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AB-1961 Land use: planning: sustainable farmland strategy.(2013-2014)

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Amended  IN  Assembly  April 22, 2014
Amended  IN  Assembly  April 03, 2014
Amended  IN  Assembly  March 25, 2014

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2013–2014 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill No. 1961


Introduced by Assembly Member Eggman
(Principal coauthor: Senator Wolk)

February 19, 2014


An act to add Section 65040.15 to, and to add Article 10 (commencing with Section 65550) to Chapter 3 of Division 1 of Title 7 of, the Government Code, relating to land use.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1961, as amended, Eggman. Land use: planning: sustainable farmland strategy.
(1) Existing law requires the legislative body of each county and city to adopt a comprehensive, long-term general plan for the physical development of the county or city with specified elements, including, among others, a land use element that designates the proposed general distribution and general location and extent of the uses of the land for housing, business, industry, open space, including agriculture, natural resources, recreation, and enjoyment of scenic beauty, education, public buildings and grounds, solid and liquid waste disposal facilities, and other categories of public and private uses of land. Existing law authorizes a local agency to charge fees for the funding of purposes that include the preparation and revision of land use plans and policies.
This bill would require each county to also develop, on or before January 2, 2018, a sustainable farmland strategy. The bill would require the sustainable farmland strategy to include, among other things, a map and inventory of all agriculturally zoned land within the county, a description of the goals, strategies, and related policies and ordinances, to retain agriculturally zoned land where practical and mitigate the loss of agriculturally zoned land to nonagricultural uses or zones, and a page on the county’s Internet Web site with the relevant documentation for the goals, strategies, and related policies and ordinances, as specified. The bill would exempt any county with less than 4% of its land use base in agriculture, as specified. By increasing the duties of local officials, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
(2) Existing law establishes in the Office of the Governor the Office of Planning and Research with duties that include developing and adopting guidelines for the preparation of and content of mandatory elements required in city and county general plans.
This bill would require the Office of Planning and Research, when it adopts its next edition of general plan guidelines, to include best practices that support agricultural land retention and mitigation, as specified.
(3) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) California is the nation’s leader in food production and contributes significantly to our food security.
(b) California agricultural production depends on soil, water, and climate conditions found in one of only five Mediterranean growing regions on Earth.
(c) California agriculture is vulnerable to the impacts of global warming, including constrained water resources, increases in extreme weather events, and rising sea levels.
(d) California agriculture is also positioned to provide climate benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Research funded by the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program found that an acre of urban land emits 70 times more greenhouse gas emissions than an acre of irrigated crop land.
(e) California’s growing population places additional demands on both our food supply and on the development of agricultural land for nonagricultural purposes. Over the past 30 years, an average of approximately 30,000 acres of California agricultural land is permanently converted to nonagricultural uses annually.
(f) The conservation of a maximum amount of the limited supply of California’s agricultural land is necessary for the maintenance of the agricultural economy of the state, climate change mitigation, enhancement of the state’s natural resources and the assurance of an adequate, healthy and nutritious food supply for the residents of this state and nation.
(g) California’s statewide land use planning priorities include the goal of protecting, preserving, and enhancing the state’s most valuable natural resources, including working landscapes such as farm, range, and forest lands.
(h) Counties have jurisdiction over the majority of the state’s agricultural land and play a vital role in regulating the use of land, including the conservation of agricultural lands through appropriate zoning and planning activities, as well as determinations of the potential environmental impacts of proposed land use changes. When farmland is converted to nonagricultural uses, agricultural conservation easements can constitute feasible mitigation to lessen impacts on local and regional agricultural resources.
(i) It is the intent of the Legislature to ensure that counties recognize that farmland is a limited and valuable resource which must be conserved wherever possible. It is also the intent of the Legislature to ensure that counties with significant agricultural land resources prepare and carry out a sustainable farmland strategy, which along with state and regional programs, will protect, preserve, and enhance the state’s agricultural lands.
(j) Certain actions by lead agencies, including those to protect natural resources and the environment, have been identified by the Office of Planning and Research as classes of projects that do not have a significant effect on the environment, and are therefore not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act. The adoption of a sustainable farmland strategy would could be considered to be an action to protect natural resources or the environment.

