LAFCOs are responsible for coordinating logical and timely changes in local governmental boundaries and conducting special studies that review ways to reorganize, simplify and streamline governmental structure. In addition, LAFCO prepares a Sphere of Influence for each city and special district in the county. The Commission’s efforts are directed to seeing that services are provided efficiently and economically while protecting agricultural and open-space lands.
OBJECTIVES OF LAFCO
To encourage the orderly formation of local governmental agencies, LAFCOs review proposals for the formation of new local governmental agencies and changes of organization in existing agencies. In California, LAFCOs work with nearly 4,000 governmental agencies in 58 counties, 500+ cities and 3,000+ special districts. Agency boundaries are often unrelated to one another and sometimes overlap at random, leading to higher service costs to the taxpayer and general confusion regarding service area boundaries. LAFCOs strive to balance the competing needs in California for affordable housing, economic opportunity and conservation of natural resources.
AUTHORITY OF LAFCO
One of the most important changes given to LAFCO was the adoption of “Spheres of Influence” for local governments. A “Sphere of Influence” is the physical boundary and service area that a local governmental agency is expected to serve. Establishment of this boundary is necessary to determine which governmental agencies can provide efficient services to the people and property in any given area. The Sphere of Influence requirement also works to discourage urban sprawl by preventing overlapping 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 so 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 and have the potential of duplicating services. LAFCOs conduct service studies and consolidation feasibility studies. These studies provide general information about local governments and present alternatives for improving services and reducing operational costs.