In 1972, LAFCos were given the power to determine spheres of influence for all local governmental agencies. A sphere of influence is a planning boundary outside of an agency’s legal boundary (such as the city limit line) that designates the agency’s probable future boundary and service area. Factors considered in a sphere of influence review focus on the current and future land use, the current and future need and capacity for service, and any relevant communities of interest. With the passage of the CKH Act, spheres for all cities and special districts are reviewed every five years.
The purpose of the sphere of influence is to ensure the provision of efficient services while discouraging urban sprawl and the premature conversion of agricultural and open space lands by preventing overlapping jurisdictions and duplication of services. Commissions cannot tell agencies what their planning goals should be. Rather, on a regional level, LAFCOs coordinate the orderly development of a community through reconciling differences between agency plans so that the most efficient urban service arrangements are created for the benefit of area residents and property owners.