After World War II, California experienced dramatic growth in population and economic development. With this boom came a demand for housing, jobs, and public services. To accommodate this demand, the state approved the formation of many new local government agencies, often with little forethought as to the ultimate governance structures in a given region. The lack of coordination and adequate planning led to a multitude of overlapping, inefficient jurisdictional and service boundaries, and the premature conversion/loss of California’s agricultural and open-space lands. Recognizing this problem, in 1959, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Sr. appointed the Commission on Metropolitan Area Problems. The Commission's charge was to study and make recommendations on the "misuse of land resources" and the growing complexity of local governmental jurisdictions.
The Commission's recommendations on local governmental reorganization were introduced in the Legislature in 1963, resulting in the creation of Local Agency Formation Commissions, or "LAFCo," operating in each county except San Francisco.
From 1963-1985, LAFCos administered a complicated series of statutory laws and three enabling acts, the Knox-Nisbet Act, the Municipal Organization Act (MORGA) and the District Reorganization Act. Confusion over the application of these laws led to a reform movement that produced the first consolidated LAFCo Act, the Cortese-Knox Local Government Reorganization Act of 1985. In 1997, a new call for reform in local government resulted in the formation, by the Legislature, of the Commission on Local Governance in the 21st Century. After many months canvassing the state, the Commission recommended changes to the laws governing LAFCos in its comprehensive report “Growth Within Bounds.”
These recommendations became the foundation for the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (CKH Act), an act that mandates greater independence for LAFCos and further clarifies their purpose and mission.
In response to both the passage of the CKH Act and to local needs to address certain service provision issues, San Francisco LAFCo was formed in 2000. Today, there is a LAFCo in each of California’s 58 counties.