What is LAFCO?

This document is intended to give the reader a preliminary introduction to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). As such, much of the following is a summary of California law and should not be considered as the exact wording of the applicable statutes.

Santa Cruz LAFCO’s local policies and rules are located on another page of our website: POLICIES AND RULES


The Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 states that among the purposes of a Local Agency Formation Commission are discouraging urban sprawl, preserving open-space and prime agricultural lands, efficiently providing governmental services, and encouraging the orderly formation and development of local agencies based upon local conditions and circumstances.

Powers & Duties

In meeting its responsibility, LAFCO is required to review and approve or disapprove, with or without amendments, wholly, partially, or conditionally, governmental boundary change proposals:

  • Incorporation of cities
  • Annexation of territory to cities
  • Detachment of territory from cities
  • Disincorporation of cities
  • Consolidation of two or more cities
  • Municipal reorganizations
  • Extending a city’s water or sewer service area without annexation
  • Formation of special districts
  • Annexation of territory to special districts
  • Detachment of territory from special districts
  • Dissolution of special districts
  • Merger of special districts with a city
  • Establishment of a special district as a subsidiary district to a city
  • Consolidation of two or more districts
  • District reorganizations
  • Extending a district’s service area without annexation. Special districts which come under LAFCO jurisdiction are defined within the Local Government Reorganization Act. School districts, geological hazard abatement districts, and assessment districts are not included within this definition and are not subject to LAFCO review.

In addition to the regulatory responsibilities of LAFCO referred to above, the Commission is empowered to initiate and make studies of existing governmental agencies. Such studies shall include, but not be limited to, inventorying such agencies and determining their maximum service areas and service capabilities. LAFCO may initiate proceedings to consolidate districts.

Factors LAFCO Must Consider in Reviewing Proposals

As specified in Government Code Section 56668, factors to be considered in the review of a proposal shall include but not be limited to:

  1. Population, population density; land area and land use; per capita assessed valuation; topography, natural boundaries, and drainage basins; proximity to other populated areas; the likelihood of significant growth in the area, and in adjacent incorporated and unincorporated areas, during the next 10 years.
  2. The need for organized community services; the present cost and adequacy of governmental services and controls in the area; probable future needs for such services and controls; probable effect of the proposed incorporation, formation, annexation, or exclusion and of alternative courses of action on the cost and adequacy of services and
  3. The effect of the proposed action and of alternative actions, on adjacent areas, on mutual social and economic interests and on the local governmental structure of the County controls in the area and adjacent areas.
  4. The conformity of both the proposal and its anticipated effects with both the adopted Commission policies (STANDARDS FOR EVALUATING PROPOSALS) on providing planned, orderly, efficient patterns of urban development, and the policies and priorities in Government Code Section 56377 concerning open-space lands.
  5. The effect of the proposal on maintaining the physical and economic integrity of agricultural lands.
  6. The definiteness and certainty of the boundaries of the territory, the nonconformance 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 boundaries.
  7. A regional transportation plan adopted pursuant to Government Code Section 65080, and consistent with city or county general plans.
  8. The sphere of influence of any local agency which may be applicable to the proposal being reviewed.
  9. The comments of any affected local agency or other public agency.
  10. The ability of the newly formed or receiving entity to provide the services which are the subject of the application to the area, including the sufficiency of revenues for those services following the proposed boundary change.
  11. Timely availability of water supplies adequate for projected needs and specified in Government Code Section 65352.5.
  12. The extent to which the proposal will assist the receiving entity in achieving its fair share of the regional housing needs as determined by the appropriate council of governments (beginning at Government Code Section 65580).
  13. Any information or comments from the landowner or owners, voters, or residents of the affected territory.
  14. Any information relating to existing land use designations.
  15. The extent to which the proposal will promote environmental justice. As used in this subdivision, “environmental justice” means the fair treatment of all people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the location of public facilities and the provision of public services.

Spheres of Influence

In order to carry out its purposes and responsibilities for planning and shaping the logical and orderly development and coordination of local governmental agencies so as to advantageously provide for the present and future needs of the county and its communities, the Local Agency Formation Commission shall develop and determine the sphere of influence of each local governmental agency within the county.

As used in this section, a sphere of influence means a plan for the probable future physical boundaries and service area of a local governmental agency. Among the information considered in determining the sphere of influence of each local government agency, the Commission shall consider:

  • The present and planned land uses in the area, including agricultural and open-space lands.
  • The present and probable need for public facilities and services in the area.
  • The present capacity of public facilities and adequacy of public services which 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. (Government Code Section 56425). See LAFCO SPHERES OF INFLUENCE POLICIES AND GUIDELINES for more information.

