LAFCO
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Questions

What are LAFCOs?

LAFCOs were created by the California Legislature in 1963 with regulatory and planning responsibilities to coordinate the timely development of local governmental agencies and their services while protecting agricultural and open-space resources. Most notably, this includes managing boundary lines by approving or disapproving proposals involving the formation, expansion, or dissolution of cities and special districts.  LAFCOs also conduct studies to help inform their regulatory duties. This includes preparing municipal service reviews to evaluate the level and range of governmental services provided in the affected region in anticipation of establishing and updating cities and special districts' spheres of influence. Markedly, spheres of influence designate the territory LAFCOs believe represent the affected agencies' appropriate future jurisdictions and service areas and must be reviewed every five years.  All boundary changes, such as annexations, must be consistent with the affected agencies' spheres of influence with limited exceptions. LAFCOs are located in all 58 counties in California.

Are LAFCOs independent agencies?

Yes. LAFCOs are independent political subdivisions of the State of California tasked with administering a section of planning law known as the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act.

Do LAFCOs consider local conditions in each county?  

Yes.  Each LAFCO is responsible for fulfilling its regulatory and planning responsibilities outlined under the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act consistent with its own adopted procedures and policies. Accordingly, a proposal may be appropriate in one county but not appropriate in another county based on local conditions and circumstances.

Who pays for LAFCOs?

State law establishes a "pay-to-play" formula in terms of funding LAFCOs. Any local agency whose council or board members are eligible to be commissioners must contribute funds to their LAFCO's budget.  In Napa County, the six agencies funding LAFCO are the County of Napa and the Cities of American Canyon, Calistoga, Napa, St. Helena, and Town of Yountville. The County is responsible for one-half of LAFCO’s annual operational costs with the remaining amount is proportionally shared by the five cities based on a prescribed formula weighting population and general tax revenues.  There is no special district representation currently on LAFCO of Napa County. 

What are special districts?

Special districts serve important roles in growth management in California given they are responsible for providing a range of municipal services - such as water, sewer, or fire - within particular areas, such as unincorporated communities.  Special districts fall into two categories, (a) independent and (b) dependent.  Independent special districts have a board of directors elected by the voters that reside within their boundaries.  Dependent special districts have a board of directors appointed by other local agencies or whose board members are the Board of Supervisors or one of the city councils.  For more information on special districts, please click here

Do LAFCOs oversee school districts?

No. School districts fall under their own section of State law. LAFCOs do not oversee school districts in any way, although proposals for new school sites that will require the extension of municipal services to unincorporated areas are reviewed by LAFCOs.

Are LAFCOs subject to the Brown Act and the Political Reform Act?

Yes.  LAFCOs' members are subject to the same laws and restrictions that apply to all locally elected officials with respect to ensuring all actions are taken openly with full disclosure to the public as well as filing annual Statement of Economic Interests forms.

How long does it take to process a proposal?

In Napa County, as a general rule, proposals are processed and presented to Commissioners for consideration within three to five months from the time they are submitted. If approved, it generally takes an additional two to three months to complete the necessary paperwork before a proposal is officially recorded.

How does one appeal a LAFCO decision?

Appealing a LAFCO decision is limited to requesting the Commission reconsider its action if there are new facts to present that were not in evidence at the time of its decision. Requests for reconsideration must be submitted to LAFCO within 30 days of the approval date. Once the reconsideration process is exhausted, the only forum for challenges to LAFCO decisions is the court system.

Common Questions