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Policy: Pre-Zoning

The Executive Officer shall not accept proposals involving annexation to a city for filing unless accompanied by an ordinance or other proof that the city council of the affected city pre-zoned the affected territory pursuant to Government Code §56375.

Legal Authority

Government Code §56375 mandates that, as a condition of annexation, a city pre-zone territory to be annexed or present evidence satisfactory to the Commission that the existing development entitlements on the territory are vested or are already at build-out and are consistent with the city’s general plan. All pre-zoning designations shall remain in effect for at least two years after the completion of the annexation unless the city council, at a public hearing, makes specific findings relating to changed conditions and circumstances that necessitate a departure from the pre-zoning in the application.

Background and Discussion

It is conventional practice for the cities within Sonoma County not to pre-zone territory until a property owner has filed an application with the city requesting pre-zoning and annexation or until the city wishes to annex territory. Therefore, annexation proposals submitted to LAFCO will require pre-zoning by the city council along with the necessary environmental review. No application for annexation to a city will be deemed complete unless the pre-zoning process has been completed. This also assumes that the city, as lead agency pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, will prepare and submit to Sonoma LAFCO its proposed environmental assessment prior to final determination of environmental effects, to allow LAFCO staff sufficient time to comment.

Sonoma LAFCO would encourage cities to pre-zone all existing unincorporated islands. Such pre-zoning would allow the Commission the option of amending annexation and reorganization applications to eliminate small islands when possible.

Adopted: August 2006
Amended: February 3, 2010