About 75 people gathered in front of the Fox Theater on the corner of Harbor and Chapman Tuesday evening before marching through Fullerton to the city council meeting in a protest organized by Friends of Coyote Hills to oppose development of 510 acres of open land in West Coyote Hills. The Council will decide later this year whether to approve a zoning change which would allow Pacific Coast Homes, a subsidiary of Chevron, to build housing there.
Chevron once pumped oil from 1000 acres of land in La Habra, La Mirada, and Fullerton, and maintained a research facility in La Habra, but as the oil ran out, they built houses and commercial buildings, most recently Westridge Plaza at the corner of Beach and Imperial, the Westridge Golf Club, and an upscale residential neighborhood overlooking them. The remaining undeveloped land is the last open space in Fullerton. In order for Chevron to build there, the council must approve a zoning change. That change has been a controversial issue since Pacific Coast Homes’ initial proposal in 1997.
Tuesday night’s protesters carried signs with slogans like “Sprawl Costs Us All,” “9,000 More Car Trips,” “Honk to Save the Hills,” “Save Our Last Space,” and “Traffic Engineers, Pull Your Head Out of Your Manhole,” but by far the most popular was “Save Coyote Hills.” There were men in turbans and men in baseball caps, women in floppy hats, and one small boy in a very large cowboy hat. There was even a dog.
All photos by Cindy Cotter
Rasik Patel left work early to join the group because, “It’s a good cause.”
He’s lived in Fullerton for 25 years, raised his children there, and watched it change. He doesn’t want more buildings more people and more traffic.
Judy Merry was on a Saturday hike sponsored by the city when she was told the land she was hiking through was the spot proposed for new housing. That sounded like a terrible loss to her. Later Jim Pugliese, project manager at Pacific Coast Homes, addressed her homeowner’s association and left the impression that the development was a settled issue. It was a neighbor who works with Friends of Coyote Hills who told her no final decision had been made. Participating in last night’s march is one way Merry and her husband Jim hope to stop development.
The protesters marched south on Harbor to Commonwealth, crossed Harbor, and worked their way back up to Chapman a few times. The sun had set by the time they headed west on Commonwealth to the city hall where they piled their signs on the lawn and filled out comment slips, before going into the meeting.
As people milled in the cool night air, chatting in small groups, Helen Higgins, one of the organizers of the march, told me, “We have only one goal, to preserve 510 acres as a park and a preserve for now and for the future.”
Margret Hoonsbeen, treasurer of Friends of Coyote Hills, reiterated that a final decision hasn’t been made and preserving the hills as open space is not a lost cause. There are several potential sources of funding to buy the land from the developer if Chevron is willing to sell.
As 6:30 drew near, marchers drifted into the building. They filled most of the council chambers.
Public comments were allowed early in the meeting. Wendell Hanks of La Mirada reminded the council that its decision about West Coyote Hills later this year will affect people far beyond the borders of Fullerton and expressed his hope that Fullerton will choose to preserve the hills as open space.
Then Helen Higgins of Friends of Coyote Hills, representing all the marchers, also spoke against development and named sources of funding that would make it possible to buy the land to keep it open. Pugliese has previously expressed a willingness to consider offers to purchase the land, and Joan Wolff, planner for Fullerton, has said the city would be willing to broker such a deal.