What is LAFCO?

LAFCO (an acronym for “Local Agency Formation Commission”) is a public agency with county-wide jurisdiction established by California State Law (the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000). The intent of the Act is to discourage urban sprawl and to encourage orderly and efficient provision of services, such as water, sewer, and fire protection.

Orange County LAFCO oversees changes to local government boundaries involving the formation and expansion of cities and special districts in Orange County. There is a LAFCO in each of the 58 counties in the State of California. Each LAFCO operates independently of other LAFCOs and each LAFCO has authority only within its corresponding county. LAFCOs may contract for services (i.e. legal services, medical insurance, employee benefits) from a county, but they are not County agencies.

Why were LAFCOs created?

A Brief History of All LAFCOs

After World War II, California experienced dramatic growth in population and economic development. This population boom increased the demand for housing, jobs and public services. In order to compensate for the demand, the state approved the formation of local government agencies through the State Boundary Commission. The approvals of these new agencies gave little or no thought to the ultimate governance structure of any given regions. This led to a multitude of overlapping, inadequate jurisdictional and service boundaries, and the premature conversion of open space and agricultural land.

In 1959, Governor Edmund G. Brown Sr. appointed the Commission of Metropolitan Area Problems whose charge was to study and make recommendations on the misuse of land resources and the growing complexity of local governmental jurisdiction. The commissions’ recommendations were introduced in the Legislature in 1963 and resulted in the creation of Local Agency Formation Commissions or LAFCOs operating in each county within the State of California.

Who are the members of "LAFCO"?

The Commission is composed of seven voting members:

  • Two members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors;
  • Two members of city councils who represent the 34 cities in the County;
  • Two members who represent independent special districts; and
  • One member who represents the general public.

There are also four alternate members on the Commission (one for each of the four
categories listed above).

Meet the  Commissioners

How are the LAFCO commissioners appointed?

The County Board of Supervisors chooses its members to serve on LAFCO. LAFCO city representatives are selected by the City Selection Committee. Special district seats are chosen by the Special District Selection Committee. The six County, city and special district members select the public member.

Does LAFCO have employees?

Yes.  The Commission appoints an Executive Officer.   The Executive Officer may hire staff and enter into contracts for specialized services necessary to administer the Commission’s policies and programs.

Meet the LAFCO Staff

When and where does the commission meet?

The Commission holds its “regular meetings” at 8:15 a.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. Periodically the Commission will schedule “special meetings” on a date other than the second Wednesday of the month.

Commission meetings are held in the Planning Commission Hearing Room of the Hall of Administration located at 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd, 10 Civic Center Plaza in the City of Santa Ana.

Public notice, including the Commission agenda, is posted at the Commission meeting room and on LAFCO’s web-site (www.oclafco.org).

Click here for information on LAFCO meetings and agendas.

Who pays for LAFCO?

State law requires that LAFCO adopt a budget by May 1 for the upcoming fiscal year (July 1 to June 30).  Each class of public agencies that is eligible to have representation on the Commission must contribute to the LAFCO budget.  State law apportions the contributions for the County of Orange, the cities in the County, and the special district in the County.

Public agencies and individuals who file applications also pay application processing fees to LAFCO.  Application processing fees may offset the apportionments paid by the funding agencies, but vary significantly from year to year.

Is the public involved in LAFCO actions?

Yes. LAFCOs are subject to one of the most comprehensive public notice requirements of any public agency.

In most cases LAFCO notifies the County of Los Angeles, other public agencies, property-owners and registered voters within the area impacted by the proposed application. Some applications also require publication notice in a local newspaper.

All meeting agendas and minutes are posted on LAFCO’s web-site, as are most notices and reports.

What state laws govern LAFCO?

The Cortese Knox Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (California Government Code Section 56000 et seq.) is the primary law that governs LAFCOs.

This Act establishes how LAFCOs are formed and sets forth the powers and duties of LAFCOs.

LAFCOs must also comply with the following State laws:

  • California Revenue and Taxation Code Sections 93 and 99. LAFCO considers the revenue and taxation implications of proposals and initiates the property tax negotiation process amongst agencies affected by the proposal.
  • California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) (California Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.) and the related CEQA Guidelines (Title 14, California Code or Regulations Section 15000 et seq.). In most instances, applications before LAFCO are considered to be “projects” under CEQA, which requires that potential environmental impacts be analyzed prior to Commission action.
  • Ralph M. Brown Act (California Government Code Section 54950 et seq.). Commonly known as the State’s “open meeting law,” the Brown Act insures that the public has adequate opportunity to participate in the LAFCO process.
  • Political Reform Act (California Government Code Section 81000 et seq). Commissioners and some LAFCO staff (Executive Officer and Deputy Executive Officer) are subject to the Act, which requires the filing of annual reports of economic interests.

What is a special district?

State law defines a special district as “any agency of the state for the local performance of governmental or proprietary functions within limited boundaries.”
A special district is a local government that delivers a limited number of municipal services to a geographically limited area.

Where does LAFCO get the power to determine boundaries?

The State of California possesses the exclusive power to regulate boundary changes, which means that no local government has the right to change its own boundary without State approval.

The California Constitution (Article XI, Section 2.a) requires the Legislature to “prescribe [a] uniform procedure for city formation and provide for city powers.” The Legislature has the authority to create, dissolve, or change the governing jurisdiction of special districts because they receive their powers only through State statutes.

The Legislature has created a “uniform process” for boundary changes for cities and special districts in the Cortese Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (California Government Code Section 56000 et seq.). The Act delegates the Legislature’s boundary powers over cities and special districts to LAFCO.

What jurisdictional boundaries are regulated by LAFCO?

LAFCO regulates the boundaries of all 34 incorporated cities within Orange County.  LAFCO regulates most special district boundaries, including:

  • Cemetery Districts
  • Community Services Districts
  • County Service Areas
  • Irrigation Districts
  • Library Districts
  • Recreation and Parks Districts
  • Sanitary and Sanitation Districts
  • Water Districts

See maps of the cities and special districts in Orange County under LAFCO jurisdiction.

Which jurisdictional boundaries are not regulated by LAFCO?

  • LAFCO does not regulate boundaries for counties.
  • LAFCO does not regulate boundaries for the following public agencies:
    • Air pollution control districts
    • Bridge, highway, and thoroughfare districts
    • Community college districts
    • Community facility districts
    • Improvement districts
    • Redevelopment agencies
    • School districts
    • Special Assessment districts
    • Transit and Transportation districts

Does LAFCO regulate land use?

State law specifically prohibits LAFCOs from imposing terms and conditions which “directly regulate land use, property development, or subdivision requirements.”
In considering applications, however, State law requires that LAFCO take into account existing and proposed land uses when rendering its decisions.
The power to adopt zoning and land-use regulation is vested in cities and counties.

Can LAFCO's decision be appealed?

Appealing a LAFCO decision is limited to filing a written request that the Commission reconsider its action. This request must be submitted to LAFCO within 30 days of the original decision, and the request must present new or different information that was not previously considered by the Commission. See Guidelines for Requesting Reconsideration of a LAFCO Resolution Making Determinations. LAFCO’s decisions can be challenged in the court system. Local governments cannot use an initiative or referendum to vote upon a boundary change as an attempt to circumvent LAFCO approval.

How many islands have been incorporated in Orange County from 2000-2015?

Where is the LAFCO office located?

The LAFCO office is located at 2677 N. Main Street (Suite 1050) in the City of Santa Ana.   The office is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  The office is opened on alternating Fridays.  Click here for the complete 2017 LAFCO calendar.