The Future is Now: Central Valley Farmland at the Tipping Point?
Executive Summary
Resumen Ejecutivo
Current Trends
     Population Growth
  Farmland Use and Development
  Quality of Farmland Developed
  Efficiency of Urban Development
  "Ranchettes" & Other Rural Development
  Agricultural Trends
Local Plans & Performance
  Analytical Method
  Sutter County
  Sacramento County
  Yolo County
  San Joaquin County
  Stanislaus County
  Merced County
  Madera County
  Fresno County
  Tulare County
  Kings County
  Kern County
Where is The Valley Heading?
Time for Change
  Ideas for Change
What You Can Do
  Rank Your County
  Local Official Contacts
  Local Organizations
  Support AFT
Methodology & Background Data
About AFT in California

Madera County
Comparison of Plans & Performance

Basic Plan Information Highlights

Madera County General Plan - adopted 1995

City of Madera General Plan

Madera LAFCO Policies

We are sorry that we were not able to provide planning information for every city in the county. If officials or residents of those cities provide us with relevant data and information, we will make every effort to update this web site.

Madera County was one of the best in the Valley at avoiding development of high quality farmland in the 1990s.

[Click for a Table Summarizing County Performance Data and Rank Compated to Other Counties]

Do local plans and their implementation provide certainty by clearly and consistently (without too many changes) indicating where urban development should occur and where agriculture should remain the preferred, long-term use of land?

[Click here for an explanation of this question]
What the Plans Intend
What Is Actually Happening

“The County shall maintain agriculturally-designated areas for agriculture and direct urban uses to designated new growth areas, existing communities, and/or cities.  Policy 5.A.1, Madera County General Plan (MCGP), at 51.

“The County shall allow the conversion of existing agricultural land to urban uses only within designated urban and rural growth areas, new growth areas, and within city spheres of influence where designated for urban development on the General Plan Land Use Diagram.” Policy 5.A.5, MCGP, at 51.

“The County shall encourage infill development in urban areas as an alternative to expanding urban boundaries into agriculturally-designated areas.”  Policy 5.A.9, MCGP, at 51.

“Development of existing vacant or prime agricultural lands for urban uses within the jurisdiction or sphere of influence of a local agency shall be encouraged before any proposal is approved which would allow for or lead to the development of prime agricultural or open space lands outside the jurisdiction or sphere of influence of any local agency.”  Policy 2.10.4, LAFCO Policies, Guidelines and Procedures, at 30.

[Click here to see a map of actual development 1990-2000]

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Percentage of urban & built-up land outside city spheres of influence:
44% (Rank 11)

New growth areas include Gunner Ranch West and Rio Mesa, just north of the county line across from Fresno-Clovis, totaling 1,867 acres.

Do local plans and their implementation avoid development of high quality farmland in favor of less productive land?

[Click here for an explanation of this question]
What the Plans Intend
What Is Actually Happening
Development or use of land for other than open space uses shall be guided away from existing prime agricultural lands in open space use toward areas containing non prime agricultural lands unless that action undermines adopted County or City land use plans.”  Policy 2.10.3, LAFCO Policies, Guidelines and Procedures, at 30.

Proportion of all land developed 1990-2000 that was High Quality Farmland: 34% (Rank 3)

High Quality Farmland as proportion of all land in county*: 41%

* Note: This includes only the 64% of the county that was mapped by FMMP, thus excluding undevelopable terrain.

High Quality Farmland as a proportion of undeveloped land within city spheres of influence in 2000: 55% (Rank 3)

Land Development Quality Index: 0.83 (Rank 1)

Do local plans and their implementation protect agriculture by limiting and buffering incompatible residential development?

[Click here for an explanation of this issue]

What the Plans Intend
What Is Actually Happening
Beyond community areas, the vast majority of land on the Valley floor is designated “Agricultural Exclusive” (678,860 acres) which provides for agricultural uses. The minimum parcel size is 36 to 640 acres.  Allowable residential development includes up to 2 single family homes per parcel, secondary residential units, caretaker/employee housing and farm worker housing.  Sizable areas are also designated for “Agriculture” (40,612 acres) with a minimum parcel size of 18 acres; "Agriculture Residential" (minimum parcel size 10 acres); and "Rural Estate Residential" (minimum parcel size 5 acres). MCGP, at 7 and 1995 Land Use Diagram.  See also, Table 2-2, MCGP Final Environmental Impact Report, Oct. 1995, at 2-6.

Developed 1.5-10 ac ranchette acreage 2002: 24,249 (Rank 10)

Ranchette acreage as percentage of Urban & Built-Up Land:
106% (Rank 11)

Agricultural land zoned to permit residential dwellings on lots of 20 acres or smaller: 82,307 acres within Agricultural Residential (10 ac) and Rural Residential (5 ac) zones. MCGP Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), Oct. 1995, Table 2-2, at 2-6. This would allow a minimum of 8,230 new rural residences in the county.

[Click here for map of rural ranchette development in Madera County] PDF

Do local plans and their implementation promote efficient "smart" development that minimizes farmland conversion while making communities more livable and sustainable?

[Click here for an explanation of this issue]
What the Plans Intend
What Is Actually Happening

 “The County shall promote the efficient use of land and natural resources.”  Policy 1.A.1, MCGP, at 15.

“The County shall require that the planning and design of new growth areas carries out the following objectives:
a. Concentrate higher-density residential uses and appropriate support services along segments of the transportation system …
b. Support concentration of medium and high-density residential uses and higher intensities of non-residential uses near existing or future transit stops …
c. Support the development of integrated mixed-use areas.” Policy 1.B.2, MCGP, at 17.

People per urbanized acre 2000:
3.5 (Rank 11)

People per urbanized acre of new development 1990-2000:
10.4 (Rank 2)

Note: Efficiency in the 1990s may be inflated by counting the population of new prisons built in the county.

Undeveloped land within city spheres of influence: 20,717 acres (Rank 3) as a percentage of 2020 need at current efficiencies: 355% (Rank 10)

Of 28,846 acres zoned by the County for urban residential use, 93% are earmarked for low (1-7.5 DU/Ac) and very low (max 2 DU/Ac) density development. MCGP FEIR, Oct. 1995, Table 2-2, at 2-7 to 2-8.

Floor-to-area ratios (FAR) for commercial uses range from .40 to 1.00, with 1.00 applicable to future area plans.  Industrial FAR’s range from .50 to .90.  MCGP, at 11.

Note on Ranking: The Central Valley counties included in this report are ranked to enable a comparison of their performance in preserving farmland and encouraging "smart growth." A rank of 1 (among the 11 counties studied) indicates the best relative performance, a rank of 11 indicates the worst relative performance. Rankings are based on percentage change (where it is given), amount of change (where no percentage change is given) or the absolute number (where no change is given).

Land Development Quality Indexmeasures how well the local jurisdictions in a county have avoided the development of High Quality Farmland (HQF) by taking advantage of the available options for encouraging development of lower productivity land. It is the ratio of the percentage of development during 1990-2000 that occurred on HQF to the percentage of all land in the county mapped by FMMP that is HQF. The latter excudes undevelopable areas such as deserts and mountains. An LDQI greater than 1.0 indicates that the county is not taking full advantage of its alternatives.

Vehicles Miles Traveled Per Household is closely correlated with efficient land use patterns that minimize auto trips between home, work, schools and shopping (as well as with levels of air pollution). [Click here for more information]

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