NR 2001-66
October 30, 2001

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


More Than 500 Acres Urbanized in 1998-2000,
But More Farmland is Created, New Map from DOC Shows

SACRAMENTO -- The pace of urbanization increased in Napa County, with 511 acres of land converted to urban uses between 1998-2000, according to a map released today by the California Department of Conservation. Such 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 Napa County, 432 acres of agricultural land -- including 99 acres of prime farmland -- were reclassified as urban land by the FMMP. An additional 79 acres of new urban land came from land classified as "other" -- a category that includes wetlands, low-density "ranchettes" and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing.

Since the FMMP began in 1984, just over 3,000 acres have been urbanized in Napa County, and the county has actually gained about 5,000 acres of farmland. Bucking the statewide trend, Napa joins Solano, Sonoma and Santa Barbara as counties in which the planting of wine grapes has exceeded the pace of urbanization. During the 1996-98 mapping cycle, the total urbanization in Napa County was 274 acres.

During the latest mapping cycle, 1,296 acres of new farmland were created due to the reclassification of grazing and "other" land. The survey found new vineyards throughout the county, especially in the Napa Junction and Pope Valley areas.

Of the 505,859 total acres mapped in Napa County, 259,697 (51 percent) were in agricultural use, 202,621 acres (40 percent) were "other" and 21,110 (4 percent) were urbanized. The remainder is in water areas.

The map has been sent to Napa County planning officials, and interested organizations such as the county Farm Bureau, Local Agency Formation Commission, planning consultants and area resource conservation districts have received copies.

"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 Napa County and other local governments balance the needs of a growing population with those of the agricultural economy."

Napa County's agricultural land will continue to face development pressure in the foreseeable future. The California Department of Finance projects that the county's population will grow from its current 123,300 to 148,800 by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Napa ranks No. 20 among 58 California counties in gross value of agricultural production (about $344 million in 2000).

Following are some of the examples of agricultural land being urbanized in Napa County found by the FMMP:

  • The new Yountville Golf Course adjacent to the Veteran's Home and the Villagio Inn and Spa across the highway.

  • About 150 acres of new warehouses and industrial buildings in the vicinity of the Napa County Airport, particularly in the Napa Valley Gateway Business Park.

  • New homes and buildings in the Napa and American Canyon areas totaling approximately 50 acres.

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.