Understanding LAFCO


(Government Code Section 56000 et seq.)
LAFCO’s responsibilities are defined by this statute that creates the Commission, mandates its activities and grants it legal authority.
Guide to the Cortese–Knox–Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000

(Government Code Section 54950 et seq.)
LAFCO meetings are subject to this State Open Meeting Law. The Commission conducts its business in public.

(Public Resource Code Section 21000 et seq.)
LAFCOs are subject to State environmental policies, procedures, and public participation rules in environmental matters.

(Revenue & Taxation Code Section 99 et seq.)
LAFCOs commence property tax negotiations among agencies affected by a change of organization and establish the amounts of property tax revenues to be distributed to new cities and districts.

NOTE:  To access State Codes on the Internet go to www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html  and follow the instructions for locating specific sections.


Each California county has a Local Agency Formation Commission. These were formed by the California Legislature in 1963 in response to urban boundary wars and the disappearance of agricultural lands, to promote more orderly development. While their responsibilities have expanded over the years, Commissions generally have the following makeup*:

Two City Members (selected by the cities in that county)
Two County Members (selected by the Board of Supervisors
Two Special District Members (elected by independent special districts in that county)
One Public Member (selected by the other six LAFCO Commissioners)

Alternate members—one in each category—are also appointed and vote whenever a regular member is absent or disqualified from participating. All members serve four-year terms.

*Twenty-eight LAFCOs do not have Special District Members. Others have extra City Members, and at least one LAFCO has no City Members.

For a listing of current Contra Costa LAFCO Commissioners please go to the Commissioners and Staff page.

Regular meetings are at 1:30 PM, generally on the second Wednesday of each month, in the Board of Supervisors Chambers in Martinez.

The public can attend meetings and give testimony.


The Commission’s appointed Executive Officer conducts its day-to-day business, prepares staff reports and recommendations on proposals submitted to LAFCO, hires and supervises LAFCO staff, and consults with Legal Counsel, also appointed by the Commission, on matters as necessary.

For a listing of current Contra Costa LAFCO Staff please go to the Commissioners and Staff page.


LAFCO is a regulatory agency charged by the State legislature with “discouraging urban sprawl and encouraging the orderly formation and development of local agencies” based on “local circumstances and conditions.” To meet its responsibilities, LAFCO reviews and approves or denies proposals to:

  • Annex land to cities or special districts,
  • Detach land from cities or special districts,
  • Consolidate two or more cities or two or more special districts,
  • Form new special districts and incorporate new cities,
  • Dissolve special districts and disincorporate cities,
  • Merge cities and special districts,
  • Allow cities or special districts to provide services outside of their boundaries.


LAFCO is charged by the State Legislature to determine and update at least every five years the “sphere of influence” of each city and special district.
A sphere of influence is a plan for the probable physical boundaries and service area of a local agency. Factors that LAFCO must consider in determining spheres of influence are:

  • The present and planned land uses, including agricultural and open space lands,
  • The present and probable needs for public facilities and services in the area,
  • The present capacity of public facilities and adequacy of public services that the agency provides or is authorized to provide,
  • The existence of any social or economic communities of interest in the area if the Commission determines that they are relevant to the agency.

LAFCO is required to review and update spheres of influence every five years.


The Commission is authorized to inventory and study governmental agencies. In updating spheres of influence LAFCO must prepare Municipal Service Reviews of relevant local agencies and services.

Based upon the spheres of influence or special studies, the Commission may initiate proposals to consolidate special districts, merge a special district with a city, dissolve a special district, establish a subsidiary district or any combination of these changes.


While LAFCO cannot impose conditions that directly regulate land use or subdivision requirements it must consider specific factors when it reviews a proposal. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • Land area and land use, topography, natural boundaries and drainage basins, population, population density, and proximity to other populated areas,
  • Likelihood of significant growth in the area and in adjacent incorporated and unincorporated areas during the next ten years,
  • Effect of the proposed action and of alternate actions on adjacent areas, mutual social and economic interests, and the local governmental structure,
  • Need for organized community services, the present cost and adequacy, and probable future needs for governmental services and controls in the area,
  • Probable effects of the proposal and of alternatives on the cost and adequacy of services and controls in the area and adjacent areas,
  • Ability of the entity to provide services to the area, including the sufficiency of revenues for those services,
  • Timely availability of water supplies adequate for projected needs,
  • Extent to which the proposal will assist the entity in achieving its fair share of regional housing needs,
  • Consistency with appropriate city or county general and specific plans and the sphere of influence of any local agency, which may be applicable to the proposal,
  • Definiteness and certainty of the boundaries of the territory, the non-conformance of proposed boundaries with lines of assessment or ownership, the creation of islands or corridors of unincorporated territory, and other similar matters affecting the proposed boundary,
  • Conformity of the proposal and anticipated effects with adopted Commission policies on providing planned, orderly efficient patterns of urban development.


When it approves a proposal LAFCO can apply various conditions. These include but are not limited to:

  • Payment for acquisition of existing property; levying or fixing and collecting special or extraordinary taxes, assessments or service charges for payment for acquired property,
  • Disposition of responsibility for outstanding bonds or contractual obligations as well as the amount of responsibility,
  • Formation of new improvement district(s) and annexations to or detachments from existing improvement district(s),
  • Incurring of liability or bonded indebtedness on behalf of the territory annexed or the agency as a whole, and the issuance and sale of bonds,
  • Acquisition, improvement, disposition, sale, transfer, or division of property,
  • Fixing the use or right-of-use in any public improvement, facility, or property,
  • Disposition of any office, department, or board within the affected agency and determination of the rights of employees affected by a proposal,
  • Designation of a successor agency to any agency being extinguished,
  • Method for selecting the members for an agency formed or reorganized,
  • Fixing the effective date for any change,
  • Continuation or provision of any service provided or authorized by the agency,
  • Levying a benefit assessment or calling an election to decide a special tax.


LAFCO considers and decides public issues and its processes are open to the public.

All members of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend LAFCO meetings and comment during public hearings on proposals before the Commission.

LAFCO meetings are an excellent opportunity for citizens to familiarize themselves with land use, public service, and interjurisdictional issues facing their county.

County residents may be appointed to serve as the public member of the Commission.

Information about the Commission, including notices of LAFCO meetings, staff reports, application materials, and procedures are available at the LAFCO office or by email: LouAnn.Texeira@lafco.cccounty.us.


The Metamorphosis of Special Districts: Current Methods for Consolidation, Dissolution, Subsidiary District Formation and Merger