San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) accepted the disadvantaged unincorporated community statements of determination for 15 water agencies, including the Fallbrook Public Utility District.
LAFCO’s 7-0 vote Dec. 2, with no City of San Diego representative present, accepted the determinations for the 15 districts for use in subsequent municipal service review (MSR) and sphere of influence (SOI) studies. The action did not update any district’s MSR or SOI. LAFCO made the determinations to comply with recent state legislation which requires county LAFCO agencies to collect information and make determinations about disadvantaged unincorporated communities when updating or establishing spheres of influence for local agencies which provide fire protection, sewer, and water services.
“This isn’t the best of laws, but there are some side benefits in terms of looking at boundaries a little closer and trying to ascertain some facility needs,” said LAFCO executive officer Mike Ott.
A disadvantaged community is defined as one where the median household income is at or below 80 percent of the statewide median income. The law applies for areas of 12 or more residents. In March 2013, LAFCO staff identified the San Diego County agencies with potentially qualifying disadvantages communities within or contiguous to an agency’s existing sphere of influence. Twelve cities and 28 special districts were identified as having qualifying disadvantaged unincorporated communities located within or contiguous to their existing sphere.
LAFCO reviewed the county’s sanitation districts Nov. 4. Thirty districts in San Diego County provide primarily water service, and the December meeting covered half of those. The remaining water districts, including the Rainbow Municipal Water District and the San Luis Rey Municipal Water District, will be reviewed for statements of determination during one of LAFCO’s 2014 meetings.
According to a questionnaire response provided by the Fallbrook Public Utility District, FPUD is planning for the identified disadvantaged communities within or contiguous to the district’s sphere. LAFCO periodically updates sphere of influence studies, and an updated sphere of influence is also needed in the event of an annexation, consolidation, or other boundary change. The next sphere of influence update for FPUD will include the agency’s progress in planning for the service needs and deficiencies of the disadvantaged communities.
Escondido mayor Sam Abed, who is one of the city representatives on the LAFCO board, noted that the legislation may not necessarily help serve the agencies’ deficiencies. “It does not set the priorities based on needs. It sets the priorities based on income level,” Abed said.