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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


A Look at the Benefits of California’s Voter-Created UGB’s: Urban Growth Boundaries


Compiled by Rex Frankel

UGB’s are direct-democracy over urbanization, where voters take direct control of development decisions from politicians to prevent the spread of urban sprawl into farmlands and wildlife areas. Combined with well-funded parks agencies and land trusts, UGB’s have helped to permanently preserve a balance between economic development and environmental and farmland protection, preserving 100’s of thousands of acres of land. Here is (hopefully) a complete list of UGB’s and other forms of direct-democracy-over-developments in California:




Healdsburg (71%), Cotati (71% of the vote), Petaluma (79%), Santa Rosa (59%), Sebastopol (66%), Windsor (72%). The only city without a UGB is Cloverdale:

has saved 19,000 acres since 1976

Since 1992, the District has preserved over 33,000 acres of productive farmland using conservation easements and outright purchase




Since its birth, the organization has permanently preserved over 40,500 acres of farmland that might otherwise have been sold or developed.—buys conservation easements on farmland

winter 2007-2008 newsletter: In 1972, Marin residents set a vision, a course, a new countywide plan with the goal to preserve 26,000 acres. Half of those acres are now protected as Open Space preserves. Another page says 18,000 acres saved or 34 parks totaling 14,675 acres



Ag conversion to urban requires vote of entire county, extended to 2058 in 11/2008 election

City of Napa UGB adopted with 77% yes vote.

We have preserved over 50,000 acres of land

In November of 2006 Napa County voters approved Measure I establishing the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District.


Solano County:

CITIES WITH URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARIES: Fairfield and Benicia approved in 11/2003. Vacaville city council adopted an UGB in 2008.

Countywide ag conversion to urban requiring vote of public extended to 2028 in 11/2008 election

Since its founding in 1986, Solano Land Trust has permanently protected 19,403 acres of land for the current and future residents of Solano County.



San Mateo County:

Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District,

Owns over 57,000 acres in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties

Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving 60,000 acres as permanent open space and parkland in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.


Santa Clara County:

CITIES WITH URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARIES: Milpitas (55% yes vote), San Jose, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Morgan Hill, Monte Sereno, Palo Alto.

jurisdiction includes all of SC county except the territory of Mid Peninsula ROSD;

has saved 14,494 acres:



URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARIES: in the East county and Castro Valley—passed 11/2000

--City of Pleasanton UGB, passed with 75% yes vote.

the East Bay Regional Park District spans more than 98,000 acres in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties,

Contra Costa:

“In 1990, county voters directed the county to adopt an urban limit line that ensured no more than 35% of the county would be developed. The county adopted a loose urban limit line at first, and in 2000 it tightened the boundary by 14,000 acres, angering a number of city officials. Although the urban limit line is a policy of the county and not the cities, the Local Agency Formation Commission largely abided by the county-drawn boundary.”

Voters approved the Contra Costa County Urban Limit Line in November 2006, putting Tassajara Valley off-limits to development.

the Muir Heritage Land Trust has permanently preserved over 2000 acres of natural area in Contra Costa County


Santa Barbara:

City of Santa Barbara—UGB passed by City Council

City of Buellton UGB, passed in 11/2008 by voters


San Luis Obispo County:

Measure M to require a countywide vote to convert agricultural or open space lands outside of existing cities to urban was rejected by voters in 2000.


Santa Cruz County:

has successfully saved over 21,000 acres of redwood forest lands in the Santa Cruz Mountains;

new map:


Ventura County:

UGB’s for all cities and county adopted by voters between 1995 and 2001. UGB’s have not been adopted for the cities of Port Hueneme and Ojai.



An excellent review of growth boundaries in the Central Valley is in this study:

Yolo County:

To date, Yolo Land Trust has helped landowners place conservation easements on almost 7000 acres, permanently protecting their land for future generations.

From County Parks and OS plan: approximately 1,820 acres in the current (2005) inventory.

Agreements between Yolo County and its cities limit new development to areas within the cities' spheres of influence.

12/14/2006 update of Capay valley general plan: A designation of Urban Growth Boundary as a new policy amendment is proposed to be added to the Land Use maps of the new General Plan. Although the 1982 contained a dotted line around the communities of Capay, Guinda, and Rumsey there was nothing explaining its designation.

permanent ugb and os protection study for city of Woodland—expected to reach voters in 11/2005

also see plan at

We have already protected, or partnered to protect, over 2,400 acres of sensitive wildlife habitat and farmland. Measure O is a $24 dollar a year dwelling unit tax which will, at the end of 30 years, have raised $17.5 million dollars for the acquisition of open space within the Davis planning area.

We currently estimate that the city will be able to protect and maintain about 2,200 acres of open space with the proceeds from this tax. Measure O did pass on Nov 7, 2000 with the popular support of the citizens of Davis.


Stanislaus County:

Modesto—UGB approved by city council action

Countywide ag conversion to urban requires vote of public until 2038—OK’d 2/2008


Fresno County:

County planners have pushed restrictions on westward development where the best soils are located.

Tulare County:

In 1974, the eight incorporated cities and the Tulare County Association of Governments adopted the first plan in the Valley to include urban growth boundaries. The plan was amended in 1988. The County plan is also among the only ones in the Valley to explicitly consider the plans of adjoining jurisdictions. (TCGP, Background Report, at 3-72 to 3-75) The County's Rural Valley Lands Plan was one of the first comprehensive farmland preservation plans in the nation, containing an innovative point system for determining when and where development is appropriate. The City of Visalia's general plan includes an innovative set of three concentric growth boundaries pegged to population, thus establishing a standard for average per capita land consumption that could be a model for the Valley. The City of Farmersville won a 2004 Outstanding Planning Award from the American Planning Association for its innovative general plan featuring farmland preservation and smart growth.


Los Angeles County:

L.A. County does not have any UGB’s. As the county is mostly built-out, there are only a few areas facing significant development pressure that are not within an existing city’s limits. Two notable exceptions are the western Santa Clarita Valley which is owned by the currently bankrupt Newhall Land Company, and the Exxon-Mobil owned parcel in the Chino Hills wildlife corridor in the far eastern county.

Leading the charge in preserving land, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and sister agency the Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority have helped to preserve over 60,000 acres of parkland in both wilderness and urban settings linking a ring of preserved lands surrounding the sprawl of L.A. County. See or for more information.


Orange County:

City of San Clemente
11/2008: Voters approved a measure prohibiting rezoning or development of open space lands without voter approval

City of San Juan Capistrano
11/2008: Voters showed their support of open space by approving Measure X, which prohibits any change in designation of open space lands without voter approval


San Diego County:

City of Escondido—vote required for major projects within the existing city boundaries since 1998.

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