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.
To encourage the orderly formation of local governmaental 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.
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.