NR 2001-55
August 20, 2001

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
Ed Wilson
(916) 323-1886


SACRAMENTO -- The pace of urbanization slowed in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, with 4,652 acres of land converted to urban uses between 1998-2000, according to maps released today by the California Department of Conservation. The maps are designed to help local governments evaluate land-use planning decisions.

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program (FMMP), part of DOC's Division of Land Resource Protection, maps 44.1 million acres of California's public and private land to produce a major study every two years.

In Los Angeles County, 2,979 acres -- including 1,935 acres of farming and grazing land -- were reclassified as urban land by the FMMP. The survey does not include the greater Los Angeles metropolitan region. It concentrates on the northern part of the county from Malibu north and east to the San Fernando and Antelope Valleys.

During the previous mapping cycle, 3,873 acres of agricultural land were urbanized in Los Angeles County. During the most recent cycle, there was a net gain of 3,329 acres of farmland -- most of it rated as prime. This is due to newly irrigated land in the Antelope Valley being used to grow carrots and a new crop, potatoes. Some of this land had been farmed as recently as 1984 but had gone fallow.

Looking ahead, 10,519 acres in Los Angeles County were committed to non-agricultural use. Typically, this is land earmarked for development. In some cases infrastructure development, such as sanitary sewer installation, may be underway. Of the 10,519 acres, 2,485 are farmland or grazing land while 8,034 are classified as "other" land -- neither built-up nor used for agriculture. This category includes wetlands, low-density "ranchettes" and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing.

In Ventura County, 1,713 acres -- 1,243 of it agricultural -- were re-classified as urban. In the previous mapping cycle, 2,639 acres were urbanized. An additional 8,283 acres -- 7,152 of it agricultural -- were committed to non-agricultural use.

Of the 1,077,504 acres mapped in Los Angeles County about 26 percent are in agricultural use and 15 percent are urbanized. In Ventura County, 555,953 acres outside of national forest land were mapped, about 47 percent of the county's total acreage. Of that land, approximately 59 percent is agricultural and 17.5 percent urban.

The maps have been sent to planning officials in the two counties as well as interested organizations such as Farm Bureaus, Local Agency Formation Commissions, planning consultants and area resource conservation districts.

"We do this mapping to help counties plan and prepare for their expected growth in the coming years," explained Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young. "This information is a tool that can help local governments balance the needs of a growing population with those of the agricultural economy."

Between 1990 and 2000, 14,006 acres (4,670 agricultural) were urbanized in Los Angeles County. Ventura County saw 9,480 acres (5,487 agricultural) urbanized in that time frame. Agricultural land in the two counties will continue to face development pressure in the foreseeable future. The California Department of Finance projects that Los Angeles County's population will grow from 9.5 million in 2000 to nearly 12.8 million by 2020. Ventura County's population is projected to grow from 753,000 to over a million.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the agricultural production of Ventura County totaled more than $1 billion in 1999, ranking 10th in the state. Los Angeles County's production totaled about $253 million.

The latest statewide study by the FMMP, Farmland Conversion Report 1996-98, was released last fall. About 70,000 acres were urbanized throughout the state; more than 43,000 acres of the new urban land, an area about the size of the city of Modesto, were developed on agricultural land.

Through the Department of Conservation, the state offers several programs that provide financial incentives to keep land in agricultural use.