If an award could be given for the most awkward, confusing, and unintelligible name for a governmental agency, then surely the California State Legislature would win top honors for coining the name "Local Agency Formation Commission." Despite the complexity of its name, the goals of the Commission are easily stated:
- Encourage orderly growth.
- Promote logical and orderly service boundaries for cities and special districts.
- Discourage premature conversion of prime agricultural lands to urban uses.
- Promote efficient and effective service delivery for cities and special districts.
The state legislature has given the Commission three primary functions to help achieve those goals.
First, the Commission has been given a planning function which is accomplished through its "sphere of influence" program. A sphere of influence is defined as the probable future service boundary of a city or special district, and it represents the area within which the city or district is expected to grow. Properly established, the sphere of influence line discourages competition among agencies for developable land, it promotes orderly land use and service planning, and it provides direction to landowners when and if they need a broader range or higher level of services.
State law requires the Commission to consider the following factors in determining a sphere of influence boundary:
- The present and future land uses within the study area.
- The adequacy of current services available from agencies that already overlaying the study area.
- The capability of city or district to serve the study area in the future.
- Communities of interest.
State law also requires the Commission to review all city and district spheres of influence at least once every five years.
The second role of the Commission is its regulatory function. By law, any proposal to add land to a city or special district (annexation), create a new city or special district (incorporation or formation), remove land from a city or special district (detachment), consolidate, merge, or dissolve cities or special districts must be reviewed and approved by the Local Agency Formation Commission.
In its regulatory function, Commission review of a proposal generally focuses on the following issues:
- Boundaries. Do the proposed service boundaries make sense? Do they represent a logical and recognizable area within which services can be provided.
- Financial Effects. What are the financial implications of the proposal on local governments and landowners within the study area?
- Service Effects. What are the range and levels of services that will be provided if the proposal is successful? Will the proposal adversely effect the ability of any governmental agency to provide service?
- Environmental Effects. What are the possible environmental consequences of a proposal?
If the Commission approves a proposal, then a "protest hearing" will be held to measure landowner and/or voter protest to the proposal. The protest flow chart
provides the current sequence of events during this process.
The third role of the Commission provided in state law is its function of special studies. The Commission is empowered by law to investigate the efficiency and effectiveness of cities and special districts, and to propose changes in organization where appropriate. For example, the Commission might review the pattern of service boundaries that overlay a community or region and suggest changes that might improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery.
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