Who decides where the boundaries are?


On my quest to have the memorial returned to Oakley members of the Antioch contingent stated that the intersection of Bridgehead and Main had always been considered Antioch prior to Oakley incorporation in 1999. While I search for maps and information to confirm this I thought I would explain how city boundaries are determined.

World War II ended on September 2, 1945 with the formal surrender of Japan. Treaties were signed aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay and the world returned to a long awaited peace. Slowly, serviceman from all branches of the military returned home to waiting families and joyful wives, thus creating the most phenomenal birth period of the 20th century and a new generation historically referred to as The Baby Boomers.

New home building had been at a standstill for the duration of the war and the term “housing shortage” seemed an understatement, to say the least. With available land and job opportunities, the growing families of America headed west – and west meant California. Over the next few decades, the state experienced a colossal population increase.

While the nation’s population was expanding at a 14.5 percent rate, California’s population increased a staggering 52.8 percent, from just less than seven million in 1940 to 10,558,223 a decade later. The growth rate barely let up as the state grew another 48.8 percent in the 1950s. Altogether, from 1940 to 1960, California saw its population grow 127.5 percent to 15,717,204 people. The ranches and orchards surrounding Los Angles and San Francisco disappeared and the land was soon overwhelmed with houses.

The population explosion had other unintended effects on California. Prior to 1963, creating a new city only required a petition, a public hearing (where 51 percent of the landowners could approve the desire to incorporate) and an election. During the 1950s over 50 new cities incorporated, and in Los Angles County alone, 10 new cities incorporated in 1957. Interestingly, no thought was given as to how or who would pay the costs for the necessary services needed to sustain a city. Fire, police, water and sanitation services were often provided by a number of different and overlapping entities.

In an effort to gain control over this kluge of overlapping services and control the proliferation of incorporations, Governor Edmund G Brown, Sr. created the Commission on Metropolitan Area Problems, in 1959. The Commission was given the task of studying and making recommendations on the “misuse of land resources” and the growing complexity of overlapping local government jurisdictions.

The Knox-Nisbit Act of 1963 contained the Commissions recommendations on local government reorganization resulting in the creation of the Local Agency Formation Commission or LAFCO, operating in every county. Additional powers were given to LAFCO in the District Reorganization Act of 1965, the Municipal Organization Act of 1977, the Cortese-Knox Local Government Reorganization Act 1985 and the Cortese-Knox-Hertz Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000.

LAFCOs were given specific objectives, which include; to encourage the orderly formation of local government agencies; to preserve agriculture land resources; and to discourage urban sprawl.

LAFCO is responsible for reviewing and approving proposed jurisdictional boundary changes for some of the following organizations;

  • A city incorporation;
  • A special district formation;
  • An annexation to, or detachment from a city or special district;
  • A disincorporation of a city;
  • A special district dissolution;
  • A consolidation of cities or special districts.

Some of the following organizations are excluded from LAFCOs jurisdiction;

  • A school district or community college district;
  • A special assessment district;
  • A Mello-Roos district;
  • A joint power authority district.

When LAFCO approves the annexation of territory to a city or special district there are specific factors which must be considered in the review of a proposal. These are specified in Section 56841 of the Government Code, and include, but are not limited to; land area and land use; topography, natural boundaries, and drainage basins; population, population density, and proximity to other populated areas; the likelihood of significant growth in the area and in adjacent incorporated and unincorporated areas during the next ten years; the effect of the proposed action and of alternate actions on adjacent areas, mutual social and economic interests, and the local governmental structure of the County; the present cost and adequacy of governmental services and controls in the area; probable effects of the proposal and of alternatives on the cost and adequacy of services and controls in the area and adjacent areas; conformity with appropriate city or county general and specific plans; the “sphere of influence” of any local agency which may be applicable to the proposal being reviewed.

LAFCO has other responsibilities which include; review and approve contractual service agreements, determine spheres of influence for each city and district, and may initiate proposals involving district consolidation, dissolution, establishment of subsidiary districts, mergers, and reorganizations (combinations of these jurisdictional changes).

Here are a few examples of who and why someone may use LAFCO. An individual homeowner may request annexation to a sewer district due to a failing septic tank. Developers seeking annexation to cities in order to obtain more favorable development and urban services extended to the new housing. Cities wishing to annex pockets or “islands” of unincorporated land located within or next to their borders in order to avoid duplication of services with the county. Special Districts or cities seeking to consolidate two or more governmental agencies into one, thereby streamlining their services and reducing the cost to local taxpayers.

The Contra Costa County LAFCO is composed of seven regular Commissioners: two members from the Board of Supervisors; two members who represent the cities in Contra Costa; two members who represent special districts; and one public member. There are four alternate Commission seats; one from each of the above-membership categories. Current members are;
Rob Schroder, Chair – city member
Gayle Uilkema, Vice Chair – supervisor member                                                               Federal Glover – supervisor member
Hellen Allen – city member
David Piepho – special district member
Dwight Meadows – special district member
Martin McNair – public member

The Contra Costa LAFCO is available through the web at http://www.contracostalafco.org/

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About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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6 Responses to Who decides where the boundaries are?

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  6. Brian says:

    Kevin,

    This is an awesome blog… very informational, no bias or opinion, just the facts.

    Thanks for taking the time.

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