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

San Joaquin County
Comparison of Plans & Performance

Basic Plan Information Highlights

San Joaquin County General Plan - adopted 1992

[San Joaquin General Plan Map]
Must choose General Plan from menu at bottom left on this web site.

City of Stockton General Plan - adopted 1990
Update In Progress
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San Joaquin LAFCo

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.

In 1994, San Joaquin County approved the Mountain House New Community in the foothills west of Tracy. This new town seems to have some good features: it avoided development of high quality farmland and has a town center (which still has not been built).

The cities of Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy require a fee to mitigate the conversion of farmland. Both the City of Stockton and San Joaquin County are considering similar programs.

[Click for a Table Summarizing County Performance Data and Rank Compared 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

“Provide a well-organized and orderly development pattern that seeks to concentrate urban development and protect the County’s agricultural and natural resources.”  Land Use Goal, San Joaquin General Plan, (SJGP), Vol. I, at III-1.

“The County will plan sufficient land to accommodate the growth assumed by this Plan either within urban communities, rural communities, or rural areas:
- Urban communities, including incorporated cities and unincorporated communities, shall accommodate the vast majority of the development, because it is in these areas that urban services exist or are expected.  In particular, growth shall be directed to the cities as much as possible.
- Rural communities shall growth primarily through infill and should not be expanded.
- Rural areas encompass all land outside designated communities and shall accommodate minimal growth because open space and agricultural preservation are paramount in these areas.” SJGP, Vol. I, at III-2 and Policies 1, 2 and 3 at IV-5.

“Agricultural Land Conversion.  The County shall establish guidelines for conversion of agricultural land to urban development.  These guidelines shall address various categories of agricultural lands, lands under Williamson Act contract, and annexation of lands for urban development (Planning).”  Implementation Measure 10, SJGP, Vol. I, at IV-12.

General Plan amendments must be based on criteria, including: “the potential for the project to create premature development pressure on surrounding agricultural lands.”   Implementation Measure 13, SJGP, Vol. I, at IV-13.

“Guide urban development toward vacant or under-used land within the urbanized area and direct new growth toward contiguous lands to protect agricultural lands ... from premature urban development.”  Goal 1, City of Stockton General Plan (CSGP), at III-37.

"To promote the permanent protection of agricultural lands outside the Urban Service Area to the north and east ..." Goal LU-2, Draft City of Stockton General Plan 2050, at 3-9. [Note: In the current draft, the term 'permanent' has been stricken out.]

“A proposal [for annexation] establishing urban encroachment of areas designated by the County General Plan for open space or agricultural use will be opposed unless it complies with a previously adopted Sphere of Influence of an incorporated City.”  San Joaquin LAFCo, Policy L. 

Percentage of urban & built-up land outside city spheres of influence: 11% (Rank 2)

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

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Between 1983 and 2000, the county approved 14 general plan amendments, converting 218 acres of farmland to urban use (in addition to 4,800 acres in the Mountain Home new town). San Joaquin County Community Development Dept (SJCCDD)

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

“Following the completion of the Farmland Mapping Program, the County should immediately evaluate land use designations within areas defined as “Prime Farmland,” “Farmland of Statewide Importance,” “Unique Farmland,” and “Farmland of Local Significance.”  General Plan Amendments should be undertaken to protect these agricultural areas and to relocate planned development to less important farming land.”  Implementation Measure 1, SJGP, Vol. I, at VI-13 to 14.

“After completion of the Farmland Mapping Program, an agricultural zoning with a minimum parcel size of no less than 80 acres shall be considered for highly productive agricultural areas.”  Implementation Measure 5, SJGP, Vol. I, at VI-15.



Proportion of all land developed 1990-2000 that was High Quality Farmland: 75% (Rank 9)

High Quality Farmland as a proportion of all FMMP mapped land in county: 63%

High Quality Farmland as a percentage of land within city spheres of influence: 71% (Rank 7)

Land Development Quality Index: 1.19 (Rank 6)

Much of the high quality farmland in the Delta is zoned for 80 acre minimum parcels.

