Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2017

Government Code Provisions

Provisions Relating to the California Land Conservation Act of 1965 (The Williamson Act)

Chapter 7. Agricultural Land*

Article 2. Declaration

Section 51220

51220. Legislative findings. The legislature finds:

(a) That the preservation of a maximum amount of the limited supply of agricultural land is necessary to the conservation of the state's economic resources, and is necessary not only to the maintenance of the agricultural economy of the state, but also for the assurance of adequate, healthful and nutritious food for future residents of this state and nation.

(b) That the agricultural work force is vital to sustaining agricultural productivity; that this work force has the lowest average income of any occupational group in this state; that there exists a need to house this work force of crisis proportions which requires including among agricultural uses the housing of agricultural laborers; and that such use of agricultural land is in the public interest and in conformity with the state's Farmworker Housing Assistance Plan.

(c) That the discouragement of premature and unnecessary conversion of agricultural land to urban uses is a matter of public interest and will be of benefit to urban dwellers themselves in that it will discourage discontiguous urban development patterns which unnecessarily increase the costs of community services to community residents.

(d) That in a rapidly urbanizing society agricultural lands have a definite public value as open space, and the preservation in agricultural production of such lands, the use of which may be limited under the provisions of this chapter, constitutes an important physical, social, esthetic and economic asset to existing or pending urban or metropolitan developments.

(e) That land within a scenic highway corridor or wildlife habitat area as defined in this chapter has a value to the state because of its scenic beauty and its location adjacent to or within view of a state scenic highway or because it is of great importance as habitat for wildlife and contributes to the preservation or enhancement thereof.

(f) For these reasons, this chapter is necessary for the promotion of the general welfare and the protection of the public interest in agricultural land.

History.—Stats. 1968, p. 2155, in effect November 13, 1968, deleted "prime" preceding "agricultural" throughout the section. Stats. 1969, p. 3024, in effect November 10, 1969, relettered subdivision (d) as subdivision (e) and added subdivision (d). Stats. 1980, Ch. 1219, in effect January 1, 1981, added a new subdivision (b) and relettered former subdivisions (b), (c), (d) and (e) as (c), (d), (e) and (f), respectively.

Note.—Section 5 of Stats 1980, Ch. 1219, provided no payment by state to local governments because of this act; however, a local agency or school district may pursue other remedies to obtain reimbursement.

Construction.—"Urban development", as used in this section and in former Section 51282.1, has no fixed, precise definition. Whether a residential development is urban or rural must be determined by evaluating factors relating to the varying characteristics of individual projects. In determining whether cancellation of a land use contract would not result in discontiguous patterns of urban development, a required finding for a window period cancellation under former Section 51282.1, a local government had to evaluate an individual proposed project within the context of the state's conservation plan. Relevant factors included density, surrounding development, preservation of open space, traffic generated, and availability of public services like water, schools and police and fire protection. However, a requested development of 389 homes and 8 acres of commercial services proposed by a land owner seeking cancellation of a land use contract under former Section 51282.1 was, as a matter of law, an "urban development" within the meaning of a required finding thereunder that cancellation not lead to a discontiguous pattern of urban development. Honey Springs Homeowners Assn. v. Board of Supervisors, 157 Cal.App.3d 1122. Restriction to agricultural use provided for in the Williamson Act was created to control urban development; and to pass constitutional muster, a restriction must be enforceable in the face of imminent urban development, and may not be terminable merely because such development is desirable or profitable to the landowner. Lewis v. City of Hayward, 177 Cal.App.3d 103.

* Unless otherwise noted Chapter 7 was added by Stats. 1965, p. 3377, in effect September 17, 1965.