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

Kern County
Comparison of Plans & Performance

Basic Plan Information Highlights

Kern County General Plan - adopted 2004

Metro Bakersfield General Plan - adopted 2002
Metro Bakersfield Plan Map

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.

The Kern County General Plan is the newest comprehensive plan update in the Valley. The Metro Bakersfield Plan is one of the few joint city-county efforts.

The City of Bakersfield recently expanded its sphere of influence (not reflected in the data here).

[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

“To contain new development within an area large enough to meet generous projections of foreseeable need, but in locations which will not impair the economic strength derived for the petroleum, agriculture, rangeland, or mineral resources, or diminish the other amenities which exist in the County.”  Goal 1, Kern County General Plan (KCGP), at 52.

 “When evaluating General Plan Amendment proposals to change a Map Code 8.1 (Intensive Agriculture) designation to accommodate residential, commercial, or industrial development, the County shall consider the following factors: a) Approval of the proposal will not unreasonably interfere with agricultural operations on surrounding lands) Past agricultural use of the site has led to soil infertility or other soil conditions which render the property unsuitable for long-term agricultural use; g) Approval of the proposed project outweighs the need to retain the land for long-term agricultural use; h) Where adjacent or within proximity (1/2 mile) to existing urban areas, the County shall discourage agricultural conversion that is discontinuous with urban development.”  Policy 9, KCGP, at 56.

“Allow for the continuance of agricultural uses in areas designated for future urban growth (I-1).”  Policy 77, Metro Bakersfield General Plan (MBGP), Land Use Element, at II-17.

“Assure that General Plan Amendment proposals for the conversion of designated agricultural lands to urban development occur in an orderly and logical manner giving full consideration to the effect on existing agricultural areas (see Chapter V, Conservation/Soils and Agriculture Policies 3 and 14)(I-15).”  Policy 80, MBGP, Land Use Element, at II-17.

Percentage of Urban & Built-Up Land outside city spheres of influence: 34% (Rank 8)

Kern County has approved 32 general plan amendments (GPA) since the plan’s adoption in 2004.  Ten of these GPA’s converted approximately 568 acres from Intensive or Extensive Agriculture to a non-agricultural use.  The largest of these converted approximately 157 acres from Intensive Agriculture to Low Medium Density Residential.  See Table 3, Approved 2004-2005 GPA in County's Annual Report.

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

Adobe Acrobat is a program that will enable you to view the map.
Click the icon to download it for free.

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

 “Conserve prime agricultural lands from premature conversion.”  Goal 5, KCGP, at 53.

Proportion of all developed 1990-2000 that was High Quality Farmland: 33% (Rank 2)

High Quality Farmland as proportion of all land in county: 19%

High Quality Farmland as a proportion of undeveloped land within city spheres of influence: 57% (Rank 4)

Land Development Quality Index: 1.74 (Rank 10)


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

Prime agricultural lands, according to the Kern County Interim-Important Farmland 2000 map produced by the Department of Conservation, which have Class I or II soils and a surface delivery water system shall be conserved through the use of agricultural zoning with minimum parcel size provisions.”  Implementation Measures, KCGP, at 59.

Kern County Plan includes three designations for agricultural land:
- Intensive Agriculture devoted to the production of irrigated crops or having potential for such use (minimum parcel size 20 acres gross);
- Resource Reserve devoted to areas of mixed natural resource characteristics including rangeland (minimum parcel size 80 acres gross);
- Extensive Agriculture devoted to uses involving large amounts of land with relatively low value-per-acre yields such as livestock grazing, dry land farming, and woodlands (minimum parcel size 20 acres gross except lands subject to a Williamson Act Contract/Farmland Security Zone Contract in which case the minimum parcel size shall be 80 acres gross).  KCGP, at 53-54. See also Land Use Maps.

Developed 1.5-10 ac ranchette acreage: 2,750 (Rank 3)

• Ranchette acreage as percentage of Urban & Built-Up Land: 3% (Rank 1)

Development on anything less than 6 acres within the "2010" Boundary of the Metro Bakersfield Plan requires sewerage; outside the boundary, residential use in the agricultural zones requires at least 20 acres. (Kern County Planning Dept.)

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

Promote higher-density residential development within the County of Kern in areas with adequate public services and infrastructure.”  Goal 4, KCGP, at 34

Discourage scattered urban density development within Kern County that is not supported by adequate infrastructure.”  Goal 3, KCGP, at 34.

"Discretionary development projects should be encouraged to incorporate innovative or “smart growth” land use planning techniques as design features, as follows: a) Higher density development, where compatible, to maximize the efficient use of land; b) Mixed use developments that promote reduced vehicle trips by having residential, commercial, and public uses proximate to each other; c) Variety of housing types, including those using energy efficient design, and densities to address Kern County’s housing needs; d) Master planned communities that feature interconnected roads, transit stops, sidewalks, landscaping, and trails to encourage efficient vehicle and pedestrian movement; e) Compact development that conserves open space, agricultural land, floodprone areas, creeks, hillsides, ridge tops, wetlands, and other natural features..” Smart Growth, Section 1.10.8, Policy 49, KCGP, at 71-72.

The “centers” concept provides for a land use pattern consisting of several concentrated mixed use commercial and high density residential centers surrounded by medium density residential uses.  MBGP, Land Use Element, at II-2 and II-13. 

Encourage infill of vacant parcels (I-10).”  Policy 86, MBGP, Land Use Element, at II-18.

People per urbanized acre 2000:
5.5 (Rank 9)

People per urbanized acre new development 1990-2000:
5.9 (Rank 10)

Undeveloped land within city spheres of influence: 339,084 acres (Rank 11); as percentage of 2020 need at current efficiencies: 691% (Rank 11)

Vehicle Miles Traveled Per Household 2000: 29,693 (Rank 9)
Change from 1990: +9.1% (Rank 11)

The City of Bakersfield just expanded its sphere of influence to include an additional 112-square miles (71,576 acres).

7,428 acres of vacant land in the San Joaquin Valley portion of the county are zoned for residential use, permitting up to 3,086 dwellings (average of 2.4 acre lots). KCGP, Housing Element, Table 29.

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 Index measures 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 development patterns that minimize auto trips between home, work, schools and shopping (as well as with levels of air pollution). [Click here for more information]

[Back to Top]