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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 land speculation and 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.

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 local 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 "LAFCOs", operating in each county.

From 1963-1985, LAFCos administered a complicated series of statutory laws and three enabling acts, the Knox-Nisbet Act, the Municipal Organization Act (MORGA) and the District Reorganization Act. Confusion over the application of these laws led to a reform movement that produced 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. After many months canvassing the state, 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 Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (CKH Act), an act that mandates greater independence for LAFCos and further clarifies their purpose and mission.


The MaderaCounty LAFCO is responsible for coordinating logical and timely changes in local governmental boundaries, conducting special studies which review ways to reorganize, simplify, and streamline governmental structure and preparing Spheres of Influence for each city and special district within each county. The Commission's efforts are directed to seeing that services are provided efficiently and economically while agricultural and open-space lands are protected.


Citizens are welcome and encouraged to attend regular LAFCO meetings and state their views during public hearings on proposals before the Commission. In addition, the meetings provide an excellent opportunity for citizens to familiarize themselves with the growth, development and inter-jurisdictional issues facing their county.

LAFCOs maintain a minutes account of every meeting. Copies of the minutes, meeting agenda, and staff reports are available on this web site or by contacting the Local Agency Formation Commission.

People interested in serving on the commission must complete an application form and submit a resume detailing applicable experience and service.


To encourage the orderly formation of local governmental agencies

LAFCOs review proposals for the formation of new local governmental agencies and changes of organization in existing agencies. In California, there are 58 LAFCOs working with over 5,500 governmental agencies in 57 counties, 500+ cities, and 5,000+ special districts. Agency boundaries are often unrelated to one another and sometimes overlap at random. This complexity of local government can lead to higher service costs to the taxpayer and general confusion with regard to service jurisdictions. LAFCO decisions strive to balance the competing needs in California for affordable housing, economic opportunity, and conservation of natural resources.

To preserve agricultural land resources

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

To discourage urban sprawl

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 important urban services (police, fire, water, and sanitation) and the unnecessary loss of agricultural land. By discouraging sprawl, LAFCO discourages the misuse of land resources and promotes a more efficient system of local governmental agencies.


A section of the California Government Code exists to provide LAFCO with its powers, procedures, and functions. This law gives LAFCO power to "approve or disapprove with or without amendment, wholly, partially, or conditionally" proposals concerning the formation of cities and special districts, annexation or detachment of territory to cities and special districts, and other changes in jurisdiction or organization of local governmental agencies.

In reviewing proposals, LAFCO is required to consider certain factors such as the conformity between city and county plans, current levels and need for future services to the area, and the social, physical, and economic effects that agency boundary changes present to the community.

LAFCO is also given authority to make studies of existing governmental agencies in an effort to improve the efficiency of urban services.


Boundary Changes

LAFCos regulate, through approval or denial, the boundary changes proposed by public agencies or individuals to cities or special districts.

Typical applicants might include:

• Individual homeowners requesting annexation to a special district due to a failing water well or septic tank.
• Developers seeking annexation to cities in order to obtain more favorable development and urban services extended to new housing.
• Cities wishing to annex pockets or "islands" of unincorporated land located within their borders in order to avoid duplication of services with the county.
• Special districts or cities seeking to consolidate two or more governmental agencies into one, thereby streamlining their service program.