All about SB 9 in conservation zones, protected species habitats, and conservation easements.
In order to preserve vital wildlife habitats and natural areas, Senate Bill 9 restricts development in sensitive ecological areas like conservation zones, protected species habitats, and lands under conservation easement.
In the following blog post, we’ll learn answer the following questions about conservation zones and protected habitats:
- What is a sensitive ecological area?
- What does SB 9 say about conservation zones?
- Can I use SB 9 if my property is within a conservation zone or protected species habitat?
- How do I know if my property is located within a conservation zone, protected species habitat, or conservation easement?
To see if your property meets the legal requirements for SB 9 development, use Homestead’s free SB 9 Eligibility Search Tool.
What is a sensitive ecological area?
In the context of SB 9, there are three types of sensitive ecological areas: conservation zones, endangered species habitats, and lands under conservation easement.
Conservation zone is a term for lands subject to a conservation or natural resource protection plan. Sometimes these plans are reflected in a municipality’s zoning system.
Protected species habitat refers to an area that has been designated as a critical habitat for an endangered or protected animal species. These designations cannot be applied to an entire town.
Conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement made between a landowner and a government agency, land trust, indigenous tribe, or other qualified organization. A conservation easement protects the land by permanently restricting its allowable uses. These easements remain in place even after a property is sold to a new owner.
What does SB 9 say about conservation zones?
Senate Bill 9 doesn’t explicitly reference conservation zones. However, the law indicates that eligible properties must be compliant with a particular section of California Government Code Title 7 on Planning and Land Use.
The passage in question states that development is not allowed on properties located within:
(I) Lands identified for conservation in an adopted natural community conservation plan pursuant to the Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 2800) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code), habitat conservation plan pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531 et seq.), or other adopted natural resource protection plan.
(J) Habitat for protected species identified as candidate, sensitive, or species of special status by state or federal agencies, fully protected species, or species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531 et seq.), the California Endangered Species Act (Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 2050) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code), or the Native Plant Protection Act (Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 1900) of Division 2 of the Fish and Game Code).
(K) Lands under conservation easement.
Can I use SB 9 if my property is located within a conservation zone, protected species habitat, or conservation easement?
In short, no.
Unlike earthquake zones and high fire severity zones—which allow development as long as certain conditions are met—SB 9 development is not allowed on properties located within a conservation zone, protected species habitat, or conservation easement.
How do I know if my property is located within a conservation zone, protected species habitat, or conservation easement?
Most areas of California have a special zone for conservation zoning, often labeled R-C. You can find your property’s zone by searching your city or county’s zoning maps.
If your area does not have searchable zoning maps available online, try the Zoneomics search tool. If your property is zoned R-C, then you are located in a conservation zone.
Protected species habitat:
If you live in the City of Los Angeles, you can search your property on ZIMAS and view your property’s SB 9 Eligibility assessment. If your property is within a protected species habitat, this will show up on your report.
If you’re outside of L.A., it might be a little trickier. You might be able to find out by searching your county’s assessor property maps or speaking to your local Parks Department.
You can easily determine whether not not your property is subject to a conservation easement by searching your address in the National Protected Areas Database or the National Conservation Easement Database map.
If you’re in a conservation zone/easement or endangered species habitat, your property is not eligible for SB 9. While this restriction may be disappointing for some property owners, it has the best interests of California’s natural beauty in mind.