LAFCOs establish, amend, and update spheres for all cities, towns, and most special districts in California to designate the territory it independently believes represents the appropriate and probable future service area and jurisdictional boundary of the affected agency. Importantly, all jurisdictional changes, such as annexations and detachments, must be consistent with the spheres of the affected local agencies with limited exceptions. Further, an increasingly important role involving sphere determinations relates to their use by regional councils of governments as planning areas in allocating housing need assignments for counties and cities, which must be addressed by the agencies in their housing elements.
As of January 1, 2008, LAFCO now must review and update as needed each local agency’s sphere every five years. In making a sphere determination, LAFCO is required to prepare written statements addressing five specific planning factors listed under G.C. Section 56425. These mandatory factors range from evaluating current and future land uses to the existence of pertinent communities of interest. The intent in preparing the written statements is to orient LAFCO in addressing the core principles underlying the sensible development of each local agency consistent with the anticipated needs of the affected community. The five mandated planning factors are summarized in the following table.