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Authority of LAFCo

Boundary Changes
LAFCo's regulate, through approval or denial, the boundary changes proposed by other public agencies or individuals. LAFCo's do not have the power to initiate boundary changes on their own, except for proposals involving the dissolution or consolidation of special districts and the merging of subsidiary districts.

Typical applicants might include:

  • Individual homeowners requesting annexation to a sewer district due to a failing septic system
  • Developers seeking annexation to cities in order to obtain urban services for new housing
  • Cities wishing to annex pockets of unincorporated land, or "islands," located within their borders in order to avoid duplication of services with the county
  • Special Districts or cities seeking to consolidate two or more governmental agencies into one, thereby streamlining their services and reducing the cost to the local taxpayer.

Sphere of Influence Studies
In 1972, LAFCo's were given the power to determine spheres of influence for all local governmental agencies. A sphere of influence is a planning boundary outside of an agency's legal boundary (such as the city limit line) that designates the agency's probable future boundary and service area. Factors considered in a sphere of influence review focus on the current and future land use, the current and future need and capacity for service, and any relevant communities of interest. With the passage of the CKH Act, spheres are reviewed every five years. The purpose of the sphere of influence is to ensure the provision of efficient services while discouraging urban sprawl and the premature conversion of agricultural and open space lands by preventing overlapping jurisdictions and duplication of services. Commissions cannot tell agencies what their planning goals should be. Rather, on a regional level, LAFCo's coordinate by reconciling differences between agency plans so that the most efficient urban service arrangements are created for the benefit of area residents and property owners.

Service Reviews
Service reviews were added to LAFCo's mandate with the passage of the CKH Act in 2000. A service review is a comprehensive study designed to better inform LAFCo, local agencies, and the community about the provision of municipal services. Service reviews attempt to capture and analyze information about the governance structures and efficiencies of service providers and to identify opportunities for greater coordination and cooperation between providers. The service review is a prerequisite to a sphere of influence determination and may also lead a LAFCo to take other actions under its authority.

Initiation of Special District Consolidations
As of July 1, 1994, LAFCo's have the authority to initiate proposals that include the dissolution or consolidation of special districts or the merging of existing subsidiary districts. Prior to initiating such an action, LAFCo must determine that the district's customers would benefit from the proposal through adoption of a sphere of influence or other special study.

Out of Agency Service Agreements
Cities and districts are required to obtain LAFCo's approval prior to entering into contracts with private individuals or organization to provide services outside of the agency's boundaries.

Adoption of Local Policies
Each LAFCo may adopt local policies to appropriately administer the CKH Act in its county. LAFCo's must act in accordance with any locally adopted policies.