Land Availability

Findings and Recommendations

Annexations, Spheres of Influence, County Islands, and Municipal Service Reviews

  • Carefully consider annexation, weighing the need for additional housing sites against other goals and policies, particularly sustainability goals and climate change implications. 
  • Cities should pursue development of vacant and underused infill land before annexation of fringe areas.
  • When considering annexation requests, consult with county LAFCos early in the city application process to discuss LAFCo requirements, policies, and procedures.  For example: 
  • Will a full municipal service review (MSR) be required or will a plan for providing services to the annexation area be sufficient?
  • Will a county island be created, or will the annexation bring into question a nearby county island?
  • If the annexation request is for 10+ acres, will a disadvantaged unincorporated community (DUC) need to be addressed?
  • Will a tax sharing agreement be required?
  • Will annexation result in detachments from other service districts? Will the detachment cause viability issues for those districts?
  • Consult with public works department and utility providers to ascertain serviceability for the annexation area.  For example:
    • Is there capacity to serve the area?  
    • Will there be a need for any off-site infrastructure improvements?
    • Will infrastructure in the annexing area need to be upsized to accommodate subsequent annexation requests?
    • Are there any planned improvements within local, regional, or state capital improvement plans?
  • Ensure that annexation applications and submittal checklists cover the needed information and application fees are commensurate with the costs associated with processing these requests.
  • If the annexation area is of sufficient size, consider preparation of specific, area or community plan that incorporates backbone infrastructure components.


  • Provide direct assistance to small rural communities for funding or infrastructure updates related to contaminated water supplies.
  • Prioritize infrastructure studies and plan development in targeted areas or for affordable housing.
  • Collaborate with public works and utility departments (or water and sanitary sewer utility providers/districts) in the early stages of housing element development in the evaluation of existing infrastructure as well as capital improvement programs.
  • Direct growth to areas with sufficient infrastructure capacity or those needing limited, or less costly infrastructure improvements.
  • Closely monitor ongoing SGMA efforts; housing and agriculture production water supplies will continue to be an issue in the San Joaquin Valley.
  • Implement State-recommended best management practices to the extent feasible for future development projects to reduce water use and increase preservation efforts.
  • Identify or develop consistent funding for infrastructure improvements to incentivize housing construction in areas where desired such as TOD, infill, low-income housing.
  • Capitalize on new Federal infrastructure funding (bipartisan infrastructure deal, $550 billion) to fund needed infrastructure to spur new housing growth. This includes creating more resilient water infrastructure, clean drinking water, broadband, and power infrastructure.
  • Develop requirements for underground utilities in high fire hazard and high wind areas
  • Develop new storage facilities and systems to capture surface water that responds to the changes occurring in the San Joaquin Valley precipitation patterns.
  • Make use of HCD’s Infill Infrastructure Grant Program (IIG)
  • Consider forming enhanced infrastructure financing districts (EIFD)

Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities

  • Cities should plan for incorporating DUCs in the long term, potentially seeking LAFCo assistance and county resources to address needs within these communities to facilitate the transition and improve housing quality and opportunities.

Water Conservation and Management

  • Coordinate with the local GSA to incorporate the goals, actions, and best practices discussed in the local GSP into the jurisdiction’s general plan updates and implementation measures. For example, many GSPs identify low-impact development (LID) standards as key BMPs for increasing groundwater recharge in urban areas.
  • Incorporate LID into existing development standards and prioritize capital improvement projects that improve groundwater recharge. 
  • Adopt water conservation plans or pass a water-efficient landscaping ordinance to advance conservation goals.
  • Reduce overall new water demand and still meet RHNA requirements by prioritizing infill multi-family housing development. Infill development projects have the added benefit of using sites with water and sewer services in place as opposed to sites that necessitate extensive and expensive utility system expansion. 
  • Develop partnerships with water resource suppliers and water planning agencies to identify opportunities to further multi-agency goals. 
  • Protect land with high potential for future groundwater recharge projects from development or incentivize the use of a water supplier’s reclaimed water system for landscape irrigation on large and/or institutional development projects.

Surplus Public Land

  • Evaluate existing surplus land inventory to identify surplus opportunities.
  • Consider selling or leasing surplus land at below market value and/or granting entitlements for land use and zoning prior to or in conjunction with declaring a property surplus to maximize the potential for a future affordable housing project.

Religious/Public Institutions

  • Evaluate existing land designated for religious purposes to identify housing opportunities.
  • Monitor the status of SB 899 to determine if religious and institutional lands will become available sites to add to housing element inventories.

Agricultural Land Preservation

  • Ensure that local plans and policies recognize the importance of agricultural land as a natural resource and prioritize its protection and continued access by farmers.
  • Consider the preservation of agricultural land while updating their housing element, and other general plan elements, in order to proactively preserve agricultural lands while planning for future housing development.
  • Develop policies which incentivize increased development in existing urban areas before expanding helps support preservation.