Unincorporated urban pockets (County
islands) that are either completely or substantially
surrounded by cities are a byproduct of the land use
policies that existed in Fresno County and other California
Counties during the 1950s and 1960s. Little forethought was
given by local governments as to the actual costs to the
County that would result from maintaining these County
The inefficient land use patterns that were
developed over several decades have proven to be extremely
expensive to maintain and to provide an acceptable level of
urban services to. They have also created public confusion
over jurisdictional boundaries and service responsibilities.
The attached map shows the many County islands that exist
within the Fresno Area (City of Fresno Map).
been the experience of cities and counties throughout
California that annexation of County islands have resulted
in a more efficient urban service delivery system comprised
of sewer; water; trash collection; police protection; fire
protection; groundwater recharge; code enforcement; etc.
Allowing islands to become part of a city has allowed
residents to participate in the decisions that impact not
only their immediate neighborhoods, but their communities.
While the County of Fresno, special districts, and the
private sector have historically been able to provide a
variety of services to unincorporated islands, services
provided by the County in unincorporated areas are more
typical of limited services to rural areas and do not cover
the full range or level of services that many urban dwellers
have come to expect. The County has indicated that it is
becoming more difficult to maintain an acceptable level of
services in view of the fiscal constraints that it continues
Recognizing the problems associated with the
proliferation of County islands throughout the State, the
California Legislature enacted special legislation in 2001
that allowed cities the ability to annex County islands that
were 75 acres in size or less, without protest or election.
The law (Government Code 56375.3) was changed in 2005 to
increase the size of islands that could be annexed by a
city, without formal protest, to 150 acres.
Provisions of Government Code 56375.3
The law provides
that an "island annexation" initiated by a City may
not be disapproved by the LAFCo Commission if the following
requirements are met:
Annexation is proposed by resolution
of the annexing city.
The island is 150 acres or less in
The island is surrounded or substantially surrounded
by the annexing city or by the annexing city and adjacent
The island is not a gated community where services
are currently provided by a community services district.
island is substantially developed or developing based on the
availability of public utilities, presence of public
improvements or the presence of physical improvements on the
parcels within the area.
The island is not prime
agricultural land as defined in Government Code Section
The island is receiving benefits from the annexing
city or will benefit from the city.
The island was not
created after January 1, 2000.
Why Cities Annex Islands
and Counties Support Such Action
There are a number of
reasons why cities throughout California desire to annex
County islands that are located within their "Sphere of
Influence" and urban service area. These include:
Consistent With City/County Land Use Policies
realize that island annexations are consistent with
long-standing city and county land use regulations and
policies that encourage growth and development to take place
within cities where urban levels of services and facilities
already exist and can be easily provided. Counties are not
in the business of providing urban levels of services to
urban areas. That is the role of the cities. Adopted
City/County Annexation Referral Policies and Tax Sharing
Agreements have helped reduce potential conflicts between
It's the "Right Thing to Do"
city officials feel that annexing islands that result in
bringing new residents into the social fabric and political
life of the city recognize that the island is in many ways
already a part of the city, and annexation is basically the
"right thing to do". It is consistent with a basic desire
to "improve" the city.
Inherent Inefficiencies of County
Scattered unincorporated "pockets" within the
midst of cities have proven to be inefficient. Such
inefficiencies are evident when two different
departments, one city and one county, provide the same service
to different portions of the same neighborhood and
crisscross each other's territory on their way to provide
service(s). This is especially true for police and
fire protection services where it becomes difficult for the
County Sheriff's Department or County Fire Protection
District to travel great distances in order to respond to
County island calls. Significant effort is also often
required in determining whether calls seeking assistance are
coming from "city" as opposed to "county" residents.
County Island Impacts to Surrounding City Neighborhoods
Often times Fresno County islands are comprised of older
residential neighborhoods that maintain aging
infrastructure, housing stock in need of rehabilitation, and
other problems. Since counties do not provide the same
level and diversity of services for these residents,
problems that may arise may not receive the same level of
attention that a city may offer. Such neighborhood problems
often have the potential for becoming worse rather than
better. Cities realize that the best way to deal with such
situations is by annexing the lands and dealing with
problems through existing city programs.
Use City Facilities But Often Don't Pay City Taxes
are often times concerned that County residents who live
within island areas may be utilizing city streets and parks
without paying for their use and upkeep. Also, cities may
not receive the full benefit of additional state and federal
funds that are allocated to cities on a per capita basis as
long as residents reside within County islands.
of Annexing to a City
Experience has proven that people
just don't like change. They may ask "Why should we annex
and what is to be gained by annexing that we don't currently
have?" Good questions and here is some food for thought:
Better Neighborhood Services
One of the primary reasons
for a city's existence is to provide neighborhood services
and programs to persons living in urban areas. By
comparison, counties were created to provide county-wide
services including: public health and human services; law
and justice services; assessor and tax collector services,
voter services, library services; public
administrator/guardian services; etc. Counties were never
envisioned to compete with cities in providing urban
services to residential neighborhoods.
While it may be
pointed out that counties do provide some urban level
services to island areas, counties do not provide the same
level or variety of neighborhood services as currently
provided by cities. Also, counties throughout California
indicate that they do not have the means to increase the
level of services to existing County islands given current
financial constraints placed upon them.
An incentive to annexation is that residents
will gain a greater ability to influence decisions related
directly to their "quality of life" through working through
their elected city representatives. As long as they
continue to reside in a County island, they remain
disenfranchised from those decisions. County residents do
not have the right to vote in city council elections and
other city elections. Consequently, when county residents
attend city council meetings, their voices and opinions do
not carry the same weight as if they were city residents.
Dispelling Annexation Myths
Annexation Triggers Reassessment of Property (FALSE)
people believe that if their property is annexed from the
County into a city that the Assessor will automatically
reassess its value for property tax purposes and that, as a
result, their property taxes may increase dramatically.
This is not true.
Proposition 13 determines the conditions
under which a property may be reassessed for property tax
purposes, and annexation is not one of them. The assessed
value of property remains the same following annexation.
Myth #2: City Taxes Are Much Higher than County Taxes
Another common annexation myth is that taxes in a
city are much higher than taxes in the unincorporated area.
This is not true.
The total taxes that a residential
property owner would pay if their property were annexed are
generally very similar to those they are already paying in
The most common difference between city and
county taxes is that most cities have a utility tax and a
county does not.
The City of Fresno has indicated that
there may be a very slight increase in property taxes as a
result of Police and Fire Employee Pension overrides that
are in place. The City indicates, however, that overall
costs to new city residents may be less due to lower solid
waste disposal fees charged to city residents that offset
the override taxes.
Myth #3: Annexation Triggers
Requirements to Install Sidewalks, Curbs, and Gutters
Some island property owners believe that they will
have to install sidewalks, curbs, and/or gutters, and other
improvements if they annex. This is not true.
require that such facilities be installed only when there is
substantial redevelopment of the property, and even then it
may not be required if the property is not along a
designated safe route to school or if it is in a
neighborhood that generally does not have such facilities.
Myth #4: Annexation Affects School District Boundaries
Some people believe that if they are annexed into
a city that may change the school district they are in and
the schools their children attend. This is not true.
Annexation of property from a county into a city has no
impact on school district boundaries or the schools that
children in the annexed area attend.
recognition is extended to CALAFCO, Santa Clara County
LAFCO, the Fresno County Administrative Office, the Fresno
City Manager's Office, the Fresno County Planning and Public
Works Department, and the City of Fresno Planning and
Development Department in aiding in the preparation of this