As the executive officer of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LA LAFCO or LAFCO), I feel obligated to reply to certain claims in Pamela Conley Ulich’s recent letter (“Our Beloved District”) to The Malibu Times. I would also like to express my gratitude to The Malibu Times for considering publication of my comments.
LAFCO, an acronym for Local Agency Formation Commission, is a public agency with county-wide jurisdiction. Originally established by state law in 1963, LAFCOs are now governed by the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000. The intent of the act is to discourage urban sprawl and encourage orderly and efficient provision of services, such as water, sewer and fire protection. LAFCO oversees changes to local government jurisdictional boundaries involving the formation and expansion of cities and special districts.
Each county has a LAFCO, with jurisdictional authority within their respective county. In Los Angeles County, LAFCO’s jurisdiction includes 88 cities and 90 special districts (a special district is an agency which provides one or more services in a particular geographic area, such as a sanitation district, water district, or library district).
LAFCOs periodically prepare Municipal Service Reviews (MSRs), which are studies that evaluate existing and future service conditions, review a city or special district’s finances and capacity to provide services, and examine related issues, such as accountability and transparency. LAFCO also periodically reviews and updates a city or district’s Sphere of Influence (SOI), which is a plan for the probably physical boundaries and service area of a local agency, as determined by LAFCO. At its July 14 meeting, the commission (LAFCO) will conduct a public hearing on the Draft MSR/SOI Update of the Point Dume Community Services District (PDCSD). In advance of that meeting, the Malibu City Council considered the Draft MSR/SOI Update, as well as my recommendation that the commission consider initiating the dissolution of the PDCSD; several members of the public, including Ms. Conley Ulich and I, spoke at that meeting. Despite testimony requesting that the City of Malibu oppose my recommendation that LAFCO consider dissolving the PDCSD, and only after considering testimony from city staff and stakeholders, the Malibu City Council voted to “take no action” on the matter.
To answer a question raised in Ms. Conley Ulich’s letter, LAFCO is not a “puppet” of Los Angeles County. LAFCO is governed by a commission composed of nine voting members and six alternate members. The voting members include two Los Angeles County Supervisors (Kathryn Barger and Holly Mitchell); two members of city council (Margaret Finlay of Duarte and John Mirisch of Beverly Hills); two members of special district governing boards (Don Dear of the West Basin Municipal Water District, the boundary of which includes all of the City of Malibu, and Jerry Gladbach of the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency); a representative of the San Fernando Valley (Richard Close of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association); a representative of the general public (Gerard McCallum); and a seat for the City of Los Angeles, which is currently vacant. Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl is the county alternate member, and she previously served as a voting member. Commission action requires a majority vote (five votes), which, in and of itself, precludes LAFCO from being a “puppet” of the county.
In the second paragraph, Ulich states that “LAFCO’s representative [me] began by saying it [LAFCO] was not ‘for’ Los Angeles County but ‘of’ Los Angeles County.” In fact, I said the exact opposite, as I do in most presentations, where I consistently state that we are the LAFCO “for” the county, and not “of” the county, because LAFCO is not a part of Los Angeles County government. LAFCO is an independent public agency created by the State of California that is funded by Los Angeles County. The county as well as all cities in Los Angeles County and all independent special districts in Los Angeles County make annual contributions to finance LAFCO’s work.
Ulich’s assertion that I am “unaffected” and “insensitive” to the fact that the board president of the PDCSD lost his home in the Woolsey Fire is inaccurate. LAFCO’s communications with the district consistently demonstrate a remarkable level of patience and consideration on LAFCO’s part. It should be known that the relevant concern arose in 2012—roughly nine years ago—to the point in time at which the PDCSD ceased providing any municipal services to Point Dume residents. Of the 90 special districts in Los Angeles County within LAFCO’s jurisdiction, the PDCSD is the only one that does not provide any services.
The letter identifies various services that the PDCSD could provide: “prepare and build a Point Dume Fire Brigade” (there are many fire brigades in California, including two in Malibu, none of which is operated by a community services district); a suggestion that “the city-owned property on Point Dume abutting Heathercliff could be leased [by the PDCSD],” a proposal which city officials have said is “premature” at this time; a “pool . . . and tennis court and/or basketball court” which “could be built by the district in coordination with the Malibu City Council” (an idea that would require resources and finances which the PDCSD is ill-suited to provide); or something similar to the “Calabasas Swim and Tennis Center” (built by the City of Calabasas, not by a community services district). The PDCSD has had roughly nine years to move these plans forward, and it has failed to do so, despite multiple requests from LAFCO. Many of these proposals would require application to, and approval from, LAFCO; in nine years, the PDCSD has failed to submit an application to LAFCO, or even provide a written narrative of what services the district would like to provide. All of these proposals require dedicated resources, financing and organizational capacity that are, without question, beyond the reach of the PDCSD.
For those interested in learning more about the PDCSD, the PDCSD Draft MSR/SOI Update is available on LAFCO’s website (lalafco.org) on the home page under “Announcements.” Additionally, the agenda package for the July 14 commission meeting (at which the PDCSD MSR/SOI Update will be considered) will be available on the website on or around Wednesday, July 7. In the interim, interested parties can contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (626.204.6500).
Thank you again for this opportunity to address the issues concerning the PDCSD.