SEC. 2.

 Section 65040.15 is added to the Government Code, to read:

65040.15.
 The Office of Planning and Research, when it adopts its next edition of general plan guidelines pursuant to Section 65040.2, shall include best practices that support agricultural land retention and mitigation, including, but not limited to, the following:
(a) Right to farm ordinances with real estate disclosure.
(b) Farmland mitigation ordinances.
(c) Conservation easement purchase programs.
(d) Economic incentives to promote local agriculture.
(e) Use of zoning to prevent nuisances and land use conflicts, and to promote commercial agriculture by limiting parcelization of agricultural lands.
(f) Urban growth boundaries in coordination with incorporated jurisdictions.
(g) Locally adopted thresholds of significance for California Environmental Quality Act (Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code) review for conservation of grazing lands and farmland of local importance, in addition to existing thresholds for conversion of prime farmland, unique farmland, and farmland of statewide importance.

SEC. 3.

 Article 10 (commencing with Section 65550) is added to Chapter 3 of Division 1 of Title 7 of the Government Code, to read:
Article  10. Sustainable Farmland Strategy

65550.
 For the purposes of this article, the term “agriculturally zoned land” means land that is determined by a county to be designated in agriculture as the primary purpose or use of the zone.

65551.
 (a) The board of supervisors of any county other than a county described in subdivision (e), shall develop a sustainable farmland strategy.
(b) (1) The sustainable farmland strategy shall include all of the following:
(A) A map and inventory of all agriculturally zoned lands within the county as of February 21, 2014. A county may use the county-level maps of agricultural land developed by the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program of the Department of Conservation, general plan maps, or other available local and state maps and resources.
(B) A description of the goals, strategies, and related policies and ordinances to retain agriculturally zoned land, where practical, and mitigate the loss of agriculturally zoned lands to nonagricultural uses or nonagricultural zones.
(C) A page on the county’s Internet Web site that assembles all of the relevant documentation for the goals, strategies and related policies, and ordinances, as described in subparagraphs (A) and (B), as well as reporting on the manner of compliance with this article as required by subdivision (f). The board of supervisors shall also include, on the Internet Web site, a table and map showing the location of lands enrolled in the California Land Conservation Act of 1965, also known as the Williamson Act (Article 1 (commencing with Section 51200) of Chapter 7 of Part 1 of Division 1 of Title 5).
(2) The board of supervisors of each county shall consult with the cities located within county boundaries and the local agency formation commission and the cities within county boundaries on the development of the sustainable farmland strategy for that county to ensure that the plans and policies of the cities and the local agency formation commission are taken into consideration and are compatible promote compatibility of the sustainable farmland strategy with the plans and policies of the cities and local agency formation commission, including adopted spheres of influence and municipal service reviews.
(c) A county may comply with this article by relying on existing inventories and maps of agricultural lands, and existing goals, strategies, and related policies and ordinances that substantially comply with subdivision (b). Any county complying under this subdivision shall summarize and incorporate by reference on the county’s Internet Web site a description of how each requirement of this subdivision has been met.
(d) The board of supervisors shall update the sustainable farmland strategy as determined to be necessary by the board of supervisors.
(e) Any county with less than 4 percent of its land base in agriculture, as determined by the most recent Census of Agriculture by the United States Department of Agriculture, is exempt from this article.
(f) On or before January 1, 2018, each county shall affirm compliance with this article by one of the following means:
(1) Developing and adopting a sustainable farmland strategy consistent with subdivision (b).
(2) Adopting a resolution finding determining that the existing county goals, policies, and ordinances have a functionally equivalent strategy that meets the requirements of subdivision (b), pursuant to subdivision (c).
(3) Adopting a resolution finding determining that the county’s agricultural land resources do not meet the threshold described in subdivision (e), and that the county is not required to develop a sustainable farmland strategy.

SEC. 4.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because a local agency or school district has the authority to levy service charges, fees, or assessments sufficient to pay for the program or level of service mandated by this act, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code.