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Brentwood, California

Background

Brentwood, population 23,302 (2000), lies 30 miles east of Oakland, California in Contra Costa County. Brentwood is known for its orchards and farms, many of which offer “pick-your-own” opportunities for Bay Area residents. The City wants to preserve this agricultural heritage by protecting farmland and strengthening the viability of the agricultural industry. To this end, Brentwood adopted agricultural land mitigation requirements which require developers to deed restrict one acre of farmland for each acre on farmland converted to development. Alternatively, the city allows developers to comply with the mitigation requirement by paying an in lieu fee for each acre of farmland proposed for development. Finally, the city also adopted a TDR program to encourage the preservation of farmland as described below.

Process

In Brentwood’s Transfer of Agricultural Credits or TAC program, sending sites must be at least one acre in size. Two transferable agricultural credits are issued for each acre of eligible land placed under permanent conservation easement. Agricultural sending sites must have a water supply adequate to support agricultural use and this water supply must be protected in the conservation easement. In addition to productive farmland, parcels can qualify as sending sites if they have little or no development potential or if they provide wildlife habitat, offer unique visual values or are contiguous to other farmland worthy of preservation.

Preservation of land in the City’s Agricultural Conservation Area is given highest priority as a sending area. However, sending sites can also be created in the Contra Costa County Core Agricultural Area or any farmland in the City possessing unique agricultural, visual, historic or other important values.

Brentwood’s TDR code section is unusually specific in its description of the conservation easement needed to create agricultural credits. Most notable is the following provision. “D. If judicial proceedings find that the public interests described in this chapter can no longer reasonably be fulfilled as to an interest acquired, the interest in the agricultural mitigation land may be extinguished through sale and the proceeds shall be used to acquire interests in other agricultural mitigation land in Contra Costa County, as approved by the city and provided in this chapter.”

Agricultural credits may be transferred to any residential zone in the City via development agreement. The maximum density allowed on the receiving site upon transfer is the maximum density permitted on that site by the general plan.

Status

In March 2004, Associate Planner Erik Nolthenius explained that the City was processing its first TAC application. The project involves the subdivision of 31 acres of land into 84 single-family lots. The developer proposed 26 lots in excess of the General Plan mid-range density for this property. The developer offered to place an agricultural easement on 10 acres of land. At the allocation rate of two TACs per acre of preserved farmland, this easement would account for 20 of the 26 additional lots requested.