Case Summary: LAFCO is Not Deprived of Jurisdiction Where Service Provider – Rather Than Recipient – Submits LAFCO Application

December 30, 2011

Community Water Coalition v. Santa Cruz County Local Agency Formation Commission (Sixth Appellate District No. H036616, filed November 18, 2011)

The University of California Santa Cruz (“UCSC”) filed an application with the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission (“LAFCO”), requesting approval of an agreement between it and the City of Santa Cruz (City) pursuant to which the City would extend water and sewer services to UCSC’s north campus, an area that is outside the City’s jurisdictional boundaries.  Seeking to halt LAFCO’s consideration of the application, the Community Water Coalition (“CWA”) filed a complaint and petition for writ of mandate (Code Civ. Proc., § 1085), contending that LAFCO had no jurisdiction to consider the application since the prospective recipient of the services (UCSC), rather than the service provider (City), had filed it.  Even though the City was a party to the agreement for which UCSC sought LAFCO approval, and even though City had submitted a letter to LAFCO stating that it was willing to provide the services if LAFCO approved, CWA maintained that under Government Code section 56133, LAFCO was obligated to dismiss the matter because the City had not filed the application in its own name.

The trial court sustained the City’s demurrer without leave to amend, concluding that the operative subdivision of section 56133 does not specify which party – recipient or service provider – must request LAFCO’s approval.

Although the Sixth District Court of Appeal disagreed with the trial court’s statutory interpretation, it affirmed the judgment.  The Court of Appeal reasoned that under section 56133, the city or district proposing to provide services outside its jurisdictional boundaries must request and receive approval from its local LAFCO.  LAFCO’s jurisdiction does not depend, however, upon the identity of the person who filled out the application.  The Legislature gave LAFCO the power to decide whether to allow an extraterritorial extension of urban services.  The fact that the prospective recipient of the services, rather than the service provider, filed the application does not prevent LAFCO from acting upon the request so long as the city or district that will actually provide the services is a party to the agreement for which LAFCO approval is sought and joins the request by affirmatively indicating its willingness to provide the services.

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