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Williamson Act Updates


Following an audit by the California Department of Con​servation (DOC) in 2002, the Board of Supervisors directed County staff to create a definition of commercial agricultural use and criteria for evaluating new and existing Williamson Act contracts. They also requested creation of a stakeholder group to provide comments to staff on proposed criteria and policies developed by staff. The stakeholder committee, representing the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau, Santa Clara County Cattleman’s Association, Mt. Hamilton Range Improvement Association, Santa Clara County Association of Realtors, The Nature Conservancy, and the Committee for Green Foothills, met from September 2005 through April, 2006 and provided valuable suggestions for the proposed Williamson Act Program changes.  

A number of meetings provided an opportunity for public comment on the proposed Williamson Act Program improvements.  Based on input from the stakeholder committee, DOC and the public, staff developed proposed Program Guidelines and Ordinances that were ultimately approved and adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

Public Meetings (Oct. 3, 2005 and Oct. 4, 2005)
Public information meetings on the proposed County Williamson Program changes were held in South County on 10/3/05 at the Morgan Hill Cultural and Community Center and in North County on 10/4/05 at the County Government Center in San Jose.

HLUET Meeting (Oct. 5, 2005)
The Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation (HLUET) Committee of the Board of Supervisors held a public meeting on October 5, 2005 to consider the proposed Williamson Act Program changes.

October 5, 2005 HLUET - Agenda #4
Staff PowerPoint Presentation 11/5/2005 (PDF)

Board of Supervisors Meeting (Nov. 1, 2005)
The Board of Supervisors considered the October 5, 2005 HLUET Committee recommendation on Tuesday, November 1, 2005. 

Invitation Letter to Board Meeting and Board Bullets (PDF)

HLUET Meeting (Nov. 29, 2005)
The HLUET Committee held a public meeting on Nov 29, 2005 on the proposed Program changes. 

Notice of 11/29/2005 HLUET meeting (PDF)
HLUET Meeting Staff Presentation (PDF)

Board of Supervisors Meeting (January 24, 2006)
On January 24th, the Board of Supervisors continued their deliberations/action on proposed changes to the County’s Williamson Act program until March 14, 2006.

Notice of 1/24/2006 Board Meeting
Board Bullets
Staff PowerPoint Presentation 1/24/2006 (PDF)

Public Information Meeting (March 6, 2006)
A Public Information Meeting was held on March 6th in the Board Chambers on the proposed Program changes.

Board of Supervisors Meeting (March 14, 2006)
On March 14, 2006, the Board of Supervisors reviewed proposed changes to the County’s Williamson Act Program and the Board approved the following Guidelines:

Guideline for Commercial Agricultural Use (PDF)
Guideline for Compatible Use Development on Restricted Lands (PDF)
Guideline for Procedures for County Non-renewal of Williamson Act Contracted Parcels Substandard in Size   (PDF)
Guideline for General Administration, Monitoring and Enforcement of Williamson Act Contracts and Open Space Easement Agreements (PDF); and a
Guideline for Policies Governing the Exchange of an Existing Williamson Act Contract for an Open Space Easement Agreement (PDF)

The Board also approved a sample Joint Management Agreement that could be used by eligible owners of contracted properties that are substandard in size when jointly used and managed for agricultural use.

Sample Joint Management Agreement (PDF)

The Board also approved a tiered appeals process regarding Williamson Program policy and guideline interpretations, with the Board of Supervisors being the final level of appeal.

Additionally, the Board directed staff to use the adopted Guidelines to administer new and existing County Williamson Act contracts, and to:

  • Process discretionary permit applications under the June, 2005 Interim Program Guidelines, if they were deemed complete by March 14, 2006 and filed by existing Williamson Act contract holders;
  • Prepare necessary Williamson Act and Open Space easement ordinances for Board consideration on May 2, 2006; and
  • Provide all required noticing for adoption of the revised Agricultural Preserve Map, and to return to the Board for final Map adoption on May 2, 2006.

Notice of 3/14/2006 Board Meeting
Staff PowerPoint Presentation 3/14/2006 (PDF)

Board of Supervisors Meeting (May 2, 2006)
On May 2nd, the Board approved:

  • Revisions to the County’s Williamson Act Ordinance (primarily procedural in nature) and an Open Space Easement Ordinance (Ordinance No. NS-1203.113);
  • Extending the expiration date of valid Williamson Act contracted property Building Site Approvals to June 30, 2007 (Ordinance No. NS-9.277), and;
  • A revised County Agricultural Preserve Map.

