Local Agency Formation Commission

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Local Agency Formation Commissions (or LAFCOs) are political entities associated with each of the 58 counties of the State of California that oversee the formation and development of local governmental agencies in those counties. LAFCOs' regulatory duties include approving the establishment, expansion, reorganization, and elimination of all cities and most types of special districts, and their spheres of influence. Spheres of influence demark the territory the affected LAFCO independently believes represents the appropriate and probable future jurisdictional boundary and service area of the subject agency. All jurisdictional boundary changes and outside service extensions, notably, must be consistent with the subject agencies' spheres of influence with limited exceptions. They are established in each county by the Cortese–Knox–Hertzberg Act (Government Code §§ 56000 et seq.)[1]

List of counties[edit]

  • Orange County
  • Alameda
  • Apline
  • Amador
  • Butte
  • Calaveras
  • Colusa
  • Contra Costa
  • Del Norte
  • Fresno
  • Glenn
  • Humboldt
  • Imperial
  • Inyo
  • Kern
  • Kings
  • Lake
  • Lassen
  • Los Angeles
  • Madera
  • Marin
  • Mariposa
  • Mendocino
  • Merced
  • Modoc
  • Mono
  • Monterey
  • Napa
  • Nevada
  • Placer
  • Plumas
  • Riverside
  • Sacramento
  • San Benito
  • San Bernaardino
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • San Joaquin
  • San Luis Obispo
  • San Mateo
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Clara
  • Santa Cruz
  • Shasta
  • Sierra
  • Siskiuou
  • Solano
  • Sonoma
  • Stanislaus
  • Sutter
  • Trinity
  • Tulare
  • Tuolumne
  • Ventura
  • Yolo
  • Yuba


Local Agency Formation Commissions were established in each California county (except San Francisco which would obtain one in 2001) by the California State Legislature in April 1963. LAFCos' current legal authority and mandate are defined by the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Act of 2000 (Government Code Section 56000 et seq).


LAFCOs have both regulatory and planning authority:

  • As a regulatory agency, LAFCo is charged with “discouraging urban sprawl and encouraging the orderly formation and development of local agencies” based on “local circumstances and conditions.” LAFCo's regulatory responsibilities include reviewing, approving or denying proposals to annex land to cities or special districts.
  • As a planning agency, LAFCo is charged to determine and update, at least every five years, the “sphere of influence” of each city and special district. In updating spheres of influence, the LAFCo must prepare Municipal Service Reviews of relevant local agencies and services. A LAFCo may initiate proposals to consolidate special districts, merge a special district with a city, dissolve a special district, establish a subsidiary district, or any combination of these changes.

Under the agency, no community within an incorporated city has ever been granted city status. This is partially due to the recently passed Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Act of 2000, which makes it difficult for communities to break away from their original cities by forcing the community to gain approval from the city it is detaching from, and heightened requirements from an election (2/3 vote from entire community and affected city). The only community within a city ever to be brought before a vote by LAFCo was the San Fernando Valley in the early 2000s, which was denied. No detachments from a city have been successful in the state since 1947.


According to the Committee on Local Government of the California Senate, LAFCOs regulate all city and most special district boundaries, including:[2]

  • Airport districts
  • California water districts
  • Community services districts
  • County sanitation districts
  • County service areas
  • County water districts
  • County waterworks districts
  • Fire protection districts
  • Harbor and port districts
  • Healthcare districts
  • Irrigation districts
  • Library districts
  • Mosquito abatement districts
  • Municipal utility districts
  • Municipal water districts
  • Pest control districts
  • Police protection districts
  • Public cemetery districts
  • Public utility districts
  • Reclamation districts
  • Recreation and park districts
  • Resource conservation districts
  • Sanitary districts
  • Sewer districts
  • Sewer maintenance districts
  • Vector control districts

But not counties or special districts such as:[2]

  • Air pollution control districts
  • Air quality management districts
  • Bridge or highway districts
  • Community college districts
  • Community facilities districts (Mello-Roos districts)
  • Improvement districts
  • Joint power agencies
  • Joint highway districts
  • Metropolitan water districts
  • Permanent road divisions
  • Redevelopment agencies
  • School districts
  • Separation of grade districts
  • Service zones of special districts
  • Special assessment districts
  • Transit or rapid transit districts
  • Unified or union high school library districts


  1. ^ "A Citizen's Guide to Planning". California Office of Planning and Research. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b It’s Time To Draw The Line (PDF), California Senate 

External links[edit]