Common Questions


What is LAFCo?

Local Agency Formation Commissions, known as LAFCos, were created in each county by the California State 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 local government 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.  This Act requires LAFCos to act 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?

LAFCos are responsible for reviewing and approving proposed jurisdictional boundary changes including annexations and detachments to/from cities and special districts, incorporation of new cities, formation of new special districts, and the consolidation, merger, and dissolution of existing special districts. LAFCos are also responsible for reviewing and approving out-of-agency service area agreements between local governmental agencies and new or different functions or classes of services for cities and special districts. LAFCos also conduct studies to help perform their regulatory duties, including municipal service reviews to evaluate the level and range of services for establishing and updating cities and special districts' spheres of influence.


What are special districts?

Special districts serve important roles in California given that 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, independent and 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 city council.


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.


Who serves on LAFCo?

The Humboldt LAFCo is composed of five 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 Humboldt County Board of Supervisors' Chambers, 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 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 do I submit a proposal with LAFCo?

Cities and special districts may submit proposals to LAFCo by certified resolution or petition of landowners/registered voters making application. The following proposals must be reviewed and approved by LAFCo:

  • Adding land to a city or special district (annexation)
  • Creating a new city or special district (incorporation or formation)
  • Removing land from a city or special district (detachment)
  • Consolidating, merging, or dissolving cities or special districts
  • Out-of-agency service extensions for public health and safety reasons (e.g., failing septic tank)
  • Adding or removing a new or different function or class of service


What is a sphere of influence?

A sphere of influence is a boundary, adopted by LAFCo, for the probable future service area of a city or special district. In general, the sphere of influence tells residents, landowners, and public officials where LAFCo thinks a city or special district will annex territory and extend services in the future. All boundary changes, such as annexations, must be consistent with the city or special district’s sphere of influence.


Can a sphere of influence be changed?

Yes. LAFCo has the authority to amend or update spheres of influence. 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. However, a city or special district may apply to LAFCo to amend their sphere of influence at any particular time if a need arises.