The Rutherford Report—LAFCO Looks Toward the Future

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—Ronald Reagan
LAFCO Looks Toward the Future
The San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission helps define the identity of the county’s unincorporated communities and its 24 incorporated cities.

The agency—commonly referred to by its acronym, LAFCO—is not a County department. It is an independent regulatory commission that oversees city and special district boundaries and the provision of certain municipal services.

State lawmakers created LAFCOs 50 years ago to get a handle on the state’s rapid growth and to discourage urban sprawl that was occurring as a result of haphazard community planning.

All 58 counties in the state have their own LAFCOs to regulate city boundaries and special districts, which provide public services such as fire protection, water, sewer, recreation and utilities. But the agencies normally get scant public attention.

“We are not on anyone’s radar until they need us or don’t like what we’re doing,” San Bernardino County LAFCO Executive Director Kathleen Rollings-McDonald said.

Annexation and cityhood are two the hot-button topics that gets LAFCO the most attention.

If a city wants to expand its boundaries, it has to go through LAFCO, and if an unincorporated community wants to become a city, it has to get LAFCO’s blessing to earn cityhood.

When LAFCO reviews proposals to create new cities or expand existing ones, the primary focus is long-term sustainability.

If the agency reviews a cityhood proposal and determines the community won’t generate enough revenue to support itself in the years to come, LAFCO will likely deny the request. Likewise, if a city asks to incorporate an area without illustrating how it will provide its new residents with basic services such as fire protection, water, sewer, road maintenances and so on, LAFCO will probably say no.

“We stand in for the future property owners and users of those services,” Rollings-McDonald said.

LAFCO staff members also regularly provide planning guidance to counties and incorporated cities in hopes of encouraging development that can stand the test of time.

In addition, LAFCO conducts regular Service Reviews that take a comprehensive look at the municipal services being provided by government agencies in specific geographic areas. Some of the questions asked and answered during the reviews include: Are service providers financially capable of continuing to provide public services? Have they planned for future growth? Are there opportunities to provide services more efficiently?

The seven-member San Bernardino County LAFCO includes two county supervisors, two city council members selected by the mayors of the County’s 24 cities, two members from local special district boards of directors, and one public member not affiliated with county, a city or a special district governments. In addition, there are four alternate members to represent the county, cities, special districts, and the public.

Visit the San Bernardino County LAFCO website at for more information about the agency.
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