Chevron Sues Fullerton Over Coyote Hills

Last week Pacific Coast Homes, a subsidiary of Chevron Texaco, filed suit against the city of Fullerton for it’s recent denial of the West Coyote Hills development project.

Down boy

The suit was preceded by a claim for damages of “$1,000,000 plus” in which Chevron says Fullerton is responsible for breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, violating the civil rights act, and a few other things expressed in legal mumbo-jumbo beyond the vocabulary of this blogger.

If you feel like wading through it yourself, here is the claim and the complaint:

View the Coyote Hills lawsuit

So it looks like Chevron is attempting to apply pressure prior to bringing the project back in front of what will likely be a more favorable city council in 2011. I’ve also heard that the suit was preceded by Chevron making no-so-veiled threats towards a councilmember regarding future re-election possibilities. That’s just not very nice.

Where’s Our Park?

Hey, man, where's the park?

The north part of Orange County has a notorious lack of parks and open space. And while the County of Orange spends millions on its park system annually, including vast tracts of parkland in south county, and even on the Harbor Patrol in the wealthy enclave of Newport Beach, us taxpayers up north get almost nothing. We have Craig Park and Clark Park which total about 130 acres; meanwhile the County controls around 60,000 acres of park and open space counting the new Irvine Company “gift.” Now that’s just wrong.

Former 4th District Supervisor Chris Norby kept talking about this unfairness, but he never actually accomplished anything to fix the inequity. Norby’s successor Shawn Nelson also made this topic a campaign issue. Will he be able to succeed where his predecessor tapped out? Let’s hope so. The opportunity for additional parkland, and even bike trails in utility rights-of-way are there. It may not be easy, but some of us voters expect elected folks to do the hard stuff.


Coyote Hills Development Denied

Shawn Nelson voted to kill Chevron’s West Coyote Hills development – but not for the same reasons that Keller and Quirk-Silva noted.  At Tuesday’s City Council Meeting Shawn Nelson said of staff, “It’s like everybody got their Christmas list out.”

Nelson was referring to the extraordinary list of demands that the City of Fullerton has placed on the developer that include all-terrain vehicles, trailers, an interpretive center, school fees of more than $10 million, a $5 million endowment, and park fees.  Nelson said “There’s only 760 units planned in this development and that would be $265,000 per unit.  And they haven’t graded one spec of dirt, haven’t put in a street, a sewer, a street light.  I’m embarrassed.  I mean that’s shameful.  Whether you approve it or not, that’s a problem.”  He went on to ask, “How is that [list of demands] their [Pacific Coast Homes] or anybody’s responsibility that comes to town?”

Nelson made it clear that he supports the rights of developers.  He said, “Chevron has a right to build.”  But he was not happy that the development agreement showed up on his desk at noon, not leaving sufficient time to scrutinize the details.  One major concern was over water rights.  When he first took office, Nelson said he had inquired about other issues that have yet to be adequately addressed by Pacific Coast Homes, such as parking.

The councilman appeared to be most irritated that, “These people have been run through the ringer”, referring to the developer, Pacific Coast Homes – a subsidiary of Chevron and the list of unreasonable demands by city staff.

Shawn Nelson is running for the Orange County board of Supervisor’s 4th District seat vacated by Chris Norby after Norby’s election to the California State Assembly.  To no one’s surprise, Shawn Nelson is endorsed by Congressman Ed Royce and Assemblyman Chris Norby, among others.

Before the meeting was adjourned, Councilwomen Pam Keller made a lengthy statement that she would not be seeking reelection.

Will the West Coyote Hills Saga End Tonight?

After 30 years of debate, the city council is expected to vote tonight on the fate of West Coyote Hills. The “Save Coyote Hills” crowd will surely turn out in force, but can they stop the development completely? Unlikely, although council may have enough concerns to cause further delay.

And even if council passes the proposed re-zoning and plan revisions, it’s unlikely that the battle will end here. One commenter has asserted that court action to further delay the project is guaranteed.

Rather than re-hash the multitude of arguments around Coyote Hills, I direct you to Cindy Cotter’s West Coyote Hills blog where she has a decent summary of the most recent council discussions on the subject.

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.

Coyote Hills; The Last Piece of Chevron’s Pie

Great things happen over an al fresco meal of fresh veg accompanied by gin & tonic.ginimages
As we looked out over the valley, we remembered the time one would drive up Beach Blvd. and is soon as you hit Rosecrans, darkness would descend until you hit Imperial. There was nothing there. But of course, in the name of progress there are houses and apartments there now. Dusk was settling over La Habra Heights –a great thing to see since you can still see the hills. No home is allowed to build above the ridgeline. And then we talked about the work of a sainted few in faraway La Habra Heights, who saved a special place called Powder Canyon.

Which brought us to the issue of Coyote Hills and the small group of people who have been trying to get our attention with their hand painted signs on Euclid and Bastanchury. You see, they get no respect. Which is a painful thing because damn….they’ve been toiling for so freakin’ long.

