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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Southern Marin Service Review and Sphere of Influence Update



Marin Local Agency Formation Commission

August 26, 2004

Prepared by: Peter Banning, Executive Officer

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


The staff of Marin LAFCO gratefully acknowledge the time and effort of the staff and elected officials of southern Marin cities, special districts and the County who provided information and insight during the preparation of this report.


Uses 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 section, “sphere of influence” means a plan for the probable physical boundaries and service area of a local government agency.

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.

Following adoption, spheres of influence act as a guide to LAFCO review of future proposals for changes to local government boundaries. LAFCO is now required to update adopted spheres of influence every five years. Other local agencies, especially cities and counties, recognize and incorporate adopted spheres of influence in their general plans. Cities usually rely on spheres to define the planning area of their general plans. The Community Facilities Element of the Countywide General Plan designates “urban service areas.”

New legislation effective in 2001 requires LAFCO to perform “service reviews” prior to updating spheres of influence. In conducting a service review, LAFCOs review all of the agencies that provide each local service within a designated geographic area. Service reviews are intended to open discussion of alternatives to existing service arrangements that may improve service levels, efficiency and/or political accountability.

Local Government Structure in Southern Marin

Local government agencies in southern Marin County provide service through a complex pattern of jurisdictional and inter-jurisdictional relationships between four cities, eleven independent special districts plus various county service areas governed by the Board of Supervisors and joint-powers authorities made up of combinations of cities and special districts. The existing structure of local government is exceptionally complex for an area the approximate size of the City of San Rafael.

The study area encompasses a population of approximately 52,000. The four cities together (Belvedere, Tiburon, Mill Valley and Sausalito) encompass a population of approximately 32,000 or 62% of the total study area population. A series of unincorporated areas ranging in population size of less than 1,000 (Alto and Muir Woods Park) to over 5,000 (Tamalpais Valley). All areas within the study area receive services from a combination of a city, the county and one or more special districts.

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