After World War II, California experienced dramatic growth in population and economic development. With this boom came demands for housing, jobs, and public services. To accommodate these demands, the state approved the formation of many new local government agencies, often with little forethought as to the ultimate governance structures in a given region. The lack of coordination and adequate planning led to a multitude of overlapping, inefficient jurisdictional and service boundaries and the premature conversion/loss of California’s agricultural and open space-lands.

Recognizing this problem, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Sr. appointed the Commission on Metropolitan Area Problems in 1959. The Commission’s charge was to study and make recommendations on the “misuse of land resources” and the growing complexity of 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.

From 1963-1985, LAFCOs administered a complicated series of statutory laws and three enabling acts – the Knox-Nisbet Act, the Municipal Organization Act (MORGA), and the District Reorganization Act. Confusion over the application of these laws led to a reform movement that produced the first consolidated LAFCO Act, the Cortese-Knox Local Government Reorganization Act of 1985. In 1997, a new call for reform in local government resulted in the formation, by the Legislature, of the Commission on Local Governance in the 21st Century. After many months canvassing the state, the Commission recommended changes to the laws governing LAFCOs in its comprehensive report “Growth Within Bounds.” These recommendations became the foundation for the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg (CKH) Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (Government Code §§ 56000 et seq), an act that mandates greater independence for LAFCOs and further clarifies their purpose and mission.

Legislative Act

An entire division of the California Government Code, (Government Code §§ 56000 et seq.), the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg (CKH) Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (Government Code §§ 56000 et seq) 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 government 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.

California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions (CALAFCO)

Founded in 1971, the California Association of LAFCOs (CALAFCO) is an organization dedicated to assisting member LAFCOs with technical resources that otherwise would not be available. The Association provides statewide coordination of LAFCO activities, serves as a resource to the Legislature and other bodies, and offers a structure for sharing information among the various LAFCOs and other governmental agencies throughout the state.

The Association is governed by a Board of Directors composed of sixteen (16) LAFCO Commissioners: four city members, four county members, four special district members, and four public members. For the purposes of electing Board Members, the State is divided into four (4) regions as follows: Northern, Central, Coastal and Southern. Each region elects four (4) Directors comprised of one city member, one county member, one public member and one special district member. CALAFCO staff consists of a part-time Executive Director and part-time Administrator, Legal Counsel, CPA, and a volunteer Executive Officer and three (3) volunteer Deputy Executive Officers, each representing one of the four (4) regions. The membership of CALAFCO consists of all 58 LAFCOs, as well as Associate Members from firms, agencies and organizations throughout California.

In order to educate its members, CALAFCO sponsors an annual conference and a number of general or single topic workshops and seminars throughout the year. These educational opportunities are generally open to other public agencies and the general public, however, there is a charge associated with most of these events.