Agricultural & Open Space Preservation

Contra Costa LAFCO adopts Agricultural & Open Space Preservation Policy

Contra Costa LAFCO is pleased to announce the final adoption of its Agricultural & Open Space Preservation Policy (AOSPP).

After 18 months of policy work and extensive stakeholder outreach and input, on December 14, 2016, the Commission finalized its first-ever AOSPP. The policy reflects the interests of the many stakeholders in Contra Costa County, including the agricultural, environmental and development communities. We extend our sincere thanks to all who participated and provided input.

Why Did Contra Costa LAFCO Adopt an Agricultural & Open Space Preservation Policy?

LAFCO’s are charged with:

  • Encouraging orderly formation of cities and special districts
  • Preserving agricultural and open space lands
  • Curbing urban sprawl
  • Encouraging efficient delivery of services

LAFCO’s mission involves balancing the competing needs for efficient services, affordable housing, economic opportunity, and preservation and protection of our valuable agricultural and natural resources.

LAFCOs are governed by the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (CKH), which has as one of its central tenets the limitation of premature conversion and loss of California’s open space and agricultural lands. Generally, the CKH states:

56001. The Legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of the state to encourage orderly growth and development which are essential to the social, fiscal, and economic well-being of the state. The Legislature recognizes that the logical formation and determination of local agency boundaries is an important factor in promoting orderly development and in balancing that development with sometimes competing state interests of discouraging urban sprawl, preserving open-space and prime agricultural lands, and efficiently extending government services.

Further, the CKH lays out basic guidelines that LAFCOs shall follow in considering boundary change proposals:

56377. In reviewing and approving or disapproving proposals which could reasonably be expected to induce, facilitate, or lead to the conversion of existing open-space lands to uses other than open-space uses, the commission shall consider all of the following policies and priorities:

1. 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 nonprime agricultural lands, unless that action would not promote the planned, orderly, efficient development of an area.

2. Development of existing vacant or nonprime agricultural lands for urban uses within the existing jurisdiction of a local agency or within the sphere of influence of a local agency should be encouraged before any proposal is approved which would allow for or lead to the development of existing open-space lands for non-open-space uses which are outside of the existing jurisdiction of the local agency or outside of the existing sphere of influence of the local agency

Beyond these basic guidelines, LAFCOs are required to develop local policies that encourage efficient urban development while preserving open-space and agricultural lands.

What is the purpose of LAFCO’s Agricultural & Open Space Preservation Policy?

The purpose of the Contra Costa LAFCO’s AOSPP is threefold: 1) to provide guidance to the applicant on how to assess the impacts on prime agricultural, agricultural and open space lands of applications submitted to LAFCO, and enable the applicant to explain how the applicant intends to mitigate those impacts; 2) to provide a framework for LAFCO to evaluate and process in a consistent manner, applications before LAFCO that involve or impact prime agricultural, agricultural and/or open space lands; and 3) to explain to the public how LAFCO will evaluate and assess applications that affect prime agricultural, agricultural and/or open space lands.

The LAFCO AOSPP contains goals, policies and guidelines for the applicant as well as for LAFCO.

GOALS - Agriculture and open space are vital and essential to Contra Costa County’s economy and environment. Accordingly, boundary changes for urban development should be proposed, evaluated, and approved in a manner that is consistent with the continuing growth and vitality of agriculture within the county. Open space lands provide the region with invaluable public benefits for all who visit, live and work in Contra Costa County.

POLICIES - Contra Costa LAFCO encourages planned, well-ordered, efficient urban development patterns with appropriate consideration to preserving open space, agricultural and prime agricultural lands within those patterns. LAFCO’s Agricultural and Open Space Preservation Policy provides for a mitigation hierarchy which 1) encourages avoidance of impacts to prime agricultural, agricultural and open space lands, 2) minimizes impacts to these lands, and 3) mitigates impacts that cannot be avoided while pursuing orderly growth and development.

GUIDELINES - The Guidelines are intended to provide further direction regarding the application of LAFCO’s Goals and Policies; to advise and assist the public, agencies, property owners, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders with regard to LAFCO’s expectations in reviewing an application that involves prime agricultural, agricultural and/or open space lands; and to provide sample mitigation measures.

Frequently Asked Questions

To provide further clarification on key issues, and respond to a number of recurrent questions and misperceptions, the LAFCO Policy Committee prepared a Frequently Asked Questions document.

For more information regarding the LAFCO AOSPP, please see Background and Chronology.

Questions? Please call the LAFCO Office at (925) 335-1094 or email us at