LAFCOs regulate, through approval or denial, the boundary changes proposed by other public agencies or individuals. LAFCOs do not have the power to initiate boundary changes on their own, except for proposals involving the dissolution, merging or consolidation of special districts.
Typical applicants might include:
- Individual home owners requesting annexation to a sewer district due to a failing septic tank.
- Developers seeking annexation to cities in order to obtain urban densities and urban service extended to the new housing.
- Cities wishing to annex pockets or "islands" of unincorporated land located within their borders in order to avoid duplication of services with the county.
- Special Districts or cities seeking to consolidate two or more governmental agencies into one, thereby streamlining their services and reducing the cost to the local taxpayer.
Sphere Of Influence Studies
One of the most important charges given to LAFCOs was the adoption of "Spheres of Influence" for local governments (1972).
A "Sphere of Influence" is the physical boundary and service area that a local governmental agency is expected to serve in the future. Establishment of this boundary is necessary to determine which governmental agencies can provide services in the most efficient way 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 cost.
Initiation Of Special District Consolidations
As of July 1, 1994, LAFCOs have the authority to initiate proposals that include the dissolution or consolidation of special districts, the merging of an existing district or establishment of subsidiary districts. Prior to initiating such an action, LAFCO must determine that the district's customers would benefit from the proposal through adoption of a Sphere of Influence or other special study.
Out Of Agency Service Agreements
Cities and districts are required to obtain LAFCO's approval prior to entering into contracts with private individuals or organizations to provide services outside of the agencies boundaries.