Frequently Asked Questions


What is LAFCO?

LAFCO stands for Local Agency Formation Commission.  LAFCOs were created in each county in California by the State Legislature in 1963 to discourage urban sprawl, preserve agricultural land resources and encourage the orderly formation and development of local government agencies. The law that governs LAFCO is known as the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000.

More Information - CKH Act Legislation



What does LAFCO do?

LAFCO has three major areas of responsibility:

Planning local government boundaries: LAFCOs are required to create boundary plans for each city and special district. These plans are called "Spheres of Influence," defined as "…. a plan for the probable boundary and service area of a local government agency."

Approving or disapproving proposals for changes in local government boundaries or organization, such as:

  • Annexations of land to cities or special districts

  • Detachment of land from cities or special districts

  • Incorporation of new cities  

  • Formation or dissolution of new special districts  

  • Consolidation of special districts

Special studies of local government: LAFCO is required to undertake special studies of local government services. Studies may be oriented toward a specific geographic area of the county, a specific local government service provided by one or more agencies, or services provided by a particular agency. Service reviews or studies undertaken to update an adopted sphere of influence are usually aimed at improving services and reducing service costs.



Is LAFCO required to comply with CEQA?

Yes, LAFCO must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when acting on boundary change proposals.

More Information - CEQA Guidelines


Commission Meetings and Membership

How are Commissioners elected?

The County Board of Supervisors chooses two of its members to serve on LAFCO. The Council of Mayors chooses two members of city councils to serve as LAFCO members.  The presiding officers of independent special districts in the County select two members. The six county, city and special district LAFCO members choose the public member.

More Information - PP&Gs - Chapter II, Section 1


When and where does the Commission meet?

2nd Thursday of each month, 7:00pm
San Rafael City Council Chambers
1400 5th Avenue, San Rafael


Who are the members of LAFCO? 

Marin County LAFCO is made up a seven-member Commission, which is comprised of two city council members, two county supervisor members, two special district members and one public member. 

Current Commission Members 


Processing Boundary Change Proposals 

What types of boundary change proposals does LAFCO review?

  • Annexations of land to cities or special districts

  • Detachment of land from cities or special districts

  • Incorporation of new cities

  • Formation or dissolution of new special districts

  • Consolidation of special districts


What are the basic steps in the boundary change process?


 Applications for boundary changes may be submitted by a petition signed by registered voters or property owners from with the area affected by the proposed boundary change; OR applications may be submitted by resolution of the governing board of any affected local agency.

Applications must include the petition or resolution of application, a completed questionnaire, application fees and a professionally drawn map and legal description in the format required by the State Board of Equalization.

More Information - PP&Gs - Chapter III, Section 2

Application Forms and Fee Schedule


Staff Review

LAFCO staff reviews the application materials for completeness, prepares a report and recommendation for the Commission and schedules a hearing before the Commission. Staff also prepares and distributes notice of the public hearing when required. Not all applications require public notice to the mailed and published.

More Information - PP&Gs - Chapter III, Section 3


LAFCO Hearing

At the Commission hearing, LAFCO reviews the proposal, the staff report and public testimony and may adopt a resolution to approve or deny the proposal wholly or partially, with or without amendments or conditions.

More Information - PPGs - Chapter III, Section 2



Following a LAFCO decision, any interested party may request that the Commission reconsider its decision. Requests for reconsideration must be made in writing within 30 days, must state specific grounds for reconsideration and require payment of fees.

More Information - PP&Gs - Chapter III, Section 3

Fee Schedule



LAFCO approval of proposals that do not enjoy 100% consent of all property owners in the area affected by the proposed boundary change are subject to a protest hearing. The protest hearing is an administrative process conducted by LAFCO staff. Protest may be made by petition of affected registered voters or property owners from within the affected area only. Sufficient protest petitions may result in termination of a boundary change approved by LAFCO or, in rare circumstances, an election.

Protest proceedings may be waived when there is 100% property owner consent and where any agency gaining territory consents to the waiver of proceedings.

More Information - PP&Gs - Chapter III, Section 4

Application Forms


Final Filings

Upon completion of the protest phase, LAFCO staff is responsible for ensuring that all terms and conditions attached to a proposal have been carried out and for the filing of documents describing the Commission's action with various local and State agencies. Unless another date is specified, the boundary change is effective on the date that documents are recorded by the County Recorder.

More Information - PP&Gs - Chapter III, Section 4



How do I apply for a boundary change?

Make an appointment with LAFCO staff to discuss application procedures.

Submit a completed application questionaire, petition or resolution of application, map and legal description and application fees.

More Information - PP&Gs - Chapter III

Fee Schedule and Mapping Requirements



Is there a fee to apply for boundary changes?

Yes. Consult LAFCO staff or the current fee schedule. The preparation of map and legal description by a qualified surveyor or civil engineer also represent costs to the applicant.

Fee Schedule



How do I arrange for preparation of a map and legal description?

Maps and legal descriptions used in LAFCO applications must be prepared by a qualified surveyor or civil engineer. LAFCO staff will provide a listing of local surveyors and civil engineers on request.



How long will it take to process my proposal?

The timelines permitted for each step in the application process under the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act allow for broad variation in processing time. In practical terms, depending upon the nature of the proposal, processing can take as little as 3 to 4 months after submission of completed application materials, or more than a year for more complex proposals, such as new district formations or reorganizations.



Can I appeal a LAFCO decision?

The Commission makes decisions on boundaries and organization of local government with the authority of the State Legislature applied at the local level. Except for the reconsideration and protest steps built into the LAFCO process, there is no appeal process for a Commission decision. LAFCO decisions are not subject to initiative or referendum.

Judicial review of LAFCO decisions is only granted in cases of abuse of the Commission's discretion or if the Commission's actions are shown to be arbitrary and capricious. We don't act that way.


Spheres of Influence 

What is a Sphere of Influence?

A sphere of influence is defined as "…. a plan for the probable physical boundaries and service area of a local agency as determined by the commission." Adopted spheres of influence are a key factor used by LAFCO in consideration of boundary proposals. The Commission may only approve proposals that are consistent with adopted spheres of influence.

More Information - PP&Gs - Chapter IV



Can an SOI be changed?

Yes. LAFCO is required to review spheres of influence every five years. In addition, any interested party may apply for an amendment to a sphere.

More Information - PP&Gs - Chapter IV, Section 4