Coyote Hills Brouhaha; Tonight at 5:00


Tonight we have the first of a two-meeting public hearing at City Hall to discuss West Coyote Hills.  Actually, after reading tonight’s agenda, it looks like council just might clear the way for the bulldozers.  If you have something to say to the council members, tonight’s your chance, just show up early.

If Councilman Shawn Nelson wins the 4th Supervisorial District race, we will have three council seats to fill in November.  Tonight’s meeting could be the nail in the political coffin for some of council members no matter how they vote.  West Coyote Hills isn’t new to City Hall and it has been a hot-button issue for environmentalists and residents in La Habra and Fullerton for decades.  There are those who see an opportunity to generate desperately needed tax revenue while others see their open spaces shrinking and pollution growing.  Whichever side of the fence you are on, I think we can all agree that this has been one political football that has been fumbled for far too long.  There are pros and cons to this development just like any other.

The meeting is scheduled for 5PM in the council chambers (303 W. Commonwealth Ave.).  As I mentioned, it will be a full house, standing room only, so show up early to get your chance to either support or oppose the development.

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  1. #1 by Chris Thompson on May 11, 2010

    …and some of us look at it as a property rights issue where a reasonable developer has been drug through the ringer after proposing an incredibly generous project to the community.

  2. #2 by DOWN WITH THE GNATCATCHERS! on May 11, 2010

    Won’t somebody please think of us gnats?

  3. #3 by Who Cares on May 11, 2010

    …and some of us look at it as just more exploitation all in the name of a dollar.

  4. #4 by Land Use Expert on May 11, 2010

    Chris, there is no inherent “property right” that includes a zone change. Sorry.

  5. #5 by Anonymous on May 11, 2010

    Some of us don’t want to see another huge housing development built on polluted land, or the strain on city services it will bring, or the increased traffic.

  6. #6 by nipsey on May 11, 2010

    equation of the day: idealogue + no information = 0

    Chevron has pumped that place for decades, and Land Use Expert is precisely right. If I buy a house and cry foul when someone doesn’t let me turn it into a iron smelter, my property rights have not been violated. And vise versa.

    In their agreement with Pacific Homes (or whatever the development subsidiary they gave building rights to is called, it’s been a long time), Chevron retains mineral rights. And the oil is not gone. When crude prices go up enough to justify more expensive extraction Chevron can and will pump again, by angle drilling from adjacent properties they still own. Go down to the clerk recorder’s office and hop on the microfiche machines, a lot of it’s there for the reading.

  7. #7 by Christian on May 12, 2010

    Chevron does not have an inherent right to a zone change. However, they do have a right to apply for the rezoning, hold a public hearing to explain what they want to do and hear what the city has to say. Then, assuming they are denied the rezoning, Chevron can appeal or simply reapply while addressing and mitigating the reasons for the original denial. Fast-forward several years and here we are. Everyone has a right to due process.

    I find it interesting how many people bring up the zoning issue as if that were the show-stopper. Do you have any idea how many variances are granted for construction projects that do not meet current zoning regulations? I also find it amazing that people consider Chevron’s property to be “open space” as if it were the public’s open space. It reminds me of a neighbor who wanted another neighbor to cut their trees so they could have “their” view. Often, we think we are entitled to something which we are not. A person approached me on a residential subdivision in an affluent area not far from Sidhu’s home. She asked what she could do to stop the development at this late stage. The only remedy I could think of was for her to buy the vacant land which was estimated to be nearly $10 million. She said she couldn’t afford it and I explained that my client couldn’t afford NOT to do it. More than a year later there are 6 multi-million dollar homes with new owners contributing to the city’s tax base.

    To date, I have heard few arguments that are based on logic and not emotions. I am interested to know why it should not go forward after hearing that nearly all of the City’s committees and departments have signed off on most of the particulars.

  8. #8 by Land Use Expert on May 12, 2010

    Actually, Greg variances are relatively rare, (esp. in DTF that is commerical and has no setback requirements).

    But the zoning is the show stopper. A variance or even permits issued for overheight walls in setback, etc. are small potatoes compared to a zone and general plan change that alter the nature of a piece of property in perpetuity.

