A local agency formation commission may alter the boundaries of a proposed new city beyond those drawn by incorporation proponents, according to a state attorney general's opinion.

Deputy Attorney General Taylor Carey issued the opinion at the request of Sacramento County, which has concerns about the proposed incorporation of Arden Arcade. Specifically, the incorporation proposal excludes areas outside the county's Arden Arcade community planning area between the American River and Fair Oaks Boulevard. County officials are concerned because the exclusion of that area would create a thin peninsula of territory that would remain the county's service responsibility.

Arden Arcade is an unincorporated area of roughly 12 square miles and 95,000 people just east of the City of Sacramento. Proponents submitted incorporation petitions in February 2007. Their proposal excluded the mostly residential strip south of Fair Oaks Boulevard where political support for creating a new city appears to be weak, said Peter Brundage, executive officer of the Sacramento County Local Agency Formation Commission (Sacramento LAFCO). County officials insist the new city must include all of the community planning area, so they requested the attorney general's opinion.

The attorney general's office concluded that while the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act "does not expressly authorize a LAFCO to change the boundaries of a proposed incorporation," the act does authorize a LAFCO to approve or reject an incorporation "with or without amendment."

"Naturally, a LAFCO's authority to change proposed boundaries is not without limitation. To begin with, the act requires that any amendment to a proposal be ‘consistent with written policies, procedures and guidelines adopted by the commission,'" Carey wrote, citing Government Code § 56375 subdivision (l). "Additionally, a LAFCO may not amend a proposal in a way that changes the fundamental nature of the proposal.

"Within these limits, there may be any number of reasons why a LAFCO would consider changing the boundaries of a proposed incorporation area. … "[A] LAFCO may change the boundaries of a proposal to prevent ‘an overlap of service responsibilities and inefficiencies in service provision' or to ‘bring about a unified and accountable government.' Indeed, these purposes lie at the heart of the policy that underlies the entire local government reorganization scheme," Taylor continued, citing Curtin's California Land Use and Planning Law and Fallbrook Sanitary Dist. v. San Diego Local Agency Formation Com., 208 CalApp.3d 753, 765 (1989).

Three new cities have been established in Sacramento County since 1997 — Citrus Heights, Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova. For Citrus Heights, Sacramento LAFCO did some "minor tweaking" to shrink the boundaries, Brundage said. The commission excluded larger chunks from the proposed Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova city limits. With Arden Arcade, the commission might expand the boundaries.

However, Brundage emphasized, the commission placed the incorporation proceedings are on hold in June while cityhood proponents raise money to pay for an environmental impact report and fiscal analysis. The process could resume next year with the goal of placing incorporation on the ballot in November 2010, he said.

The attorney general's opinion is No. 07-206 and was published on June 27, 2008.