NR 2002-21
April 25, 2002

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Don Drysdale
(916) 323-1886


SACRAMENTO -- The pace of urbanization in Yolo County from 1998-2000 was about a third of what it was in 1996-98, but a significant amount of farmland was reclassified as being non-cultivated in a map released today by the California Department of Conservation. The map is 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 44.5 million acres of California's public and private land to produce a major study every two years.

In Yolo County, 353 net acres of land were urbanized during the current mapping cycle compared to 1,114 acres during the 1996-98 period. Between 1998 and 2000, development was fairly evenly distributed between Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento, while in 1996-98 the largest segment of development occurred in the Wildhorse and Mace Ranch subdivisions in Davis.

Additionally, 4,439 acres were reclassified from farmland to the non-cultivated categories of grazing or "other" land – a category that includes wetlands, low-density "ranchettes" and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing. Low-density development and idling of farmland occurred in many locations throughout the county. Also, large areas near the Sacramento Deep Water Ship Channel and Davis were converted to wetlands or other open-space uses.

Since 1990, 22,253 acres of farmland have gone out of production in Yolo County and 3,513 acres of new urban land have been created.

Looking ahead, the county reports that 2,529 acres – mostly farmland -- are committed to future non-agricultural use. Often, this is land earmarked for development. In some cases infrastructure development, such as sewer installation, may be underway.

Of the 653,451 acres in Yolo County, more than 63 percent were farmland, 22 percent were grazing land, 10 percent were other land and 4 percent were urbanized. The remainder is water area.

The map has been sent to Yolo County planning officials. Interested parties 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 Yolo County and other local governments balance the needs of a growing population with those of the agricultural economy."

Yolo County's agricultural land will continue to face development pressure in the foreseeable future. The California Department of Finance projects the county's population will grow from its current 172,500 to 262,400 by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of Yolo County's agricultural production was nearly $303 million in 2000, ranking it 23rd among the state's 58 counties.

Following are examples of agricultural land being urbanized in Yolo County:

  • The Adobe Apartments and other new homes in the Wildhorse Community in Davis (100 acres).

  • The Warmington Collection at El Macero, about 50 acres of new homes.

  • The Southport Gateway development (40 acres) and the Newport Estates subdivision (30 acres) in West Sacramento.

  • The Tide Court Industrial Park in Woodland (37 acres).

  • A new church along with new homes in the Silver Ridge tract (12 acres) in Winters.

  • The 5th Street Commerce Plaza, Davis Sports Center and other new commercial buildings in east Davis (40 acres).

The latest statewide study by the FMMP, Farmland Conversion Report 1996-98, was released in the fall of 2000. 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 programs that provide financial incentives to keep land in agricultural use. The California Farmland Conservancy Program makes grants available to local governments, land trusts or resource conservation districts to purchase permanent agricultural conservation easements from willing landowners. These easements prohibit future development. Farmland Security Zone and Williamson Act contracts provide potential tax benefits to landowners who commit to keeping their land in agricultural use for periods of 20 or 10 years, respectively.

In addition to administering agricultural and open-space land conservation programs, the Department of Conservation ensures the reclamation of land used for mining; promotes beverage container recycling; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells; and studies and maps earthquakes and other geologic phenomena.