Update (10/24/2012 at 11:08 p.m.): Jonathan Taylor, Ph.D., is an associate professor of geography, not geology.
Attorney Jeff Oderman authored the city impartial analysis for Measure W, not the city clerk.
The fate of Fullerton’s West Coyote Hills rests in the hands of the city’s voters this November with Measure W, a ballot initiative that, if voted down, repeals an agreement between the city and a subsidiary of Chevron to develop there.
A Fullerton-based group called Friends of Coyote Hills gathered over 10,000 signatures in 2011 to create the referendum, said Angela Lindstrom, the group’s board member at-large.
“Our organization’s mission is the protection of all 510 acres of West Coyote Hills as a nature park and preserve for now and the future,” Lindstrom said. “We aim to do this by purchasing the land with public and private funding and donations.”
The Fullerton city council adopted the ordinances in July 2011 in an agreement between the city and Pacific Coast Homes, a subsidiary of Chevron, for the development of the West Coyote Hills project.
The property, privately owned by Chevron, is located west of Euclid Street at the northern part of Fullerton, south of Imperial Highway.
Historically, the property was used by Chevron for oil drilling; and planning of the development has been in the works since 1977.
Ordinance No. 3169 is the agreement being challenged that Measure W would ultimately overthrow.
The ordinance authorizes the development of 760 homes on 180 acres of West Coyote Hills, five acres of retail development, 283 acres of open space for wildlife habitat, public trails, parks, a 17-acre multiple-use site and improvements to the adjacent 72-acre city-owned Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve, Attorney Jeff Oderman wrote in a city “impartial analysis” for the measure.
“If Ordinance No. 3169 is repealed… either party has the right to terminate the Development Agreement and in that circumstance the other project approvals would become null and void,” states the analysis.
However, both sides of the argument do not agree with the wording of the analysis.
The program manager for Pacific Coast Homes, Jim Pugliese, said a no-vote on Measure W would mean that the city will not be able to receive the benefits compromised in the agreement under Ordinance No. 3169.
He did not rule out that Chevron would still be able to build the development on West Coyote Hills. Pugliese would not comment further if Chevron has plans to pursue that course of action.
This is a “great opportunity for citizens to support the city council’s development agreement,” said Pugliese, but “the (opponents of Measure W) are using scare tactics to try and convince people that the project is unsafe.”
But opponents of the measure disagree.
Lindstrom contends, by reading the actual ordinance with an attorney at hand, that if Measure W fails, the full agreement between the city and Pacific Coast Homes becomes null and void. This contradicts both Pugliese’s analysis and the city.
“Chevron’s current campaign is based on misleading and false advertisement, planting endorsers is unethical,” Lindstrom said. “If they will resort to this now when they are still beholden to our vote, imagine how they will behave when they are not.”
Friends of Coyote Hills also sued to challenge the sufficiency of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) agreed upon between the city and the developer, Lindstrom said.
In June 2012, the Orange County Superior Court rejected the challenge and upheld the validity of the EIR and all the West Coyote Hills project approvals, according to the city impartial analysis.
Lindstrom said the lawsuit is still under appeal.
“Chevron’s development plan of 760 houses and a shopping center on West Coyote Hills destroys an important natural and threatened habitat,” Lindstrom said. “The remaining open space will be fragmented by the new housing tracts and streets making it difficult if not impossible or deadly for wildlife to make their way from one area to another.”
Jonathan Taylor, Ph. D., a geography professor at Cal State Fullerton, said he does not support Measure W.
“Measure W is a fraud perpetrated against the voting public in Fullerton,” said Taylor. “If you look at the maps, the majority of the land is going to be developed for a housing tract and then very marginal land with really steep slopes is going to be preserved, but they are going to have to strip it of vegetation first.”
Satellite images of Orange County show there is little undeveloped land left in its natural habitat, he said.
“As a father… I would rather them be able to have some areas left that are similar to what Southern California was like historically rather than just being covered in tract houses,” Taylor said.
Ultimately, based on the city impartial analysis, a vote against Measure W repeals Ordinance No. 3169 and overturns the City Council’s approval of the Development Agreement.