Service Reviews

Beginning in 2001, the law requires each LAFCO to prepare service reviews of all local governmental services. The purpose of these reviews is to identify opportunities to improve the quality, efficiency, or cost-effectiveness of local services. Contents of service reviews are:

  • Growth and population projections for the affected area.
  • Present and planned capacity of public facilities and adequacy of public services, including infrastructure needs or deficiencies.
  • Financial ability of agencies to provide services.
  • Status of, and opportunities for, shared facilities.
  • Accountability for community service needs, including governmental structure and operational efficiencies.
  • Any other matter related to effective or efficient service delivery as required by Commission policy.

Commissioners & Staff

The Commission is made up of two county supervisorial members appointed by the Board of Supervisors, two city council members appointed by the city mayors (City Selection Committee) within Santa Cruz County, two special district members appointed by the Special District Selection Committee, and a public member appointed by the other six LAFCO Commissioners. There is also one alternate member for each of the above four classifications. In order to achieve an unbiased approach to local governmental organization and expansion problems, the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission operates independently of the cities and the County. The Commission employs its own staff, including an Executive Officer.

CommissionersRepresentingTerm Ends
Jim AndersonDistrict Member, Felton Fire Protection DistMay 2025
Roger AndersonPublic MemberMay 2024
Justin CummingsCounty Member, Board of SupervisorsMay 2027
Manu Koenig (Vice-Chair)County Member, Board of SupervisorsMay 2028
Rachél LatherDistrict Member, Soquel Creek Water DistMay 2027
Eduardo MontesinoCity Member, WatsonvilleJanuary 2026
Allan TimmsCity Member, Scotts ValleyJanuary 2025
AlternatesRepresentingTerm Ends
Ed BanksDistrict Member, Pajaro Valley Public Cemetery DistMay 2025
John Hunt (Chair)Public MemberMay 2024
Zach FriendCounty Member, Board of SupervisorsMay 2028
Fred KeeleyCity Member, Santa CruzJanuary 2026
Joe A. SerranoExecutive Officer[email protected]
Francisco EstradaLAFCO Analyst[email protected]
Joshua NelsonLegal Counsel[email protected]

Public Participation

All area landowners, residents, and other interested persons are encouraged to participate in matters which come before LAFCO. LAFCO meetings are typically held on the first Wednesday of each month, at 9:00 a.m., in Room 525 of the County Governmental Center, 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz.

Please check the agenda webpage for instructions on how to attend the meetings.

How to Address the Commission

All persons addressing the Commission are asked to step up to the podium, give their name, where they live, and their interest in the matter under consideration, in an audible tone of voice for the record. Unless further time is granted by the Commission, each speaker shall be limited to three minutes. All remarks shall be addressed to the Commission, as a body, and not to any member thereof. No person, other than the Commission’s Chairperson and the person having the floor, shall be permitted to enter into any discussion, either directly or through a member of the Commission, without permission of the Chairperson. No question shall be asked of a Commissioner except through the Chairperson.

Campaign Contributions

State law (the Political Reform Act of 1974) requires that a LAFCO Commissioner disqualify herself or himself from voting on an application involving an entitlement for use (such as an annexation or sphere amendment) if, within the last twelve months, the Commissioner has received $250 or more in campaign contributions from an applicant, or an agent (such as an attorney, engineer, or planning consultant) representing an applicant or interested participant. The law also requires any applicant or other participant in a LAFCO proceeding to disclose the amount and name of the recipient Commissioner on the official record of the proceeding.

The Commission prefers that the disclosure be made on a standard form that is filed with the Commission’s Secretary-Clerk at least 24 hours before the LAFCO hearing begins. If this is not possible, a written or oral disclosure can be made at the beginning of the hearing. The law also prohibits an applicant or other participant from making a campaign contribution of $250 or more to a LAFCO Commissioner while a proceeding is pending or for three months afterward. Disclosure forms can be obtained from the LAFCO office or LAFCO website.

Contributions & Expenditures in Support & Opposition to LAFCO Proposals

Pursuant to Government Code Sections 56100.1, 56300(b), 56700.1, 59009, and 81000 et seq., and Santa Cruz LAFCO’s Policies and Procedures for the Disclosures of Contributions and Expenditures in Support of and Opposition to proposals, any person or combination of persons who directly or indirectly contributes a total of $1,000 or more or expends a total of $1,000 or more in support of or opposition to a LAFCO Proposal must comply with the disclosure requirements of the Political Reform Act (Section 84250). These requirements contain provisions for making disclosures of contributions and expenditures at specified intervals. Additional information may be obtained at the Santa Cruz County Elections Department. 701 Ocean Street, Room 210, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (phone 831-454-2060). See DISCLOSURE LAWS for more information.

In addition to the regulatory responsibilities of LAFCO referred to above, the Commission is empowered to initiate and make studies of existing governmental agencies. Such studies shall include but not be limited to inventorying such agencies and determining their maximum service areas and service capabilities. LAFCO may initiate proceedings to consolidate districts.

Translate »