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One of the most important charges given to LAFCO was the adoption of “Spheres of Influence” for local governments (1972). A “Sphere of Influence” is the physical boundary and service area that a local governmental agency is expected to serve. Establishment of this boundary is necessary to determine which governmental agencies can provide services in the most efficient way to the people and property in any given area. The Sphere of Influence requirement also works to discourage urban sprawl by preventing overlapping of jurisdictions and duplication of services.
The Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (Act) also requires LAFCo to review and update, as necessary, each local agency’s Sphere of Influence (SOI) before January 1, 2008, and every five years thereafter,  as needed.   As part of the SOI update, the Commission must consider and prepare a written statement of its determinations which are summarized as follows:

1. The present and planned land uses in the area, including agricultural and open-space lands.

2. The present and probable need for public facilities and services in the area.

3. The present capacity of public facilities and adequacy of public services that the agency provides or is authorized to provide.

4. The existence of any social or economic communities of interest in the area if the commission determines that they are relevant to the agency.

5. For a city or special district that provides public facilities or services related to sewers, municipal and industrial water, or structural fire protection, the present and probable need for those public facilities and services of any disadvantaged unincorporated communities within the existing sphere of influence.


Prior to, or in conjunction with an agency’s SOI update, LAFCo is required to conduct a Municipal Service Review (MSR) for each agency. A MSR is a comprehensive review of an agency’s ability to provide service(s) to those persons and businesses within its current boundaries. Per the Act, the Commission prepares written statements of its determinations with respect to each of the following factors:

1. Growth and population projections for the affected area.

2. The location and characteristics of any disadvantaged unincorporated communities within or contiguous to the SOI.

3. Present and planned capacity of public facilities and adequacy of public services, and infrastructure needs or deficiencies or deficiencies including needs or deficiencies related to sewers, municipal and industrial water, and structural fire protection in any disadvantaged, unincorporated communities within or contiguous to the sphere of influence.

4. Financial ability of agencies to provide services.

5. Status of, and opportunities for, shared facilities.

6. Accountability for community service needs, including governmental structure and operational efficiencies.

7. Any other matter related to effective or efficient service delivery, as required by commission policy.