Current Watershed General Plans

Land Use: All low density (2004 data)

Impacts of development, even at low density levels, will be felt throughout the study area.

This layer displays all low density layers up to 80 acre parcel planning levels. The county general plan data layers were compiled by the California Resources Agency (see General Plan Map document (PDF, 123 KB)). Understanding the level of planned suburban/exurban development allowed by the general plans was the catalyst for the SRWP rural residential program. The fundamental challenge is to understand under what conditions does the allowable zoning get built out. Another way of stating this circumstance is: at what rate does the Sacramento Watershed’s current agricultural uses convert to urban/suburban/exurban uses. Many questions follow onto that transformation; one central question is: what are the implications and impacts of the fundamental ecosystem change that occurs when agriculture converts to urban uses?

Land Use: Very low density (2004 data)

Very low density plans comprise a significant portion of all low density planned development.

Very low density residential (VLDR) is defined as 20 to 160 acre minimums. Very low density areas and low density areas differ in general plans from county to county. These categories were normalized in the California Resources Agency mapping project, which is discussed in the General Plan Map white paper (PDF, 123 KB)..

Very low density parcels of 20 to 160 acres are generally too small to be viable farms, unless high value crops are farmed intensively which is the exception in the Sacramento Watershed. Many farms of this size have been called "hobby farms" or "gentlemen farms" as very little if any revenue is generated from the land.

This size parcel is also subject to subdivision into four smaller parcels or less, without a requirement for a "planned unit development" or environmental requirements. Some counties have instituted an environmental checklist for the applicant, which is quite simple to fill out, and leads to a "negative declaration" of environmental impacts.

Land Use: Very low/Low density (2004 data)

Combining the very low density with the low density plans results in most of the total development planned in the study area.

The combination of very low density residential (VLDR) and low density residential (LDR) show the extent of currently planned rural residential development in the Sacramento Valley. Cumulatively, the conversion of agricultural grazing lands to this rural suburban/exurban land use will have very significant impacts. However, within these zoning categories, there is rarely any environmental review. The only review of this category of zoning occurs at the time of the general plan revision. During those processes, and because the Sacramento Watershed is under intense pressure from growth, attention is usually focused on medium density levels and lower. Those are the projects that are driven by major development corporations, and receive intense scrutiny in public debate as well as environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA); these large scale developments are infrequently sponsored by local builders.

The VLDR and LDR zoning categories, on the other hand, are usually owned locally by citizens who vote locally. Political pressure is intense to allow development as well as small scale subdivision. The map shows existing patterns of zoning; these areas are already planned and allow for the kind of suburban/exurban uses that convert existing agricultural uses. Any kind of political resistance or change to this status quo, and momentum for more VLDR and LDR zoning, is challenging and unlikely.

Land Use: Medium density (2004 data)

Smaller in total area than low density development, medium density plans extend current urban boundaries.

Medium density residential (light tan color near roads and cities) is defined as zoning with parcel size below 2 acres per unity. Medium density, as can be seen on this layer, are generally associated with growing urban areas, or larger scale planned unit developments located in otherwise rural areas (e.g., Lake of the Pines).

Land Use: Medium/Low density (2004 data)

Medium/low density planning areas tend to be along major highways.

Low density residential (LDR) is defined as 2 to 20 acres parcels per dwelling. This zoning category (yellow on this map) is relatively widespread throughout the Sacramento Watershed. This size parcel is very rarely a commercial farming venture. LDR and VLDR densities are generally outside the bounds of city services, with the exception of transportation; owners have to provide their own services on site.