Common Questions

What is LAFCo?
Local Agency Formation Commissions, known as LAFCos, were created in each county by the California State Legislature in 1963. LAFCos have 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 local governmental boundary changes by approving or disapproving proposals involving the formation, expansion, or dissolution of cities and special districts.

Are LAFCos independent?
Yes. Each LAFCo operates independently of the state and local government agencies. However, LAFCos are tasked with administering a section of Government Code (Section 56000, et seq.) known as the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000. The CKH Act requires LAFCo to operate within a set of state-mandated parameters encouraging planned, well-ordered, efficient urban development patterns, the preservation of open-space lands, and the discouragement of urban sprawl.

What does LAFCo do?
LAFCo is responsible for approving proposed jurisdictional boundary changes, including annexations and detachments, incorporation of new cities, formation of new special districts, and the consolidation, merger, and dissolution of existing special districts. LAFCo also conducts studies to help perform its regulatory duties. Specifically, municipal service reviews are prepared to evaluate the level and range of services prior to adopting spheres of influence for each city and special district.

What are special districts?
Special districts are limited purpose local governments – separate from cities and counties. Within their boundaries, special districts provide focused public services such as fire protection, water, sewer, electricity, parks, recreation, sanitation, cemeteries, and libraries. Each type of special district operates under either a principal act or special act. Additionally, there are two forms of special district governance: independent and dependent. Most special districts are independent districts with independently elected boards or appointed boards whose directors serve for fixed terms. The remaining special districts are dependent districts governed by either a city council or county board of supervisors.

Does LAFCo oversee school district boundaries?
No. School districts fall under their own section of State law. School district boundaries are overseen by a committee on school district organization in each county.

Who serves on LAFCo?
Humboldt LAFCo is composed of seven regular commissioners: two county supervisorial members, two city council members, two special district members, and one public member. Commission members serve four-year terms. There is also one alternate member for each of the four classifications. The Commission employs its own staff, an Executive Officer and Administrator.

When and where does LAFCo meet?
LAFCo meetings are scheduled every other month on the third Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chamber, Humboldt County Courthouse, 825 Fifth Street, Eureka.

Are LAFCos subject to the Brown Act and the Political Reform Act?
Yes. LAFCo’s members are subject to the same laws and restrictions that apply to all locally elected officials. This includes ensuring all actions are taken openly with full public disclosure as well as filing standard financial disclosure statements annually with the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

How do I submit a proposal with LAFCo?
Applications to LAFCo may be submitted by resolution of application by a city or special district, or by petition of landowners or registered voters. LAFCo may approve or disapprove proposed changes of organization with or without amendments consistent with written policies and procedures. LAFCo may also condition its approval as long as it does not directly regulate land use, property development, or subdivision requirements. Changes of organization include all of the following:

  • Annexations (Cities and Districts)
  • Detachments (Cities and Districts)
  • Consolidations (Cities and Districts)
  • Incorporations and Dissolutions (Cities)
  • Formations, Dissolutions, Mergers (Districts)
  • Activation of Latent Powers/Elimination of Existing Powers (Districts)

What is a sphere of influence?
State law defines a sphere of influence as “the probable physical boundary and service area of a local agency.” All boundary changes, such as annexations and detachments, must be consistent with adopted spheres of influence with limited exceptions.

Can a sphere of influence be changed?
Yes. LAFCo is responsible for establishing, amending, and updating spheres of influence for all cities and special districts. LAFCo is required to review spheres of influence for cities and special districts at 5-year intervals and either adopts or amends them as necessary. Additionally, a city or special district may apply to LAFCo to amend their sphere of influence at any particular time if a need arises.