Definitions of Common LAFCO and Planning Terms

LAFCOs use terms from California state law, and the fields of public administration and urban planning. These common terms are listed below. The definitions are intended to help the general reader and, therefore, do not necessarily coincide with legal or technical definitions.

Annexation : The inclusion, attachment or addition of territory to a city or special district.

Change of Organization: An alteration of government structure including: city incorporation, district formation, annexation to, or detachment from a city or district, city disincorporation, district dissolution, city or district consolidation, or merger or establishment of a subsidiary district.

Coastal Plan: A local plan prepared by cities and counties lying within the coastal zone and certified by the California Coastal Commission pursuant to the California Coastal Act. Also known as Local Coastal Program (LCP).

Commission: The governing board of a LAFCO.

Conducting Authority:The commission of the principal county of the entity proposing a change of organization or reorganization, unless another conducting authority is specified by law.

Consolidation: The uniting or joining of two or more cities, or two or more districts located in the same county, into a single new successor city or successor district.

Contiguous: In the case of annexation, territory adjacent to an agency to which annexation is proposed. Territory is not contiguous if the only contiguity is based upon a strip of land more than 300 feet long and less than 200 feet wide, that width to be exclusive of highways.

Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000: The collection of state laws that govern the changes of organization of local governments in California. The act begins at Section 56000 of the California Government Code. Also known as the Local Government Reorganization Act.

Dependent Special District: A special district whose board of directors is another legislative body, such as a city council or board of supervisors. Also see special district.

Detachment: The exclusion, deannexation, deletion, or removal from a city or district.

Disincorporation: The termination or dissolution, extinguishment, and termination of the existence of a city and the cessation of its corporate powers, except for the purpose of winding up the affairs of the city.

Dissolution: The termination or disincorporation of the existence of a district.

District or Special District: means an agency of the state, formed pursuant to general law or special act, for the local performance of governmental or proprietary functions within limited boundaries. “District” or “special district” includes a county service area, but excludes all of the following:

  1. The state.
  2. A county.
  3. A city.
  4. A school district or a community college district.
  5. A special assessment district.
  6. An improvement district.
  7. A community facilities district formed pursuant to the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982, Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 53311) of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5.

  8. A permanent road division pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 1160) of Chapter 4 of Division 2 of the Streets and Highways Code.

  9. An air pollution control district or an air quality maintenance district. A service zone of a fire protection district

Easement: A less-than-fee interest that includes selected rights, or grants the holder the right to prevent certain land uses. A property owner retains ownership and the rights other than those expressly limited by the easement. Easements may be granted for a number of reasons, including access, public utilities, conservation, open-space, and scenic purposes.

Extra-Territorial Service: A situation in which a city or special district is authorized by LAFCO to extend limited services to certain properties outside its boundaries. Also, known as out-of-agency service agreements.

Formation: The creation of a district.

General Plan: A document containing a statement of development policies including a diagram and text setting forth the objectives of the plan. The general plan must include certain state mandated elements related to and use, circulation, housing, conservation, open-space, noise and safety.

Incorporation: The creation of a city.

Independent Special District: A special district that has a directly elected board of directors. Also see special district.

Inhabited Territory: Territory within which 12 or more registered voters reside.

Initiating Petition: A document signed either by registered voters or landowners that requests LAFCO to consider a boundary change. The petition must be in a form prescribed by LAFCO.

Island: Unincorporated territory substantially surrounded by a city, or territory surrounded by a city on one or more sides and the Pacific Ocean on the remaining side.

Merger: The termination of the existence of a district, and the assumption of the district’s responsibilities by a city.

Municipal Service Review: A comprehensive study designed to better inform LAFCO, local agencies, and the community examining the provision of municipal services for the area.

Pre-zoning: A zoningdesignation, formally adopted by a city, which applies to property outside the city limits. Pre-zoning has no regulatory effect until the property is annexed. Also see zoning.

Principal Act: The sections of state law under which authority a district was formed and now operates. The Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act provides for formation process, but is not the principal act under which districts operate. An example of a principal act is the Recreation and Park District Law, commencing with Section 5780 of the Public Resources Code.

Principal County: For districts located in more than one county, the county in which all boundary change applications are filed at LAFCO. The principal county is determined to be the county with the largest share of assessed value of taxable property within the district.

Protest Proceedings: A process under state law which occurs after LAFCO approvals of certain boundary changes and which provides notice to registered voters and property owners within the subject territory and allows for written protest to be filed. Certain thresholds of protest can trigger either an election to be scheduled on the question of the boundary change, or termination of the boundary change.

Proposal: A request or statement of intention made by petition or by resolution of application of a legislative body or of a school district proposing proeceedings for the change of organization or reorganization described in the request or statement of intention.

Redevelopment: A process under which a city or county can utilize increases in property tax revenue to finance capital improvements in an area. Redevelopment agency formations and boundary changes are not subject to LAFCO review.

Reorganization:Two or more changes of organization initiated in a single proposal.

Special District: A local governmental agency formed pursuant to general law of the state or special act of the Legislature.

Sphere of Influence: A plan, adopted by LAFCO, for the probable physical boundaries and service areas of a city or district.

Sphere of Influence Amendment: The changing or updating of an adopted sphere of influence.

Sphere of Influence Determinations:In establishing a sphere of influence, the commission must consider and prepare written determinations related to present and planned land uses, need and capacity of public facilities, and existence of social and economic communities of interest.

Subsidiary District: A district of limited powers for which a city council is designated as the ex officio board of directors of the district. At least 70% of the district’s land area and number of registered voters must be within the city limits for a district to become a subsidiary district.

Uninhabited Territory: Territory within which fewer than 12 registered voters reside.

Zoning: The primary regulatory instrument for implementing the general plan. Zoning divides a community into districts or “zones” which specify the permitted and prohibited uses and development standards.