History of LAFCo

The end of World War II saw California experiencing a tremendous population increase, which resulted in the sporadic formation of cities and special service districts. The results of this development boom became evident as more of California's agricultural land was converted to urban uses. Premature and unplanned development created inefficient, expensive systems of delivering public services using various small units of local government.

In 1959, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Sr., responded to this problem by appointing the Commission on Metropolitan Area Problems. The Commission's charge was to study and make recommendations on the "misuse of land resources" and the growing complexity of overlapping, local governmental jurisdictions.

The Knox-Nisbit Act of 1963 contained the Commission's recommendations on local governmental reorganization resulting in the creation of Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCos, operating in each county except San Francisco. Additional powers were given to the commissions in 1965 and 1977.

The District Reorganization Act of 1965 (DRA) standardized the method for special district boundary changes and combined the separate laws governing special district boundaries enumerated in their principal acts into a single statute.

The Municipal Organization Act of 1977 (MORGA) consolidated various laws regulating boundary changes and established new procedures for city boundary changes.

These three separate laws contained many parallel, duplicative provisions and were not always consistent.

The Cortese Knox Local Government Reorganization Act of 1985 replaced the three acts and placed the requirements of the three acts into one unified section of the Government Code.

The Cortese Knox Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 makes significant changes to LAFCo policies, procedures and operations. It streamlines and clarifies procedures and strengthens LAFCo's role and powers to prevent urban sprawl and protect open space. It includes many changes related to making LAFCos more balanced and independent in representation and operation, making LAFCos more accountable and visible to the public and enhancing communication among LAFCos and other local governments.

Urban sprawl can best be described as irregular and disorganized growth occurring without apparent design or plan. This pattern of development is characterized by the inefficient delivery of urban services (police, fire, water and sanitation) and the unnecessary loss of agricultural resources. By discouraging sprawl, LAFCo limits the misuse of land resources and promotes a more efficient system of local governmental services.

LAFCo must consider the effect that any proposal will produce on existing agricultural lands. By guiding development toward vacant urban land and away from agricultural preserves, LAFCo assists with the preservation of our valuable agricultural resources.