Notice of 5/2/2006 Board Meeting and Attachment
Adopted Agricultural Preserve Map
Parcels removed from boundaries of adopted Agricultural Preserve Map
Parcels included within adopted Agricultural Preserve Map
Adopted County Williamson and Open Space Easement Ordinance
Adopted Building Site Approval Extension Ordinance

In addition, the Board directed Staff to prepare a report for discussion at the mid-year Budget Workshop on May 17, 2006 regarding Williamson Act Program staffing and fee financial impacts.

Board of Supervisors Meeting (May 17, 2006)
The Board accepted information regarding the recommended budget for County Williamson Act Program implementation, and continued its discussion until the Department of Planning and Development Budget Hearings.

Planning Commission Workshop (June 1, 2006)
Staff conducted a Workshop with the Commission on the approved Williamson Act Program changes.

Staff PowerPoint Presentation 6/1/2006 (PDF)

South County Joint Planning Advisory Committee (June 8, 2006)
Planning Staff made a presentation on the adopted Williamson Act Program Guidelines and Ordinance at the regularly scheduled Advisory Committee meeting in Morgan Hill.

Board of Supervisors Meeting (June 13, 2006)
The Board adopted a resolution establishing fees for development services related to Williamson Act contracts and Open Space Easement (OSE) Agreements, with modifications to the originally proposed fee schedule.

Board of Supervisors Meeting (June 16, 2006)
The Board accepted information related to the fee schedule considered on June 13, 2006 and approved a Fee Schedule (effective 8/15/06) for the Williamson Act and OSE Programs.

South County Realtors Association, Santa Clara Association of Realtors Meeting
(June 20, 2006)

Staff provided a two hour training session for over 100 local realtors on the County's Williamson and OSE Programs.

Staff PowerPoint Presentation 6/20/2006 (PDF)


Click here for the status report accepted by the Board of Supervisors on February 26, 2008 describing Williamson Act Program activities conducted through January 1, 2008.

County Initiated Non-Renewal Action. (see adopted Guideline for Procedures for County Non-renewal of Williamson Act Contracted Parcels Substandard in Size and Sample Joint Management Agreement  for details). The County filed and recorded Notices of Nonrenewal for substandard parcels (parcels less than 10 acres prime, 40 acres non-prime agricultural land) under Williamson Act contract. The Non-renewal process was conducted in three phases and affected the following properties:
Phase I:
- Prime and non-prime agricultural parcels less than 5 acres in size,
- The Golden Heights Estates (Contract 68.084) and San Martin Estates (Contract 75.004) subdivisions, and
Parcels removed from boundaries of adopted Agricultural Preserve Map;
Phase II: Prime and non-prime agricultural parcels 5 to 9.99 acres in size, and
Phase III: Non-prime agricultural parcels less than 40 acres in size.

The County is currently in the process of reviewing the annual Agricultural Preserve Questionnaires returned by property owners to determine Williamson Act compliance.  Noncompliant parcels will be nonrenewed by the County according Government Code Section 51245 with the opportunity to formally protest the nonrenewal. 

Open Space Easement (OSE) Program. (See adopted Guideline for Policies Governing the Exchange of an Existing Williamson Act Contract for an Open Space Easement Agreement and adopted Williamson and Open Space Easement Ordinance for details). Applications for transfer from Williamson Act contracts to Open Space Easements, or for new OSE's, are now being accepted by the County Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. Please contact the Clerk of the Board to obtain and file OSE applications, and to pay the OSE application fee:

Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
Board Operations
70 W. Hedding Street, 10th floor, East Wing
San Jose, Ca 95110
(408) 299-5001


Additional Information
The following maps were prepared for educational purposes only and were not proposed for adoption by the Board of Supervisors:

Maps of Unincorporated Williamson Act Parcels and Parcels Less Than 5 Acres (PDF) (prepared 8/05)
Map of Williamson Act Parcels and Pesticide Permits in San Martin (PDF) (prepared 8/05)

HLUET,  Board of Supervisors agendas, and Williamson Act Program staff reports are available on the Santa Clara County home page (go to, then under the heading “Connect with your Elected Officials”, click on "Board Agendas" or "Board Committee Agendas" and then on the relevant meeting date).​​

Last updated: 4/24/2020 12:47 PM