NR 2002-37
August 26, 2002

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


SACRAMENTO -- The pace of urbanization in Monterey County from 1998-2000 increased compared to 1996-98, and a significant amount of land was reclassified from dryland agricultural uses to vineyards and other irrigated crops, according to a new map from 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 Monterey County, 2,457 net acres were added to the urban category during the current mapping cycle. The amount of urban land increased by 800 acres during the 1996-98 cycle.

There is a net increase of 14,611 acres in the Important Farmland categories on the new map, most of it in vineyards. It should be noted that some of that increase took place between 1994 and 1998, when air photo coverage of the county was incomplete. A complete set of high-resolution air photos and satellite data was available for the current update. Large vineyards have been planted throughout the county, including one of 1,260 acres in the San Ardo area and another of 1,150 acres in the Hames Valley.

Since the 1990 survey, Monterey County has gained nearly 14,000 net acres of Important Farmland – bucking the statewide trend – as well as about 7,300 acres of urban land.

Looking ahead, Monterey County reports that 1,298 acres 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.

The map has been sent to Monterey County planning officials. Interested parties such as the county Farm Bureau, Local Agency Formation Commission, city planners, irrigation districts 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 Monterey County and other local governments balance the needs of a growing population with those of the agricultural economy."

Of the 2,121,128 acres mapped in Monterey County, 50 percent was categorized as grazing land, 11 percent as farmland, 36 percent as “other” land and 2.5 percent as urbanized land. “Other” land includes wetlands, low-density "ranchettes" and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing.

Monterey 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 381,000 to 539,000 in 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of Monterey County's agricultural production was more than $2.9 billion in 2000, ranking it third among the state's 58 counties.

Following are examples of farmland with new or additional urban uses in Monterey County:

  • The 75-acre East Ranch Business Park, a 40-acre sewage treatment plant expansion, and the 10-acre Delicato Monterra wine processing facility in King City.

  • Ventana High School (40 acres) and two housing developments totaling about 85 acres in Greenfield.

  • The 50-acre Paraiso Estates/Gabilan Views housing development, a new school (20 acres) and the Boronda Adobe History Center (10 acres) in Salinas.

  • The San Vicente Townhomes (25 acres) and another 30-acre housing development in Soledad.

In addition to 48 conversions of farmland to urban land, FMMP mappers noted numerous conversions of grazing or other land to urban land; for example, the 445-acre Pasadera Golf Course community near Laguna Seca and a new golf course (130 acres) south of Carmel Valley.

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 fall.

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.