But of course this is the problem. Because if you’re going to do work of this sort sometimes taking the meek respectable posture isn’t the way to go.

Sometimes you just have to be all out –well, “Heightsian” for lack of a more diplomatic word.

Seems to us that the problem with the whole Coyote Hills fandangle is that this sucker wasn’t put to bed long ago.

300hThat’s right, a lack of vision has hindered what seems to us to be an obvious move.

Chevron has owned the land bordered by Beach, Rosecrans, Imperial and Euclid since before you or I were born. They have drilled, pumped, done research and in the process not only made money here, but also used the research to help make more money elsewhere.

Now, we could get rely on the spinal cord reaction and say “property owner’s rights to do whatever they damn well please,” but that’s not our style. When Chevron pulled out, they left behind a large parcel of undeveloped land behind what was then their research HQ.

Since the mid 1990’s, the area has been graded, millions of cubic yards of dirt have been moved and the result was not one, but at least three housing developments on Rosecrans, Beach, and Euclid, but also the addition of big outdoor shopping center.

So what we have in Fullerton is the very last parcel of undeveloped land. No orange groves have been planted –it’s pretty much in its natural state.


So we ask, why do they need to build more homes? Looking at the big picture, they’ve already built enough. And looking at our real estate ads, there are no shortage of homes for sale. It’s not the money. They get $40 bucks from us each time we fill up the tank. Multiply this by 4, that’s $160 a month. Then do that by twelve and yes, it’s Chevron easily can take in $1200 a year from on individual (since a lot of Fullertonians don’t take either the bus or the train).

Why not leave this last parcel of land as it is –for us to enjoy? What we say is…. no houses. We’re not willing to concede a single foot of that land to build more houses.

If you think this is outrageous, well, maybe it is. But what’s even more crazy is that acoyotemedium_CAPTURED_COYOTE high percentage of people here have little connection to nature whatsoever. Their lives are drive, mall, mall, internet, mall, mall, restaurant, drive… oh what the hell.

Besides, after the development of all the lands around Bastanchury and Brea Boulevard, quite frankly ….we’re on the side of those two scrawny coyotes that come out every day at 4 p.m. looking for food and water.

Alas, we could have offered them gin and tonic. But we know better than that.

“Save Coyote Hills” Movement Losing Steam?

Awww shucks
Awww shucks

In her latest post, local blogger Cindy Cotter pointed out a notable trend at the various community and commission meetings for Coyote Hills development: the Save Coyote Hills crowd appears to be shrinking.

In the beginning of July an informational public meeting drew a boisterous crowd of 200. The next two commission meetings (where public voices are actually more important) drew only 75 and then 45 citizens. That is not the kind of showing that can stop a project with over 30 years of momentum. If these folks mean business, they need to get organized quickly.

On a related note, Pacific Coast Homes responded to our last post with an updated map that more clearly distinguishes the difference between “The Preserve” and the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve. They’ve also promised to update the map on their own website, but at this point it’s still clear as mud. The co-mingling of the real preserve and the “open space” that surrounds it may not be the most honest communication effort, so hopefully they get it fixed quickly.


Coyote Hills Development – What’s Next?

After years of passionate debate, the development of West Coyote Hills seems to be moving forward. If all goes according to plan, a series of public hearings before various commissions will lead up to a final approval by City Council in October.

Nearly a decade of intense activism has paid off, and the group Friends of Coyote Hills has forced some serious compromises from the development plans of Pacific Coast Homes (a subsidiary of Chevron). The plan has been reduced to 760 homes with 352 acres set aside as “open space,” including the 72-acre Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve on the east end.

Where does "The Preserve" end and the "Robert E Ward Nature Preserve" begin? What's the difference?

The Friends of Coyote Hills still aren’t happy, but it is doubtful that they will be able to accomplish their ultimate goal – using the heavy hand of government to devalue the property and then spending tax dollars to buy the entire 510 acres and set it aside as a park and preserve.  A lack of funds and the commercial wheels of progress have run over that idea, whether it was righteous or not.

Of course, any group of concerned citizens would be wise to pore over every last detail in the volumes of documents submitted for this project. History shows that city staff, commissioners and council are incapable of conducting enough forward-looking due diligence on their own, especially on a project of this scale. Any and every question should be brought up to the relevant commissions. Ambiguous answers should not be accepted from anyone. Decision-makers must be held accountable for ensuring that expensive surprises do not hit taxpayer wallets down the road.

There is an informational meeting on the Coyote Hills project at 7:00 pm on July 8th at the Senior Center. Anyone who is interested should attend.

Fullerton’s General Plan Committee to Focus on Coyote Hills

The City of Fullerton’s General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) took a bold step at their meeting last night to include West Coyote Hills as a Focus Area in the City’s new General Plan update. The Coyote Hills area was not included as a focus area in the last General plan update that was done in 1996. In a packed meeting room, a motion was made by Richard Lambros to uphold a prior “gag” order relating to discussing Coyote Hills. The motion failed. After several members of the audience voiced their opinions the Committee voted to create a new Coyote Hills Focus Area.

Coyote Hills