Priority Conservation Areas

Revised Application Process

As part of the broader Plan Bay Area Implementation effort, ABAG staff worked with local jurisdictions, the ABAG administrative committee and stakeholders to develop a Priority Conservation Areas (PCA) program update. Adopted July 17, 2014, this update specifically addresses the Open Space and Farmland implementation areas and introduces four categories to recognize the role of different kinds of PCAs in supporting the vitality of the region's natural systems, rural economy and human health.

All new and modified PCAs must apply or re-apply. The revised guidelines for new PCA nominations, review and adoption, and confirming existing PCAs are summarized below.

Contact Us

Questions about new or existing PCAs and the application process: Laura Thompson, Bay Trail Project Manager,, 510-464-7935. Additional information is available from the ABAG Planning Staff.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated PCA Application Process and Requirements

The application requires that new PCA nominations include:

  1. Adopted resolution of support from the city council, board of supervisors or special district board of the nominating agency
  2. A map and text describing the general area and boundaries of the PCA
  3. Selection of one or more of the PCA designations described below and supporting text and data that includes discussion of regional and local importance of the PCA
  4. Copy of public notification of meeting at which resolution was adopted
  5. Copy of notification sent to all jurisdictions within which the PCA is located

PCA applications may be submitted by jurisdictions or special districts such as open space and park districts. The nominating agency must send notifications to all of the jurisdictions in which the PCA is located. These jurisdictions will have 90 days from receipt of the notification to adopt a resolution of opposition to the PCA. An adopted resolution would invalidate the nomination.

Sample resolution (PDF)

Online application form

Application form (PDF)

Sponsors of proposed PCAs are required to complete the application. Applications are due May 30, 2015.

Process for Confirming Existing PCAs

The process for confirming PCAs that have already been adopted by the ABAG Executive Board will involve the following steps:

  1. ABAG sends a notification to the nominating agency and to jurisdictions in which the PCA is located
  2. These jurisdictions have 90 days to adopt a resolution of opposition to the PCA. An adopted resolutions nullifies the applicable existing PCA
  3. If no resolution of opposition is submitted to ABAG within 90 days, the existing PCA will be confirmed

In addition to the confirmation process, ABAG staff will work with the nominating agencies to identify the designation applicable to each PCA and the relevant benefits it provides.

PCA Designations and Criteria

The update introduces four categories to recognize the role of different kinds of PCAs in supporting the vitality of the region's natural systems, rural economy and human health.

Designations describe the primary function of a PCA. In some cases, PCAs with different designations include the same geographic area. For example, a riparian corridor designated as a Natural Landscape PCA may cross an Agricultural Lands PCA and Regional Recreation PCA.

Natural Landscapes--areas critical to the functioning of wildlife and plant habitats, aquatic ecosystems and the region's water supply and quality. Existing PCA Examples: Upper Stevens Creek Watershed Area (Santa Clara County); Napa Valley River Corridor (Napa County); Acalanes Ridge Open Space (Walnut Creek and Lafayette)

Photo of Coyote Hills
Coyote Hills

Photo of Mt. Diablo
Mount Diablo

Agricultural Lands--farmland, grazing land and timberland that support the region's agricultural economy and provide additional benefits such as habitat protection and carbon capture. Existing PCA Examples: Suisun Valley (Solano County); Napa County Agricultural Lands and Watersheds (Napa County); Coastal Agriculture area (Sonoma County)

Photo of Santa Rosa Farmer's Market
Santa Rosa Farmer's Market

Photo of Green Gulch
Green Gulch

Urban Greening--existing and potential green spaces in cities that increase habitat connectivity, improve community health, capture carbon emissions, and address stormwater. Many existing and likely Urban Greening areas are not within PDAs. Existing PCA Examples: East Bay Greenway (Oakland/San Leandro/Hayward/Unincorporated Alameda County); Hercules Waterfront (Hercules); and Palou-Phelps, Bayview park/open space connector (San Francisco)

Photo of Octavia Street
Octavia Street

Photo of Lake Merritt
Lake Merritt

Regional Recreation--existing and potential regional parks, trails, and other publicly accessible recreation facilities. Existing PCA Examples: Bay Trail (multi-county, multi-jurisdiction); Boethe-Napa Valley State Park to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park (Napa County); Russian River Access (Sonoma County)

Photo of kayakers in Redwood City
Redwood City

Photo of Tiburon Path
Tiburon Path

Benefits describe specific types of habitats, health outcomes, and other objectives that the designated PCAs support. Each benefit is accompanied by at least one criterion as well as data sources for evaluating whether or not the PCA meets the criterion. Many PCAs will provide additional benefits beyond the primary ones listed for its designation. These are captured as co-benefits. Proposed PCAs are not required to list co-benefits, but these help describe its full impact.

Benefits and potential co-benefits are identified for each designation (i.e. wildlife and plant habitat, agricultural economy). Applicants are required to discuss how the PCA provides these benefits-referencing data and maps. ABAG will provide resources (e.g. maps, databases, etc) to assist applicants in this process, drawing upon data published by federal and state sources as well as scientific research.

Additional information about the designations

Program Background

Priority Conservation Area Program Background

Timeline for New and Updated PCA Applications

April 2014: PCA Program update-including Application Process and PCA Designations--recommended by the RPC to the Executive Board for adoption.

July 2014: PCA Program update adopted by Executive Board.

August 1, 2014: Beginning of PCA application period. New and existing PCAs must submit application. Existing PCAs can reference portions of previous PCA applications (i.e. adopted resolution of support by local jurisdiction) to meet relevant requirements.

May 30, 2015: Deadline for PCA applications.

August 5, 2015: Following staff review, Regional Planning Committee (RPC) recommends PCA nominations to the Executive Board for adoption.

September 17, 2015: Executive Board adopts PCA nominations recommended for adoption by the RPC.

Future funding sources

The PCA update does not address funding. However, the designations are designed to position PCAs for both cross-cutting and targeted funding sources. For example, an urban greening and a regional recreation project might be eligible for different sources of targeted grant funding, but both may be eligible for a broad funding source supporting projects that improve public health while creating green space.