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Priority Conservation Areas

Priority Conservation Areas (PCAs) are open spaces that provide agricultural, natural resource, scenic, recreational, and/or ecological values and ecosystem functions. These areas are identified through consensus by local jurisdictions and park/open space districts as lands in need of protection due to pressure from urban development or other factors. PCAs are categorized by four designations: Natural Landscapes, Agricultural Lands, Urban Greening and Regional Recreation.

PCAs are a component of Plan Bay Area, the integrated long-range transportation and land-use/housing plan for the San Francisco Bay Area approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) in 2013. 165 PCAs representing a variety of landscapes in all nine Bay Area counties have been adopted by the ABAG Executive Board. Projects located within these areas are eligible for funding through the One Bay Area Grants (OBAG) program.

PCA Grant — Call for Proposals

The State Coastal Conservancy (SCC), in cooperation with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), is pleased to issue a call for proposals focused on the Bay Area’s Priority Conservation Areas designated under Plan Bay Area 2040. For details on the grant and the application process, please refer to the grant guidelines. Letters of Interest are due on February 25, 2019. Any questions may be submitted via email to

PCA Designations and Criteria

Four designations recognize the varied role 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. Benefits and potential co-benefits are identified for each designation (i.e. wildlife and plant habitat, agricultural economy).

Additional information about the designations