AB 1492 (Laird,
Effective January 1,
2004, AB 1492 adds Section 51250 to the
Government Code. Section 51250 provides
an additional and alternate remedy from
the contract cancellation petition
(§51281-et. seq.) for a material breach
of contract. Additionally, AB 1492
amends Section 51257 by extending the
Williamson Act lot line adjustment
provisions to January 1, 2009. See below for Frequently Asked
For more information,
for What AB 1492 Means to You. Click
an overview of the legislation.
Does AB 1492 repeal
the Williamson Act?
No, AB 1492 provides
enhanced penalties for a material breach
of contract and extends the date of the
lot line adjustment provisions. AB 1492
contains no new restrictions on uses
allowed under the Williamson Act,
existing contracts or local uniform
rules or ordinances.
What is a material
breach of contract?
§51250(b) defines a material breach on
land subject to a Williamson Act
contract as a commercial, industrial or
residential building(s), exceeding 2,500
square feet that is not permissible
under the Williamson Act, contract,
local uniform rules or ordinances. AB
1492 only applies to structure(s) that
have been permitted and constructed
after January 1, 2004.
Does AB 1492
prohibit homesite construction on
Williamson Act contracted lands?
No, as long as the
residence is part of the agricultural
use of the land for commercial
agricultural production. In order to
approve new homesite construction, local
governments are advised to verify that
there is an ongoing agricultural
operation on the land and that the
contract and local uniform rules and
ordinances allow for the homesite.
Landowners should be aware that
homesites do not receive the Williamson
Act preferential tax assessment provided
to Williamson Act agricultural lands
under the Revenue and Tax Code.
Does AB 1492 mean
that I can now develop my Williamson Act
property as long as none of the
buildings exceed 2500 square feet?
No. Any development
on property subject to a Williamson Act
contract must be related to the primary
use of the land for agricultural
purposes and in compliance with local
uniform rules or ordinances.
What does related
to the agricultural use of the land
A use is related when
it is required for or is part of the
agricultural use and is valued in line
with the expected return of the
agriculture on the parcel. Compatible
uses on Williamson Act lands are defined
in GC§51201(e). Additionally, each
participating local government is
required to adopt rules consistent with
the principles of compatibility found in
GC§§ 51231, 51238 and 51238.1.
Does AB 1492
prohibit me from building a house larger
than 2500 sq. ft.?
Homesites are allowed on contracted land
but are limited in purpose and number
and must be related to the agricultural
use of the land. In addition, any
homesite on land subject to a Williamson
Act contract must be in compliance with
local uniform rules or ordinances.
What effect does AB
1492 have on subdividing Williamson Act
AB 1492 may affect
structures on subdivided lands if those
structures are not related to the
agricultural use of the land.
How can I ensure
that my proposal for construction of an
improvement does not result in a
material breach of my Williamson Act
with your local planner and the
Department of Conservation is important.
What happens if the
rules in place when my project is
permitted are later changed?
AB 1492 does not
apply to a building permitted or
constructed prior to January 1, 2004.
Nor does AB 1492 apply to a building
that was not a material breach at the
time of construction but becomes a
material breach because of a change in
law or ordinance.
What happens if my
local government approves a building on
my Williamson Act property and then the
State claims it's a breach of contract?
A landowner may still
be subject to increased penalties.
However, the local government may take
into consideration the landowners
culpability in the breach and thereby
reduce the penalty imposed to no less
than 12.5 percent of the unrestricted
fair market value of the land and
improvements. Also, to ensure that he or
she will not be subject to increased
penalties, the landowner may execute an
affidavit acknowledging that the breach
provisions may apply if a local
governments action to terminate a
contract is rescinded, a court
permanently voids the termination or for
any other reason, the land continues to
be subject to the contract. As a result,
a penalty of no more than 12.5 percent
will be imposed.
Did AB 1492 increase
the Williamson Act contract cancellation
fee from 12.5 percent to 25 percent?
The cancellation fee
is still 12.5 percent of the
unrestricted current fair market value
of land. AB 1492 allows a local
government to levy a monetary penalty
for a material breach of contract up to
25 percent of the unrestricted fair
market value of land rendered
incompatible by the breach, plus 25
percent of the value of any incompatible
building and related improvements on the
For the text of AB
1492 as chaptered, see: