For over 25 years, the APA CA Central Section has been hosting a 3-day, family-friendly, summer weekend retreat at the YMCA Camp at Lake Sequoia. Every year, the Central Valley planners generously invite colleagues from around California to join in. Last summer, several San Diego Section planners attended, coming back with fun stories. This year, a few more of us decided to join in. Representing the San Diego section were Section Director Rachel Hurst, Planning Journal Editor Carolina Ilic, retired planner Susan Baldwin, and planner Kathy Breedlove.

Our extraordinary planning camp weekend involved meeting about 20 planners and their families from the Central Valley, including planners from the Fresno Council of Governments, Tulare County, the Tulare County Association of Governments, the Fresno Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), Caltrans, several consulting firms, and various small cities throughout the Central Valley.

The educational component of the retreat focused on the Fresno LAFCO, with a presentation entitled “Beyond LAFCO 101”.

LAFCO Executive Officer David Fey educated, enthralled, and entertained us as he described the multi-faceted role of LAFCOs in California. We learned that there is a local agency formation commission in each county, some of which are departments within county government, while others are independent of the county. We also learned that LAFCOs were created by the State Legislature in 1963 as planning and regulatory agencies managing the boundaries of cities and special districts, but have grown to include governance audits of these local agencies. In his in-depth and entertaining presentation, David Fey covered the following timelines:

  1. 1945 – 1963–The past is prelude: In the beginning there was chaos
  2. 1963 – 2000–Growing pains: A star is born, well, sort of, maybe, maybe not…
  3. 2000 – 2017–LAFCO hits its stride: Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (CKH)
  4. 2017 +–Everything you know is wrong: LAFCO in an age of change and social justice

Prior to joining LAFCO in 2013, David Fey worked in local agency land use, utility planning, public outreach, CEQA, and emergency response planning since 1986 as both a city planner in the Fresno-Clovis area and working for consulting firms serving the central California market.

In addition to learning about the changing role of LAFCOs and receiving CM credits, we enjoyed campfires, laughing and singing around the campfires, kayaking and canoeing on the beautiful blue lake, hiking, fishing, swimming, playing a competitive game of Bingo (with prizes and all), getting to know the Central Valley planners, eating great food – including meals prepared by the fabulous chef, hearing about the Central Valley planning issues – especially high speed rail, and best of all, having a lot of fun and getting to know colleagues outside of our area!

Next year, be on the lookout so you can attend, too. Planning camp generally happens the weekend before Labor Day. It’s the place to be to learn about the major planning issues facing the Central Valley.

For more information, contact Karl Schoettler, Retreat Coordinator, Central California Section, American Planning Association, Collins & Schoettler, 1002 W. Main Street, Visalia, CA 93291, (559) 734-8737,,