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 of services.
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.
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.