The end of World War II saw California experiencing a tremendous population increase which resulted in
the sporadic formation of cities and special service districts.
The results of this land speculation and developement boom became evident as more of California's agricultural land was
converted to urban uses. Premature and unplanned development created inefficient, expensive systems of delivering
public services using various small units of local government.
Governor Edmund G. Brown, Sr. responded to this problem in 1959 by appointing the Commission on Metropolitan Area
Problems. The Commission's charge was to study and make recommendations on the "misuse of land resources" and the
growing complexity of overlapping local governmental jurisdictions. The Commission's recommendations on local
governmental reorganization were introduced in the Legislature in 1963, resulting in the creation of Local Agency
Formation Commissions, or "LAFCOs", operating in each county except San Francisco.
The Tulare County LAFCO is responsible for coordinating logical and timely changes in local
governmental boundaries, conducting special studies which review ways to reorganize, simplify, and streamline
governmental structure and preparing Spheres of Influence for each city and special district within each county.
The Commission's efforts are directed to seeing that services are provided efficiently and economically while
agricultural and open-space lands are protected.
Citizens are welcome and encouraged to attend regular LAFCO
meetings and state their views during public hearings on proposals before the Commission. In addition, the
meetings provide an excellent opportunity for citizens to familiarize themselves with the growth, development
and inter-jurisdictional issues facing their county.
LAFCOs maintain a minutes account of every meeting.
Copies of the minutes, meeting agenda, and staff reports are available on this web site or by contacting the
Local Agency Formation Commission.
Objectives of LAFCO
- To encourage the orderly formation of local governmental
LAFCOs review proposals for the formation of new local governmental agencies and
changes of organization in existing agencies. In California, there are 57 LAFCOs working with over 5,500
governmental agencies in 57 counties, 500+ cities, and 5,000+ special districts. Agency boundaries are
often unrelated to one another and sometimes overlap at random. This complexity of local government can
lead to higher service costs to the taxpayer and general confusion with regard to service jurisdictions.
LAFCO decisions strive to balance the competing needs in California for affordable housing, economic
opportunity, and conservation of natural resources.
- To preserve agricultural land resources
LAFCO must consider the effect that any proposal will produce on existing agricultural
lands. By guiding development towards vacant urban land and away from agricultural preserves, LAFCO assists
with the preservation of our valuable agricultural resources.
- To discourage urban sprawl
Urban sprawl can best be described as irregular and disorganized growth occuring without
apparent design or plan. This pattern of development is characterized by the inefficient delivery of
important urban services (police, fire, water, and sanitation) and the unnecessary loss of agricultural land.
By discouraging sprawl, LAFCO discourages the misuse of land resources and promotes a more efficient system
of local governmental agencies.
Authority of LAFCO
- Boundary Changes
LAFCOs regulate, through approval or denial, the boundary changes proposed by other public agencies or individuals. LAFCOs do not have the power to initiate boundary changes on their own.
Typical applicants might include:
- Individual home owners requesting annexation to a sewer district due to a failing septic tank.
- Developers seeking annexation to cities in order to obtain more favorable development and urban services extended to new housing.
- Cities wishing to annex pockets or "islands" of unincorporated land 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 steamlining their service program.
- Sphere of Influence Studies
One of the most important charges given LAFCO was the adoption of "Spheres of
Influence" for local governments (1972).
A "Sphere of Influence" is the physical boundary
and servcie area that a local governmental agency is expected to serve. Establishment of this
boundary is necessary to determine which governmental agencies can provide services in the most
efficient way to the people and property in any given area. The Sphere of Influence requirement
also works to discourage urban sprawl by preventing overlapping of jurisdictions and duplication
Commissions cannot tell counties or cities what their planning goals should
be. Rather, LAFCOs coordinate the orderly development of a community through reconciling differences
between city and county plans in such a way that the most efficient urban service arrangements are
created for the benefit of area residents and property owners.
- Special Studies
Through special studies, LAFCOs encourage governments to evaluate their current
operations and options for reorganization. Local agencies often overlap one another and have the
potential of duplicating services. LAFCOs conduct service studies and also consolidation feasibility
studies. These studies provide general information about local governments and present alternatives
for improving services and reducing operational costs.
Legislative Act / CALAFCO
- Legislative Act
A section of the California Government Code exists to provide LAFCO with its
powers, procedures, and functions. This law gives LAFCO power to "approve or disapprove with or without amendment,
wholly, partially, or conditionally" proposals concerning the formation of cities and special districts, annexation
or detachment of territory to cities and special districts, and other changes in jurisdiction or organization of
local governmental agencies.
In reviewing proposals, LAFCO is required to consider certain factors such as
the conformity between city and county plans, current levels and need for future services to the area, and the
social, physical, and economic effects that agency boundary changes present to the community.
LAFCO is also given authority to make studies of existing governmental agencies in an effort to improve the
efficiency of urban services.