​Land Conservation (Williamson) Act

Legislative Amendments

effective January 1, 2001


Assembly Bill 1944 (Wayne, Chapter 889, Statutes of 2000)

Williamson Act Contract Cancellation

Existing law requires a city or county to provide the Department of Conservation notice of a public hearing on a petition for tentative cancellation and a copy of its published notice of its decision (GC 51284).

New law requires that upon accepting an application for tentative cancellation as complete, the board or council must immediately mail a notice to the Director of Conservation; the notice must include all of the following (GC 51284.1(a)):

  • A copy of the petition.

  • A copy of the contract.

  • A general description, in text or by diagram, of the land.

  • The deadline for submitting comments. The deadline must be no less than 30 days prior to the scheduled action by the board or council.

The Director of Conservation must submit comments advising the board or council on findings required by Section 51282 (GC 51284.1(b)), and the board or council must consider the comments prior to acting on the proposed cancellation (GC 51284.1(c)).

Compatible Uses

Existing law provides that certain restrictions for compatible uses do not apply in certain instances. Among these are uses that are expressly specified within the contract prior to June 7, 1994, and that constituted a compatible use under the Williamson Act when the contract was signed or at the time of subsequent amendment, if any (GC 51238.3(c)).

New law provides that a compatible use is considered to be expressly specified within the contract only if it is specifically enumerated within the four corners of the contract, either without reference to other documents, or with respect to contracts signed on or before June 7, 1997, with reference to other documents as those documents existed at the time the contract was initially signed (GC 51238.3(c)(2)).


Assembly Bill 2838 (Hertzberg, Chapter 761, Statutes of 2000)

Local Agency Formation Commissions

Existing law, the Cortese-Knox Local Government Reorganization Act of 1985, has been renamed, under new law, the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000. New law deletes references to the conducting authority and transfers its duties and powers to the commission. Various sections are renumbered, repealed or added. For LAFCO purposes only, several changes to agricultural land definitions were made:

The definition of "Prime agricultural land" is revised for the following qualifications:

  • Land that qualifies for rating as class I or class II in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service land use capability classification if irrigated, whether or not land is actually irrigated, provided that irrigation is feasible (GC 56064(a)).

  • Land planted with fruit or nut-bearing trees, vines, bushes, or crops that have a nonbearing period of less than five years and that will return during the commercial bearing period on an annual basis from the production of unprocessed agricultural plant production not less than four hundred dollars ($400) per acre (GC 56064(d)).

  • Land that has returned from the production of unprocessed agricultural plant products an annual gross value of not less than four hundred dollars ($400) per acre for three of the previous five years (GC 56064(e)).

  • Other qualifications have not been changed (GC 56064(b)(c). The result of the changes is that there is now a slightly different set of criteria for determining prime agricultural lands for LAFCO purposes.


Senate Bill 2204 (Soto, Chapter 431, Statutes of 2000)

Agricultural Conservation Easements in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties

Existing law permits multiple rescissions of Williamson Act contracts in order to place other land under agricultural conservation easements in a designated area within Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

New law provides that easements located within that area may be related to contract rescissions in either San Bernardino or Riverside County (GC 51256.2(b)).


Assembly Bill 2698 (Florez, Chapter 1045, Statutes of 2000)

Proceeding to Contest Certain Contract Cancellations in Kern County

Existing law requires that a proceeding to contest a decision by a board or council to cancel a Williamson Act contract be commenced within 180 days from the date of the board or council order on a petition for cancellation.

New law provides that if the cancellation relates to certain proposed electric generation projects located in a certain area of Kern County, the proceeding must be commenced within 30 days from the date that the Energy Resources and Conservation Development Commission issues its determination on such a project. This provision becomes inoperative on December 31, 2001 (GC 51286(c)).