Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCOs) are state-mandated regulatory agencies established by the Legislature in 1963. LAFCOs were created to help implement State policy of encouraging orderly growth and development through the regulation of local public agency boundaries. This daunting task requires each Commission to balance the development required for a growing population with the competing State interests of discouraging urban sprawl, preserving agricultural resources and open space and extending government services efficiently. Each of California’s 58 counties has a LAFCO, however, they are independent of county government. Riverside LAFCO generally has jurisdiction over changes in boundaries of local agencies (cities and special districts) within Riverside County. For more information on the origins of LAFCO, see the Background section of this site.
Composition of LAFCOs can vary between counties. The Riverside LAFCO has seven members as follows: two members from the County Board of Supervisors; two members from city councils appointed by the mayors of all the cities in the County; two special district board members selected by all the independent special districts in the County; one public member selected by the other six members. An alternate is also appointed for each of the four categories. Commissioners serve four year terms. For information on current Commissioners, click here.
General Purpose and Responsibilities
LAFCO has both regulatory and planning functions. On the regulatory side, it carries out its legislative mandate through the consideration of proposals for boundary changes. Boundary change proposals are also known as “changes of organization”. When a proposal includes more than one change of organization, it is called a “reorganization”. These proposals can be initiated by petition of landowners or voters or adoption of a resolution by one or more affected agencies.
The most common type of boundary change is an annexation (addition of territory) to a local agency, such as a city or a water district. Most annexations are initiated by landowners in order to facilitate development. Annexations are sometimes initiated by a group of voters in order to receive a specific service or an increased level of service. Other types of changes of organization include, but are not limited to, detachment (removal of territory), incorporation (formation of a new city), special district formation, dissolution (elimination) of a district, consolidation of two or more agencies, and the authorization for a special district to provide a new service. In addition, under certain circumstances, LAFCO can authorize an agency to provide services outside of its boundaries. The Commission can exercise its discretion to approve, disapprove or even modify the boundaries of proposals. It can approve proposed boundary change proposals subject to certain terms and conditions, as allowed by law. For more information on the LAFCO process, click here.
LAFCO’s planning function is exercised through the establishment and amendment of “spheres of influence” (SOI). LAFCO is required to designate and periodically review a SOI for each local agency in the County. A SOI is defined as “a plan for the probable physical boundaries and service area of a local agency, as determined by the commission”. The SOI usually delineates the area that an agency could be expected to “grow in to” in the future. A SOI that is the same as the current boundaries indicates that the agency should be considered in its ultimate configuration. However, an SOI can also be smaller than the current agency boundaries, specifying that territory should be detached over time. LAFCOs prepare Municipal Service Reviews (MSRs) as an aid in reviewing SOIs. An MSR will include information relevant to a specific service, an agency or a geographic region. Based on the MSR, the Commission will make determinations with respect to several factors including expected growth, service and facility capacity, the financial ability of agencies to provide services, opportunities for shared facilities and improved efficiency, and governmental structure alternatives.
The Commission usually meets on the fourth Thursday of each month. For more information on Commission meetings, click here.