Marin Local Agency Formation Commission

Planning Agency / Subdivision of the State of California

  • Protecting Against 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 urban services (police, fire, water, and sanitation) and the unnecessary loss of agricultural resources and open space lands.
  • Local Organization

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

    Marin LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) is responsible for reviewing proposals for the formation of new local governmental agencies and for changes in the organization of existing agencies.
  • Preparing Studies

    Marin LAFCO is responsible for regularly preparing studies to independently assess the relationship between service demands and community needs.
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Ross Valley Area Service Review and Sphere of Influence Update


Marin Local Agency Formation Commission

April 2007

Peter Banning, Executive Officer - Evelyn Ellis, Assistant Planner - Candice Bozzard, Commission Clerk

165 North Redwood Drive, Suite 160 San Rafael, California 94903


The staff of Marin LAFCO gratefully acknowledges the time and effort of staff of the County of Marin, City of Larkspur, Town of Corte Madera, Town of San Anselmo, Town of Fairfax, Town of Ross, Sanitary District #1, Sanitary District #2, Ross Valley Fire Service, Kentfield Fire Protection District, and Sleepy Hollow Fire Protection District who provided information and insight during the preparation of this report.



Purposes of Spheres of Influence Adopted by LAFCO

This report is presented as part of a process mandated by Sections 56425 and 56430 of the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000. As stated in that section, “In order to carry out its purposes and responsibilities for planning and shaping the logical and orderly development and coordination of local government 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 report, “sphere of influence” means a plan for the probable physical boundaries and service area of a local government agency. Establishing geographic areas around each city and special district to delineate where they may expand in the future is one of the primary activities of each LAFCO in the State.

In determining a sphere of influence, the Commission is required to consider and make written findings with respect to the following factors:

  • 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 they are relevant to the agency.

Spheres of influence act as a guide to LAFCO review of future boundary proposals. LAFCO is required to review adopted spheres of influence every five years.

Existing Ross Valley Area Spheres of Influence

Marin LAFCO adopted spheres of influence for cities and special districts in Ross Valley during studies conducted in 1982 through 1986 under an earlier definition of sphere of influence (“…the ultimate boundary and service area…”) as discussed below. As a result, all urbanized areas of Ross Valley were allocated to the spheres of influence of one of the five cities as shown in Map 1, comparing existing and recommended city spheres of influence.

Changes Affecting Ross Valley Area Spheres of Influence Since Adoption

A number of important changes have occurred in Marin County and the Ross Valley area since 1982 that will have an impact on the review of existing spheres of influence:

1. Definition of Sphere of Influence: The definition of "sphere of influence" in 1982 was "… a plan for the ultimate boundary and service area of a local government agency." The definition now reads "…. a plan for the probable boundary and service area of a local government agency."

2. General Plans and Development Regulations: The County's General Plan and Zoning Ordinance have been made more restrictive since 1982, decreasing potential growth in the unincorporated areas.

3. Preservation of Open Space & Agriculture: Large areas of open space and agricultural land are now permanently preserved in their present uses, restricting the outward expansion of urban land uses and reducing the potential demand for urban services in unincorporated areas around existing city boundaries.

4. Local Government’s Financial Pressure from State: Since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the ability of property tax revenue to fund the extension of city services to developed communities has been impaired. Even in Marin County where assessed values have kept pace and sometimes exceeded inflation in the cost of municipal services, significant sales tax generating land uses would need to be present in annexing communities to avoid adverse fiscal impacts from annexation of developed communities. State legislative policies continue to favor annexation of unincorporated communities to cities, but fiscal disincentives persist. In recent years and for the short-term future, policies encouraging city annexation are undermined to the extent that the Legislature re-directs or “borrows” revenue intended to support local services (including property tax, vehicle license fees and gas tax) to resolve funding shortfalls at the state level.



The Marin LAFCO directory provides a list of government agencies, board members and other important information and agency facts. The directory also includes links to interactive maps which disaply city limits, community boundaries and other highlighted features.


LAFCO Directory