Frequently Asked Questions
LAFCO (an acronym for “Local Agency Formation Commission”) is a public agency with county-wide jurisdiction established by 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.
LAFCO oversees changes to local government boundaries involving the formation and expansion of cities and special districts.
Also see What is LAFCO? brochure.
LAFCOs are independent public agencies which administer the Cortese-Knox-
Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000. Created by the State but with local (not State appointees), each of the 58 counties in the State of California has a LAFCO. Each LAFCO operates independently of other LAFCOs, and each LAFCO has authority only within its corresponding county. While a LAFCO may purchase services (legal counsel or medical insurance) from a county, LAFCO’s are not County agencies.
The Local Agency Formation Commission for the County of Los Angeles is also known as “Los Angeles LAFCO,” “L.A. LAFCO,” or “LAFCO.”
The Commission is composed of nine members:
- Two members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors;
- One member of the Los Angeles City Council;
- Two members of city councils who represent the other 88 cities (other than the City of Los Angeles) in the County;
- Two members who represent independent special districts;
- One member who represents the San Fernando Valley; and
- One member who represents the general public.
There are also six alternate members on the Commission (one for each of the six
See the Directory of LAFCO Commissioners.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appoints the two County Commissioners and the San Fernando Valley member and alternate.
The President of the Los Angeles City Council appoints the City’s member and
The City Selection Committee, composed of representatives (Mayor or Council-Member) of the 88 cities (other than Los Angeles) within Los Angeles County, elects the City representatives and alternate.
The Independent Special Districts Selection Committee, composed of representatives (members of the Board of Directors) from each of the 54 independent special districts in the County of Los Angeles, elects the special district representatives and alternate.
The public member and alternate are elected by the other 8 voting Commissioners.
Yes. The Commission appoints an Executive Officer and Deputy Executive Officer. A small staff reports to the Executive Officer.
See the directory of LAFCO Staff.
The Commission holds its “regular meetings” at 9:00 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 Room 381B of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, located at 500 West Temple Street in downtown Los Angeles.
Public notice, including the Commission agenda, is posted at the Commission meeting room and on LAFCO’s web-site (www.lalafco.org).
Click here for information on LAFCO meetings and agendas.
The LAFCO office is located at 80 South Lake (Suite 870) in the City of Pasadena. The office is open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The office is closed on Fridays. Directory of LAFCO Staff Contact Information and Direction to the LAFCO Office
LAFCO oversees changes to local government boundaries involving the formation and expansion of cities and special districts. This includes annexations and detachments of territory to and/or from cities and special districts; incorporations of new cities; formations of new special districts; consolidations of cities or special districts; mergers of special districts with cities; and dissolutions of existing districts. LAFCO also approves or disapproves proposals from cities and special districts to provide municipal services outside their jurisdictional boundaries.
LAFCO determines a Sphere of Influence (“SOI”), a plan for the probable physical boundaries and service areas, for each city and special district in the County. All jurisdictional changes, such as incorporations, annexations, and detachments, must be consistent with the affected agency’s Sphere of Influence, with limited exceptions.
LAFCO also prepares Municipal Service Reviews (“MSRs”), which are a comprehensive analysis of the municipal services provided in a particular city or special district.
LAFCO regulates the boundaries of all 88 incorporated cities within the County of Los Angeles. LAFCO regulates most special district boundaries including, but not limited to:
- Cemetery districts
- Community Service Districts (“CSDs”)
- County Service Areas (“CSAs”)
- County waterworks districts
- Fire protection Districts
- Hospital and health care districts
- Irrigation districts
- Library districts
- Municipal utility districts
- Reclamation districts
- Recreation and parks districts
- Resource conservation districts
- Sanitation districts
- Water districts
See maps of cities and special districts in the County of Los Angeles.
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.
- 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 (aka “Mello-Roos” districts)
- Improvement districts
- Redevelopment agencies
- School districts
- Special Assessment districts
- Transit and Transportation districts
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.
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.
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 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.
A Sphere of Influence (“SOI”) is a “plan for the probable physical boundaries and service areas of a local agency, as determined by the Commission.” LAFCO establishes a SOI for each city and special district regulated by LAFCO. The SOI is generally the territory which a city or special district is expected to annex.
Cities and special districts cannot provide services outside their Sphere of Influence except in very limited circumstances.
See maps of cities and special districts illustrating their spheres of influence.
Yes. The Commission is empowered to amend and update spheres of influence.
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.
See list of special districts in Los Angeles County.
Municipal Service Reviews (“MSRs”) are studies that evaluate existing and future service conditions.
Pursuant to State Law, LAFCOs must review and update MSRs “every five years, as necessary.” The Commission adopted MSRs for all cities and special districts in the County prior to the January 1, 2008 deadline (“Round One”). Staff is currently preparing MSR’s for 9 cities and 14 special districts (“Round Two”), which must be adopted by the Commission no later than January 1, 2013.
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.
State law requires that LAFCO adopt a budget by May 1st 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 Los Angeles, the cities in the County, and the special districts in the County.
Public agencies and individuals who file applications also pay application processing fees to LAFCO. Application processing fees are a small portion of LAFCO’s budget, and vary significantly from year to year.