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By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

LAFCO approves sphere of influence study schedule


Last updated 6/8/2018 at 7:06pm

San Diego County's Local Agency Formation Commission approved a five-year schedule for updated sphere of influence studies for each of the county's cities and special districts.

LAFCO approved the schedule on an 8-0 board vote June 4. The schedule calls for the study of 100 cities and special districts between 2018-19 and 2022-23. The LAFCO board was also given future discretion to amend the study schedule to address reorganization applications or changes in priorities.

"Having a study schedule itself is a new approach," said LAFCO executive officer Keene Simonds.

A municipal service review evaluates services and anticipated needs. A sphere of influence study determines the boundaries best served by a particular agency. Municipal service review and sphere of influence updates are prerequisites to a jurisdictional change other than annexation of land within the sphere of influence, and LAFCO also periodically conducts sphere of influence updates for all cities and special districts.

The agencies to be reviewed have schedules based on geographic proximity. The 2018-19 review cycle will cover 16 agencies in the Escondido, San Marcos, Vista, and Julian areas and will also cover the countywide San Diego County Sanitation District. The agencies include the City of Escondido, the City of Vista, and the Vista Fire Protection District which includes part of southern Bonsall.

The 19 agencies to be studied during 2019-20 include the Fallbrook Public Utility District, the Rainbow Municipal Water District, the North County Fire Protection District, the San Luis Rey Municipal Water District, the Mission Resource Conservation District, and the Upper San Luis Rey Resource Conservation District. The county's other resource conservation district, the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego, will also be part of the 2019-20 reviews.

The two county service areas which provide fire protection and emergency medical service are also slated for review during 2019-20, although a current proposal to dissolve County Service Area No. 115, which had been part of the Santee Fire Protection District before Santee became an incorporated city and the district was replaced by a city fire department, may be completed during 2018-19.

The other county service area providing fire protection and emergency medical service is CSA No. 135, which is the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority, and review of four fire protection districts during 2018-19 may also include updates to CSA No. 135 information. The 2019-20 studies also include the City of Poway, the Ramona Municipal Water District, and Pauma Valley and Valley Center agencies.

The schedule for 2020-21 covers 20 agencies including the Fallbrook Regional Health District and the county's other three healthcare districts, the Morro Hills Community Services District, and the City of Oceanside. Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, and Solana Beach agencies will also be studied during that fiscal year.

County service areas which provide services other than fire protection will be among the 27 agencies to be studied during 2021-22 and that includes CSA No. 81 which covers parks in Fallbrook, De Luz, and Rainbow.

The countywide San Diego County Flood Control District will also be reviewed in 2021-22. That year's work also includes the county's four cemetery districts, the two port services districts, the South Bay and Otay water districts, the Bonita-Sunnyside and Lower Sweetwater fire districts, and the cities of Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City, and San Diego.

East County agencies will be the focus of the 2022-23 studies, although those 18 agencies include CSA No. 115 which likely will not exist by then. Borrego agencies are included during the year which will also study the Alpine, Descanso, El Cajon, Jacumba, Lakeside, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Santee, and Spring Valley areas.

"Each study would culminate with the commission having a hearing," Simmonds said.

"It's a very ambitious plan," said LAFCO vice-chair Ed Sprague, who is on the board of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District and who was the North County Fire Protection District deputy fire chief from 2012 to 2015 after spending 26 years with the Carlsbad Fire Department.

"It's very comprehensive," said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

"I really like the concept," said County Supervisor Bill Horn.

A presentation on the plans to update sphere of influence studies between 2018 and 2022 was provided as a presentation at LAFCO's December 2017 meeting. LAFCO's April 2 meeting released a draft schedule for review by the agencies to be studied and by other stakeholders.

The newest sphere of influence studies will include some additional information, some of which is in response to state legislation. Joint powers authorities, which often provide functional but not jurisdictional consolidation, will be reviewed. Some areas are served by mutual water companies rather than water agencies, and the mutual water companies will also be part of the studies.

Disadvantaged communities in unincorporated areas will also be mapped in the new round of studies. (LAFCO's May 7 meeting included approval of disadvantaged unincorporated communities maps and a policy regarding disadvantaged unincorporated communities.) Although Indian reservations are sovereign and not under LAFCO jurisdiction, LAFCO will also study tribal land municipal service needs in case water or fire and emergency medical service from other agencies could be of benefit to the reservations. LAFCO staff will also assess implementation and related government issues associated with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The review work will also include boundary checks to identify any discrepancies between digital geographic information system records and hard paper maps or descriptions.

"We are providing a heads-up that we're coming and we're going to look at some issues," Simonds said. "This is not an academic exercise. There are outcomes associated here. The idea here is to create a standardized format."


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