What is LAFCO?
The Imperial Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) is a local government agency that is independent of the County and the Cities. Part of our duties include overseeing boundary changes (i.e., annexations, detachments, incorporations, extension of services, etc.) between the County, the Cities, and the Special Districts. There is one LAFCO for every County in California. The Imperial LAFCO consists of 5 members: 2 County Supervisors to represent the County of Imperial, 2 City Council members to represent the 7 Cities in the Imperial County, and 1 public member to represent the public in the Imperial County.
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.
Preserve Open Space
LAFCO must consider the effect that any proposal will produce on existing lands. By guiding development toward vacant urban land and away from agricultural preserves, LAFCO assists with the preservation of our valuable resources.
Discourage Urban Sprawl
Urban sprawl can best be described as irregular and disorganized growth occuring without apparent design or plan. This pattern of development is characterized by the inefficient delivery of urban services (police, fire, water, and sanitation) and the unnecessary loss of agricultural land. By discouraging sprawl, LAFCO limits the misuse of land resources and promotes a more efficient system of local governmental agencies.
Citizens are welcome and encouraged to attend regular LAFCO meetings and state their views during public hearings on proposals before the Commission. In addition, the meetings provide an excellent opportunity for citizens to familiarize themselves with the growth, development, and have independent Special District representation on the Commission, thereby expanding to seven members.
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.