Priority Conservation Areas

PCA Program Background

The Priority Conservation Area (PCA) program was initiated in 2007 to identify Bay Area open spaces that:

  1. provide regionally significant agricultural, natural resource, scenic, recreational, and/or ecological values and ecosystem functions,
  2. are in need of protection due to pressure from urban development or other factors; and
  3. are supported through local consensus.

The PCAs were established at the same time as the locally nominated Priority Development Areas (PDAs) through the FOCUS program. Together, the PDAs and PCAs have informed the development of Plan Bay Area and implementation initiatives such as the One Bay Area Grant (OBAG). The PCAs are envisioned as a framework for directing future regional funding to support the vitality of the region's natural systems, rural economy and human health.

The PCA program helped spur collaboration between local governments, public agencies, and nonprofit organizations to nominate more than 160 PCAs. The majority are natural resource or regional recreation areas, with a smaller number of agricultural lands and urban greening areas.

2014 PCA Program Update

During meetings in 2012 and 2013, the ABAG Regional Planning Committee (RPC) and Executive Board requested that staff revise the PCA program to provide greater specificity about the qualities and function of different types of PCAs using an approach more in line with the Place Types utilized to categorize PDAs. In addition, RPC and Executive Board members stressed the importance of urban parks and green spaces. This feedback was formalized in Plan Bay Area, which directs staff to update the program to define the role of different kinds of PCAs and ensure that local jurisdictions are consulted on updates to individual PCAs.

In response to these calls for changes, ABAG staff worked with local jurisdictions, the ABAG Administrative Committee and stakeholders to develop a PCA program update. Adopted July 17, 2014, this update specifically addresses the Open Space and Farmland implementation areas and introduces four categories (Natural Landscapes, Agricultural Lands, Regional Recreation, Urban Greening) to recognize the variety of landscapes that support the vitality of the region's natural systems, rural economy and human health.

2015 PCA Nomination/Confirmation Process

Between August 1, 2014 and May 30, 2015 cities, counties and park/open space districts were invited to submit nominations for new PCAs.

The application required that new PCA nominations include:

  • Adopted resolution of support from the city council, board of supervisors or special district board of the nominating agency
  • A map and text describing the general area and boundaries of the PCA
  • 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
  • Copy of public notification of meeting at which resolution was adopted
  • Copy of 90-day notification sent to all jurisdictions within which the PCA is located

The process for confirming PCAs that had already been adopted by the ABAG Executive Board involved the following steps:

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

On September 17, 2015, the ABAG Executive Board adopted 68 new PCAs and confirmed 97 existing PCAs for a total of 165 PCAs.

One Bay Area Grant Funding

The first OBAG PCA Grant Program was initiated by MTC in 2013 and was split into two components:

  1. North Bay Program (Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties) managed by the four North Bay county congestion management agencies. $5 million of federal funds were made available from MTC for this program and eleven projects were funded with these OBAG funds.
  2. Peninsula, Southern and Eastern Counties Program (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties) administered by the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) in partnership with MTC and ABAG. $5 million of federal funds were made available from MTC for this program and an additional $2.45 million in state funds from SCC. Seven projects were funded with OBAG funds for a total of $4.5 million and an additional five projects were funded through the Conservancy funding.

The combined OBAG-Coastal Conservancy dollars funded twenty-three projects under the PCA program for a total of $11.95 million.