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Municipal Service Reviews and
Sphere of Influence Updates


Municipal service reviews were a centerpiece to the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 and are comprehensive studies of the availability, range, and performance of governmental services provided within a defined geographic area.   LAFCos generally prepare municipal service reviews to explicitly inform subsequent sphere determinations.  LAFCos also prepare municipal service reviews irrespective of making any specific sphere determinations in order to obtain and furnish information to contribute to the overall orderly development of local communities.  Municipal service reviews vary in scope and can focus on a particular agency or governmental service.   LAFCos may use the information generated from municipal service reviews to initiate other actions under their authority, such as forming, consolidating, or dissolving one or more local agencies. 



LAFCo establishes, amends, and updates 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.