NR 2002-41
September 17, 2002

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


SACRAMENTO -- The pace of urbanization in San Diego County from 1998-2000 increased notably compared to 1996-98, 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.

Thanks to the use of very high-resolution aerial photography provided by the San Diego Association of Governments, the new map for the county portrays land-use boundaries more accurately than ever before.

In San Diego County, 12,437 net acres were added to the urban category during the current mapping cycle. During the 1996-98 cycle, the amount of urban land increased by 4,322 acres. On average, the county gained about 7,000 acres of urban land per update during the ‘90s.

The FMMP survey shows that San Diego County has 3,762 fewer farmland acres and 4,717 fewer grazing land acres than in 1996-98. Since the 1990 survey, San Diego County has lost 12,493 farmland acres and 14,525 grazing land acres.

Looking ahead, San Diego County reports that 9,007 acres – including 3,711 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.

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

Of the 2,166,691 acres mapped in San Diego County, 69 percent was categorized as “other” land, 15 percent as urbanized land, 9 percent as farmland and 6.4 percent as grazing land. “Other” land includes low-density "ranchettes," wetlands and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing.

San Diego 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 by about one million by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of San Diego County's agricultural production was nearly $1.29 billion in 2001, ranking it eighth among the state's 58 counties.

Following are examples of new or additional urban uses in San Diego County. Construction is continuing in some of these locations, so acreages may not represent the actual extent of buildout. All acreage totals are approximate:

  • The Meadows Del Mar golf course and surrounding homes totaling about 800 acres east of the Del Mar Country Club.

  • The Auld Golf Course Community (475 acres), housing around the Eastlake Country Club (150 acres) and the Otay Ranch development (360 acres) in the Chula Vista area.

  • The Bridges at Santa Fe Golf Club and Questhaven (250 acres) near Rancho Santa Fe.

  • The Madera Golf Club and surrounding homes (300 acres) west of Rancho Bernardo.

  • A new hotel/casino development on 300 acres of the Barona Indian Reservation.

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.