    At this point Chevron has no appeal. The City Council is their last stop – absent court action.

    And court action is guaranteed by the Save The Hills crowd. A judge will have to decide this project in camera as he/she sifts through the CEQA docs to determine the adequacy of the EIR and also the compatability with the City’s GP. Of course, this process only stalls the inevitable, by that’s how the environmentalists work – stall, stall, stall.

    Oh Joy!

    • #9 by Christian on May 12, 2010

      Land Use Expert,
      I think you are responding to my comment above.

      I have several neighbors who have applied for variances for small room additions, pools, etc. that would otherwise violate zoning regulations. As for setbacks, there are numerous residential structures throughout Fullerton which have received variances. Sometimes I think the McMansion was invented in Fullerton.

      As for the complete rezoning, I still haven’t heard how that conflicts with the General Plan.

      You are correct that any action opposing the development will likely serve to only stall the inevitable development. However, there is no reason Chevron couldn’t come back, if denied, with a new proposal that addresses the reasons for the denial. It starts the process again and eventually the city and opposition will run out of mitigating factors to deny the application.

      At face value, the land is worth far more to everyone if developed than just pumping oil out. If you aren’t concerned with the economics involved and choose to ignor the city’s budget issues, and ONLY focus on environmental concerns, you are screwed either way. If you build there, it would force Chevron to limit pumping to certain locations at potentially significant costs but then you would have more people, more cars, more lawns, and more toilettes. If you do not build, Chevron can cover the hills with storage tanks, wells, and oil/gas facilities. No one wants the latter to happen except Chevron shareholders when oil prices go through the roof…again.

      If the Save the Hills crowd could iron out a compromise with the city and Chevron, I think you would get close to what you have now. And if zoning is your only hope for stopping the development, I think Chevron will prevail and it might not be as sweet of a deal as the city stands to gain.

      I think Chris said it well at the beginning: “…and some of us look at it as a property rights issue where a reasonable developer has been drug through the ringer after proposing an incredibly generous project to the community.” People, even corporations, have a right to the full enjoyment of their property. If rezoning meets the owner’s needs and is consistent with the General Plan, why should they be denied?

  9. #10 by Land Use Expert on May 12, 2010

    Sorry, Christian for calling you “Greg” above. I got you confused with another guy who posts comments here all the time.

  10. #11 by nipsey on May 12, 2010

    I should’ve brought a fishing pole for all the red herring around here.

    Chevron engineered the change in the General Plan in the first place, which was an early part of their political strategy. How delightfully circular .

    Apparently there is tacit recognition that Chevron still can, and in fact may as we speak, extract oil from the property which is zoned for it, yet allowing them to do something in addition to this constitutes an injustice?

    It’s beyond absurd to cite the city’s budget issues as justification for sweeping changes in the name of fiscal responsibility, when much of this site is devoted to highlighting how grossly mismanaged the City & budget are and have been. If you want to fix it, and who doesn’t, how about start with overhauling how it’s managed, rather than literally try to pave the way to solvency which hasn’t worked yet in spite of some peoples’ best efforts. Again, part and parcel of exactly what this site is about.

    Storage tank or new wells ‘fears’ are pure, transparent scaremongering and the attempt to turn the argument into a ‘boy, we need this development or Chevron might do something even more disagreeable’ is the most inept bit of spin on the topic yet, so hey at least that’s something.

    The city has the power to control zoning, and thus has wide leverage to steer the outcome, but they have not, are not, and will not use it for all the same reasons that they almost never do when it comes to massive development, which usually boils down to petty short sightedness and profound lack of vision or backbone on the part of two-bit elected officials and career centric bureaucrats. Again, a core focus of this site in the first place.

  11. #12 by Christian on May 12, 2010

    Nipsey,
    Aside from the fiscal issues in the city are you in favor of building houses on Chevron’s property? It sounds like you are anti-development, but I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

  12. #13 by Who Cares on May 13, 2010

    I wonder why people who hope develop a property into a park are considered anti-development? It is a different use, not anti-development.

  13. #14 by Christian on May 13, 2010

    Who Cares,
    Who said “people who hope develop a property into a park are considered anti-development?”

