Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities

Senate Bill No. 244 – Wolk (SB 244) was enacted in 2011, requiring municipalities and counties to address inequalities between unincorporated communities. The law requires assessing access to vital public services and evaluating current states of infrastructure for disadvantaged unincorporated communities. SB 244 requires, on or before the next due date for their housing elements, that cities and counties identify and analyze underserved disadvantaged unincorporated communities (DUCs) in their general plan land use elements. A DUC is defined as an inhabited and unincorporated community that includes 10 or more dwelling units in proximity or where 12 or more registered voters reside and have an annual median household income that is 80 percent or less of the statewide median housing income. 

For identified communities, the general plan must include a community description; a map designating its location; an analysis of water, wastewater, stormwater drainage, and structural fire protection needs or deficiencies; and a benefit assessment districts analysis or other financing alternatives that could make extending services financially feasible. It also requires that, on or before the due date for each subsequent revision of its housing element, each city and county review, and amend, if necessary, its general plan to update this analysis. SB 244 requires that LAFCo must consider incorporating a contiguous DUC when an annexation of >10 acres is proposed.  If this occurs, LAFCo cannot consider the first annexation proposal until the second annexation proposal has been filed with Executive Officer. This restriction can be waived if the majority of registered voters within DUC provides “written evidence” of opposition to annexation, or the contiguous DUC area was proposed for annexation within the previous five years. 

Finally, SB 244 requires determinations from cities and affected special districts regarding DUCs when performing MSRs and SOI updates.  This includes evaluating present and planned capacity of public facilities, public service adequacy, and infrastructure needs or deficiencies, including needs or deficiencies related to sewers, municipal and industrial water, and structural fire protection in any disadvantaged, unincorporated communities within or contiguous to the sphere of influence. 

Relevance to housing in the SJV:  There are hundreds of DUCs in San Joaquin Valley.  Many of these communities are geographically isolated islands, surrounded by the city limits of large- and medium-sized cities. As such, identifying and reviewing DUCs early is key, especially when annexation is being pursued to meet regional housing needs.

Relevant State Law

Disadvantaged Communities (SB 244, 2011). Government Code § 65302.10 

Disadvantaged Community Definition (LAFCo). Government Code § 56033.5

Disadvantaged Community Definition (Cities). Government Code § 65302.10

Survey Results

Survey results indicate that of the 33 responses received, 24 jurisdictions (72.73 percent) give priority to public works projects or service improvements designed to better serve disadvantaged areas. Stakeholder interviews reveal a need to focus on equity, noting that when housing funding is population based, sometimes small jurisdictions with the greatest need get short-changed. Stakeholders advocate for geographic set-asides for smaller jurisdictions or regions with the greatest need.


Office of Planning and Research, Technical Advisory, SENATE BILL 244: Land Use, General Plans, and Disadvantaged Communities. 

CALAFCO 2016 Conference-Experiences with SB 244.

 UC Davis Center for Regional Change, The Struggle for Water Justice in California’s San Joaquin Valley: A Focus on Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities (February 2018).