NR 2002-27
June 18, 2002

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


SACRAMENTO -- The pace of urbanization in Santa Barbara County from 1998-2000 increased compared to 1996-98, and a significant amount of new cultivated land – primarily vineyards but also some row crops – was created, according to 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 Santa Barbara County, 1,491 net acres of land were urbanized during the current mapping cycle compared to 264 acres during the 1996-98 cycle. Much of the urbanization took place in the Santa Maria area, including the Cherry Blossom Ranch Homes, Montalagre Homes, the River Oaks Housing Division and an expanded water treatment plant. Also noted were 20 acres of new homes in Santa Ynez and structures occupying 70 acres in the vicinity of Vandenberg Air Force Base.

There are 4,536 more acres of urbanized land in Santa Barbara County now than there were in 1990. However, there are also 8,321 more cultivated acres. Most of that has come from the conversion of grazing land. During the 1998-2000 mapping cycle, 5,404 new acres of cultivated land were created.

Looking ahead, the county reports that 1,062 acres – including 775 acres of farmland – have been committed to non-agricultural use in the future. Often, this is land earmarked for development. In some cases infrastructure development, such as sewer installation, may be underway.

Of the 1,039,816 acres in Santa Barbara County, 13 percent are farmland, 56 percent are grazing land, 6 percent are urban land and 24 percent are “other” land – a category that includes wetlands, low-density “ranchettes” and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing from 1998-2000. The remainder is water area.

The map has been sent to Santa Barbara County planning officials. Interested parties such as the county Farm Bureau, Local Agency Formation Commission, planning consultants and the county resource conservation district 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 Santa Barbara County and other local governments balance the needs of a growing population with those of the agricultural economy."

Santa Barbara 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 415,600 to 521,200 in 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of Santa Barbara County's agricultural production was more than $739 million in 2000, ranking it 14th among the state's 58 counties.

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. A new statewide report will be released this summer.

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