    I was interested in understanding nipsey’s support or opposition to the development of WCH. If you want a BIG park in the area, why not use Clark regional park right there on Rosecrans? If you want to experience nature, you have the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve. You already have the best of both worlds in your own back yard. Why tear up West Coyote Hills to plant turf for athletics? Fullerton has the Sports Complex which is very nice and it incorporates the natural environment around which is accessible via the trails. If you want WCH to have an athletics field, someone has to pay for it and the city is broke. Chevron doesn’t just give land away or build parks unless there is something in it for them, like nearly 800 families to call your neighbors. That would make for a big block party.

  14. #15 by Who Cares on May 13, 2010

    Christian,
    I don’t think there should be a sports complex on WCH property. Development to me doesn’t necessarily mean ripping up hillsides and pouring concrete over every available space. As you point out there are many great places for sports in Fullerton. I would ask where are the many places to enjoy nature, get away from hustle & bustle of everyday life and contemplate in Fullerton? Not many I would say. No Chevron doesn’t give away land or build parks unless something is in it for them, but considering how many hundreds on millions of dollars they have made off that property already they could make a park out of it and still make money off it. I’m sure tax write off’s alone would be in the millions of dollars. Would they make as much as a housing development? Not even close. As for 800 families to call neighbors, it’s pretty hard to do that when neighborhoods are walled off by gates, private roads, and fences. I live by 2 gated communities off Brea Blvd. and haven’t set foot in either of them yet. Doesn’t seem to foster much sense of a community to me.
    I imagine we will philosophically agree to disagree on this. To me there just seems so much wrong with this current plan. Chevron freely admits air quality will degrade with this project and they freely admit they have no plan to mitigate the effects from it. Who pays those cost? And whoever pays those costs, should they be required to subsidize Chevron in building a housing project? Look at the water plan. An idea to sell some “water assets” up north to “a 3rd party” which turns out to be City of La Habra & City of Brea, and somehow those 2 cities are going to supply the water for this project? Neither city has approved this plan & when Pacific Homes was asked how this was going to work they couldn’t even explain it. If their water plan fails who is picking up that cost? The City? This just the surface of this thing.

    • #16 by Christian on May 13, 2010

      Actually, I think we agree more than we disagree. The gated communities you mention have an interesting disconnect on their insides. Attend a board meeting for their HOAs and you’ll agree that few residents have any community spirit. Is that bad? I suppose that depends on how neighborly you like to be. Some like the “Friends” TV show idea of neighborly love, while others prefer a little sollitude, the “good fences make good neighbors” crowd. One of the best things about Fullerton is that you have different types of neighborhoods to suit individual preferences. I would liked to have seen a few LARGE lots (maybe 50-100) with custom homes and a stipulation to leave 80 percent of each lot ungraded and undeveloped. It would shoot a gaping hole through our low-income housing ratio that Doc Hee Haw says is necessary, but I think it would be the best of both worlds with some development, some natural preserves, and the big oil campany can still make money. It isn’t perfect but nothing of man is.

  15. #17 by Christian on May 13, 2010

    typing on the run…sorry for the typos…

  16. #18 by Who Cares on May 13, 2010

    Christian,
    You have a good point about the gated community. Some people do like it. Personally I would just hate to see Coyote Hills become one although I guess by its very nature it lends itself to that type of development.
    The large lot idea is interesting. I would be curious to see how it looked. In the Midwest there are a areas that have that type of layout and it works.
    I guess at the end of the day I feel Coyote Hill is a special place. It really is the last spot of its kind in North OC. If you walk into it you really walk away from civilization for a little while and sort of become one with “nature” so to speak. It sounds dumb but people who take the time to do it love it. Once its gone its gone. For something they supposedly have been working on for years and years, this current plan doesn’t seem well thought out to me anyway. Too many unanswered questions and too many assumptions that may or may not happen. The realistic side of me says 100% park will never happen, but the optimistic side me says why not try? Lighting does strike once in a while & maybe we get lucky and get a big park.

  17. #19 by Mr. Titan Rugby on May 27, 2010

    Where will all of the NIMBY’s when the EAST Coyote Hills were developed? That was fine, I suppose. Just don’t develop in the west!

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