The City of Stockton plans a significant expansion of its sphere of influence (planned development area) to encompass 123,000 acres, three times the size of the current urbanized area. Almost 72,000 acres (87%) of the undeveloped land within this area are High Quality Farmland. Table 2-7, Stockton GPA Goals and Policy Report, at 2-9

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

“To protect agricultural lands needed for the continuation of commercial agricultural enterprises, small-scale farming operations and the preservation of open space.”  Objective 1, SJGP, Vol. I, at VI-10.

“The following agricultural land use categories shall be established to promote a range of agricultural activities and preserve open space:  General Agriculture, Limited Agriculture, and Agriculture-Urban Reserve.”  Policy 1, SJGP, Vol. I, at VI-10.

- General – areas suitable for agriculture outside areas planned for urban development and generally committed to agriculture with viable commercial agricultural enterprises that require large land areas to efficiently produce their crops. (Maximum of 1 unit per 20 gross acres).
- Limited – areas with small-scale agricultural operations on 5-10 acres. (Maximum of 1 unit per 5 acres).
- Urban Reserve – areas currently undeveloped and perhaps in agricultural production but expected to be converted to urban uses at some point, most likely beyond the planning period of this plan (2010).  (Maximum of 1 unit per 20 acres). SJGP, Vol. I, Table III-1, at III-5-III-6.  SJGP, Vol. I, at VI-10-11.

“To protect agricultural land, non-agricultural uses which are allowed in the agricultural areas should be clustered, and strip or scattered development should be prohibited.”  Policy 8, SJGP, Vol. I, at VI-13.

“Non-agricultural land uses as the edge of agricultural areas shall incorporate adequate buffers (e.g. fences and setbacks) to prevent conflicts with adjoining agricultural operations.”  Policy 10, SJGP, Vol. I, at VI-13.

Developed 1.5-10 ac ranchette acreage: 18,105 (Rank 9)

1.5-10 ac Ranchettes as a percentage of urbanized land: 24% (Rank 8)

There are 38,800 acres in San Joaquin County on which residential development is permitted on parcels ranging between 5 and 20 acres, generally in areas where the land has already been subdivided into small tracts. About 3,960 ranchette homes could be built on this land. SJCCDD

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

”Development should occur on vacant lots within existing communities as “infill” before extending beyond the current developed areas of the community.”  Policy 6, SJGP, Vol. I, at IV-5. 

Mixed use development (a combination of residential, commercial, and/or civic uses) shall be encouraged in urban communities, provided it does not create land use conflicts and provides for a close physical and functional relationship of project components.”  Policy 9, SJGP, Vol. I, at IV-6.

New communities shall be ... located to minimize development of prime agricultural land and directed away from significant environmental resources ... be developed at urban densities ...[and] contain a circulation system that provides for automobiles, pedestrians, bicycles, and public transit” [among other criteria].  Policy 19, SJGP, Vol. I, at IV-7 to 8.

‘Land use planning shall promote the use of public transit, bicycles, and other alternatives to the personal automobile.”  Policy 6, SJGP, Vol. I, at IV-130.

“Encourage the development of integrated, mixed use projects on large parcels that can accommodate a variety of compatible land uses.”  Goal 1, CSGP, at III-10.

“Promote development and redevelopment within the City of those areas already served, or which may be readily served, by City services and facilities, in order to maintain and revitalize the existing urban area.”  Goal 2, CSGP, at III-2.

People per urbanized acre 2000:
6.8 (Rank 3)

People per urbanized acre, new development 1990-2000:
8.4 (Rank 7)

Undeveloped land within city spheres of influence:
66,378 acres (Rank 9)
130% of 2020 need at current development efficiencies (Rank 3)

“The dominant land use designation on the [general plan map] diagram is low-density residential.”  CSGP, at II-1.

According to the draft City of Stockton General Plan Update, 84% of the dwelling units and 63% of the land being planned for them will be low-density residential averaging about 4.5 units per acre. Table 4-3, Stockton GPA Goals and Policy Report, at 4-4.

Vehicle Miles Traveled Per Household 2000: 11,697 (Rank 5)
Change from 1990: 4% (Rank 5)

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.

Vehicle 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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The Future Is Now:
at the Tipping Point?