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California Legal Research

An overview of resources for researching California law.

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County Governments

There are 58 counties in California, and two types of county governments: Under article XI, § 3(a) of the state constitution, counties may adopt a charter:

  1. Charter counties have the power create and enforce local ordinances, as long as those ordinances do not conflict with the general laws of the state (also called "home rule" authority). Article XI, § 3(a) of the state constitution permits counties to adopt a charter.
     
  2. General law counties have not adopted a charter, and are instead governed by the California Government Code.

For more information about California counties, see:

City Governments

There are 478 incorporated cities in California. Article XI, § 3 of the state constitution provides for the creation of city governments. There are three types of city governments: 

  1. General law cities are governed by the California Government Code.
     
  2. Charter cities are governed by an adopted city charter.
     
  3. consolidated city and county is a city and county that have merged into one jurisdiction, and is governed by a charter. San Francisco is currently the only consolidated city and county in California.

For more information about the difference between general law and charter cities, see California Government Code § 34871.

For more information about California city governments, see:

Special Districts

There are approximately 4,763 special districts in California. Special districts are state agencies that provide specific services within a defined geographic area, and are governed by a board. Examples of important special districts include:

For more information about California special districts, see:

Regional Government Organizations

Regional government organizations are local governments working together to facilitate research and plans for regional improvements in areas such as transportation, waste management, and air quality. Examples of regional government organizations include:

Tribal Governments

There are approximately 97 federally-recognized Native American tribes in California, and 37 additional tribes that are not federally recognized. Many tribes have their governments, with their own courts and ordinances. California laws also require cities and counties to notify and consult with California tribes about proposed local land use planning decisions, in order to protect traditional tribal culture places (see sections 65352.3 and 65562.5 of the California Government Code). 

For more information about California tribes, see:

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Todd Ito
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