Contract Cancellations

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UPDATE: Senate Bill 574 Effective January 1st, 2022

Senate Bill 574 impacts several administrative processes involving the Williamson Act. This page has been updated to reflect changes to the cancellation process. For a general overview of all changes to the Williamson Act, see ​the SB 574 Summary Sheet.

SB 574 removed the requirement that cancellation petitions be sent to the Department of Conservation (Department) for review and comment, thus removing the 30-day waiting period prior to local jurisdictions scheduling a public hearing. Further, Farmland Security Zone cancellations no longer require approval by the Department Director. Additionally, the number of notifications required to be sent to the Department have been reduced to the following:

  1. ​Tentative Certificate of Cancellation (this should include the resolution showing the required findings and certified cancellation fee amount)

  2. Final Certificate of Cancellation

  3. Withdrawal of Certificate of Tentative Cancellation (If applicable)


Cancelling a Williamson Act Contract

A Williamson Act contract cancellation is an option under limited circumstances and conditions set forth in Government Code (GC) § 51280 et seq. In such cases, landowners may petition a board/council for Williamson Act contract cancellation. The board/council may grant tentative cancellation only if it makes required statutory findings GC § 51282(a). Cancellation of a Farmland Security Zone contract is subject to GC § 51297 , and requires additional findings compared with a standard Williamson Act contract.

If the required findings are met, the landowner is required to pay a cancellation fee equal to 12.5 percent of the cancellation valuation (unrestricted fair market value) of the property, or 25 percent for a Farmland Security Zone contract.

The Department has prepared two documents outlining the process of cancelling Williamson Act Contracts:

  1. Williamson Act Cancellation Process Guide for Local Governments (COMING SOON)
  2. Williamson Act General Cancellation Process(UPDATED TO REFLECT SB574)

More Information

For further information on the Cancellation process:

  • Landowners should contact their local County/City government that holds the contract.  Local governments may have additional requirements beyond the government code.

In the Departments continuing effort to migrate to a paperless environment, all documents and related materials can be submitted digitally to:

David Shabazian, Director
Department Of Conservation
c/o Division of Land Resource Protection​

lca@conservation.ca.gov


​​Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Contract Cancellations:​



A Williamson Act contract is an enforceable restriction pursuant to Article 13, section 8 of the California Constitution and §51252. Williamson Act contracts are not intended to be cancelled and in fact, cancellation is reserved for unusual, "emergency" situations. Therefore, the nine-year nonrenewal process has been identified as the legally preferred method for terminating a Williamson Act contract.

The Supreme Court has stated that cancellation is not appropriate where the objectives served by cancellation could be served by nonrenewal, (See Sierra Club v. City of Hayward (1981) 28 Cal.3d 840, 852-853).

The State of California’s Attorney General’s Office has opined that cancellation is impermissible “except upon extremely stringent conditions”, (62 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 233, 240, (1979). The Attorney General has also opined that nonrenewal is the preferred contract termination method: “If a landowner desires to change the use of his land under contract to uses other than agricultural production and compatible uses, the proper procedure is to give notices of nonrenewal pursuant to section 51245.” (54 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen 90, 92 (1971).)​​​​​​​