To initiate an application to incorporate a new city in California, having identified proposed boundaries that contain at least 500 registered voters, you start with one of the following:
- A petition signed by at least 25% of the voters within the city
- A petition signed by people owning land that comprises at least 25% of the assessed value in the city
- A resolution adopted by a legislative agency that has land or a sphere of influence within the city
This gets submitted to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) of the county in question, which initially reviews the request and certifies it as complete or sends it back for updates and corrections.
The application itself consists of:
- A narrative description of the proposal, the reason, a statement of concerns or problems with the current state of governance, a history of the region, and demographic, geographic, and economic data.
- A Service Plan describing which agencies currently provide services to the city (e.g. police, fire protection, planning, public works, parks and recreation, libraries, animal control, water and sewers, street lighting, water and sewer, trash, flood control, social services, etc.) , the services provided, and proposed changes
- A map and legal description of the boundaries
- An application fee
The local LAFCO then prepares a Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis (CFA), and a review of services, holds a public hearing, and then reviews the merits of the application. The review includes things like environmental effects and environmental justice, fiscal and budgetary matters (anticipated tax revenues and expenditures), revenue neutrality (the cost to the county for supporting the city must be offset by savings from reduced service requirements). An environmental impact report may be required, and there may be a negotiation process.
The LAFCO executives officers then prepare a report, and a recommendation for approval including terms and conditions for the approval. Various parties may request a review by the California State Controller. The full LAFCO commission either rejects or approves the proposal with conditions, after which there can be requests for reconsideration and protest hearings.
Finally, if the proposal is approved it is placed on the ballot for approval by the voters in the proposed city, usually at the next general election. If the voters approve, the LAFCO prepares a Certificate of Completion, upon which the new city is official.
Somewhere in the process, somebody has to agree on a name.
Each LAFCO may establish its own rules and procedures, and may require additional parts in the application. It is strongly recommended that proponents consult the LAFCO before beginning the process and not wait until submitting the application.
Here is a guide to the process.https://calafco.org/sites/default/files/resources/Incorp_Guidelines.pdf