After the end of World War II and throughout the 1950’s, California experienced a tremendous population increase, which resulted in a number of illogical and “special interest” incorporations of new cities and formations of new special districts. In addition, a number of cities engaged in “annexation wars” with one another, resulting in haphazard, illogical, and inefficient service boundaries.

This development boom not only resulted in the proliferation of inefficient service agencies, but it also led to premature conversion of prime agricultural land to urban/suburban uses, premature and unplanned development, and urban sprawl.


Governor Edmund G. Brown, Sr. responded to this problem in 1959 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 governmental jurisdictions. The Commission’s recommendations on local governmental reorganization were introduced in the Legislature in 1963, resulting in the creation of Local Agency Formation Commissions (or “LAFCO’s) in every county in the state.

Formation Acts:

From 1963-1985, LAFCOs administered three enabling acts – the Knox-Nisbet Act, the Municipal Organization Act (MORGA), and the District Reorganization Act. In 1985, these three acts were combined into the first consolidated LAFCO Act, the Cortese-Knox Local Government Reorganization Act of 1985. In 1997, a new call for reform in local government resulted in the formation, by the Legislature, of the “Commission on Local Governance in the 21st Century”. The Commission recommended changes to the laws governing LAFCOs in its comprehensive report “Growth Within Bounds.” These recommendations became the foundation for the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg (CKH) Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000.

On June 16, 2012, the Commission adopted the following mission statement to reflect the unique circumstances and conditions which exist within San Bernardino County and to promote the Countywide Vision:

  • “The broad mission of the Local Agency Formation Commission for San Bernardino County is to implement the legislative direction and policies embodied in the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 in a manner that provides for an orderly and efficient growth pattern that reconciles the varied needs of San Bernardino County, promotes the Countywide Vision Statement, is in keeping with the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act, and addresses the parameters of the principle acts for Cities and Special Districts. 
  • One of the fundamental principles of the Local Agency Formation Commission is to ensure the establishment of an appropriate, sustainable, and logical municipal level government structure for the distribution of efficient and effective public services. The Local Agency Formation Commission for San Bernardino County will encourage and promote communication among agencies (public and private), property owners and residents of the County to achieve these goals. The Commission’s policies shall be carried out in an efficient and courteous manner.”

On June 16, 2012, the Commission also adopted the Countywide Vision Statement, which the County of San Bernardino Board of Supervisors and the Board of Directors of the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG), made up of members from each of the County’s 24 cities and each member of the Board of Supervisors adopted on June 30, 2011: 

  • “We envision a complete county that capitalizes on the diversity of its people, its geography, and its economy to create a broad range of choices for its residents in how they live, work, and play.”
  • “We envision a vibrant economy with a skilled workforce that attracts employers who seize the opportunities presented by the county’s unique advantages and provide the jobs that create countywide prosperity.”
  • “We envision a sustainable system of high quality education, community health, public safety, housing, retail, recreation, arts and culture, and infrastructure, in which development complements our natural resources and environment.”
  • “We envision a model community which is governed in an open and ethical manner, where great ideas are replicated and brought to scale, and all sectors work collaboratively to each shared goals.”
  • “From our valleys, across our mountains, and into our deserts, we envision a county that is a destination for visitors and a home for anyone seeking a sense of community and the best life has to offer.”

To understand the functions and operations of the Local Agency Formation Commission, one must first understand a series of state laws that govern this Commission. From time to time, any number of state laws must be considered by the Commission (For example, the Commission would need to be familiar with water district law in reviewing a proposal to form a water district.). In general terms, however, the following state laws are almost always relevant to the work of this Commission:

  • The Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000. This is the LAFCO “parent act” and it begins at Section 56000 of the California Government Code. The Law sets forth the Commission’s powers and duties, procedures for establishing and changing governmental boundaries, and a variety of statewide policies that LAFCO must consider in making its determinations.
  • The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The law begins at Section 21000 of the California Public Resources Code. Prior to making virtually any decision to approve a proposal, the Commission is required to determine whether the approval might have a significant effect on the environment. If so, then an environmental impact report would need to be prepared prior to consideration of a proposal. If it is determined that the proposal could not have an adverse impact, then a “negative declaration” would need to be submitted for public review prior to action on a proposal. Certain classes of proposals are exempt from CEQA, but some form of an environmental determination (including exemptions) must be a part of the public record of the Commission’s proceedings.
  • California Revenue and Taxation Code. The Commission must take into account the revenue and taxation implications of every proposal. More specifically, however, the LAFCO office is required by Section 99 of the Revenue and Taxation Code to initiate the property tax negotiation process among agencies affected by a proposal.
  • The Ralph M. Brown Act. This law is found at Section 54950 of the California Government Code, and it is commonly known as the “Open Meeting Law.” This law sets forth a variety of requirements and restrictions governing meetings of the Commission to assure that the public has an adequate opportunity to participate in the public hearing process.