blended architectural drawing with hands-on building.

Steve landed in Sebastopol in California’s Sonoma County in the early 70’s and raised a family there, along with large vegetable gardens and goats and chickens. He designed and built their passive solar home, where he lived happily for the rest of his life.

Steve had the rare privilege of a life whose passion and livelihood were one and the same. He was a strong-willed and independent man, and he remained self-employed throughout his career. This allowed him to be present in his children’s lives: he participated in school trips and sporting events, taught them about gardening and the natural world, and even designed several buildings at the local Waldorf School, from which all four children graduated.

His life was driven by the idea of community and by connecting more meaningfully with the natural world. As his children began their own lives, he found a new passion in sustainability and green building, always striving to lower the carbon footprint of his work. He built live-work apartments with communal outdoor spaces. Through his design, landscaping, and thoughtfully chosen building materials, he encouraged human interaction and a close connection to the natural world.

Link to Press Democrat article about the hemp house

His death at 72 years old leaves many projects in process, including a hempcrete house and his work as president of his local chapter of the US Green Building Council.

Along with his work, Steve’s passions included hiking and backpacking, white water canoeing, swimming, baking sourdough bread, gardening, digging holes, watching sports, playing tennis and finding the best cheap eats. He felt that his greatest accomplishments were his family, his children and grandchildren, even as he created a landscape of utility and beauty around him.

He is survived by his wife, Michaela, children Oliver (Brody), Will (Sarah), Lowell (Natalie), Brenna, six grandchildren, brother Mark, and his dog sidekick, Andre. 

“We don’t have much time to get things right now,” Steve said. “It’s a crunch.”

(largely plagiarized from Lowell Sheldon)