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Does AB 1492 repeal the Williamson Act?

No – AB 1492 provides enhanced penalties for a material breach of contract and extends the date of the lot line adjustment provisions. AB 1492 contains no new restrictions on uses allowed under the Williamson Act, existing contracts, or local uniform rules or ordinances.

What is a material breach of contract?

Government Code 51250(b) defines a material breach on land subject to a Williamson Act contract as a commercial, industrial, or residential building(s), exceeding 2,500 square feet that is not permissible under the Williamson Act, contract, local uniform rules, or ordinances. AB 1492 only applies to structure(s) that have been permitted and constructed after January 1, 2004.

Does AB 1492 mean that I can now develop my Williamson Act property as long as none of the buildings exceed 2,500 square feet?

No – Any development on property subject to Williamson Act contract must be incidental to the primary use of the land for agricultural purposes of compatibility found in Government Code 51231, 51238, and 51238.1.

What does “incidental to the agricultural use of the land” really mean?

A use is incidental when it is required for or is part of the agricultural use and is valued in line with the expected return of the agriculture on the parcel. Compatible uses on Williamson Act lands are defined in Government Code 51201(e). Additionally, each participating local government is required to adopt rules consistent with the principles of compatibility found in Government Code 51231, 51238, and 51238.1.

Below are some other examples of potential uses that could be incidental to the agricultural use, or not incidental to the agricultural use and subject to the breach provisions:


□ A $375,000 home, owned by the landowner, on a 40-acre vineyard parcel grossing $450,000 per year.

□ A 1,500 square foot barn on a 320-acre parcel producing alfalfa and grazing cattle.

□ A $200,000 home for a landowner’s brother who manages a ranch on the 600-acre parcel and two other 400-acre parcels.

Not Incidental:

□ A $1 million house on a 40-acre parcel producing $1,500 per year in grazing rentals.

□ A 6,000 square foot indoor horse-training facility on a 10-acre parcel with 5 acres of almond trees.

□ A 3,000 square foot home on a 10-acre parcel with no commercial agricultural use.

□ A 2,800 square foot home built for the landowner’s son on a 30-acre parcel because it is too expensive for the son to build in town.

Does AB 1492 prohibit me from building a house larger than 2,500 square feet?

Not necessarily. Homesites are allowed on contracted land but are limited in purpose and number and must be incidental to the agricultural use of the land. In addition, any homesite on land subject to a Williamson Act contract must be in compliance with local uniform rules or ordinances.

What effect does AB 1492 have on subdividing Williamson Act land?

AB 1492 may affect structures on subdivided lands if those structures are not incidental to the agricultural use of the land.

How can I ensure that my proposal for construction of an improvement does not result in a material breach of my Williamson Act contract?

Early consultation with your local planner and the Department of Conservation is important.

What happens if the rules in place when my project is permitted are later changed?

AB 1492 does not apply to a building permitted or constructed prior to January 1, 2004. Nor does AB 1492 apply to a building that was not a material breach at the time of construction but becomes a material breach because of a change in law or ordinance.

What happens if my local government approves a building on my Williamson Act property and then the State claims it’s a breach of contract?

A landowner may still be subject to increased penalties. However, the local government may take into consideration the landowner’s culpability in the breach and thereby reduce the penalty imposed to no less than 12.5 percent of the unrestricted fair market value of the land and improvements. Also, to ensure that he or she will not be subject to increased penalties, the landowner may execute an affidavit acknowledging that the breach provisions may apply if a local government’s action to terminate a contract is rescinded, a court permanently voids the termination, or for any other reason, the land continues to be subject to the contract. As a result, a penalty of no more than 12.5 percent will be imposed.

Did AB 1492 increase the Williamson Act contract cancellation fee from 12.5 percent to 25 percent?

The cancellation fee is still 12.5 percent of the unrestricted current fair market value of land. AB 1492 allows a local government to levy a monetary penalty for a material breach of contract up to 25 percent of the unrestricted fair market value of land rendered incompatible by the breach, plus 25 percent of the value of any incompatible building and related improvements on the contracted land.

I want to put a mobile home on my property for my elderly parents, is this a problem?

Buildings, including residences, which are constructed on Williamson Act contracted lands must be related to the agricultural use. It would not meet the intent or purpose of the Williamson Act to place a manufactured home for relatives on Williamson Act contracted land, unless they are involved in agricultural activities related to the property.


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Last modified: 02/21/09