Last night the Fullerton City Council voted 4-1 to approve Chevron’s plan to build 760 houses on 510 acres of depleted oil property in West Coyote Hills, thus overturning the Council’s earlier decision in May 2010. The reversal was expected. The vote in 2010 was close, and city elections in November had changed the makeup of the Council, replacing two of the council members who had voted against development.
Last night’s vote fulfills the terms of a settlement Chevron proposed for a suit it filed against the city last August for a failure to negotiate in good faith. The terms of the settlement required that the council take a second vote and approve the project. Chevron could simply have begun the process of seeking a zoning change all over from scratch, but that would have meant repeating an expensive and time-consuming process.
Friends of Coyote Hills, a group formed ten years ago to oppose development in favor of preserving open space, announced today that it will begin collecting signatures of registered Fullerton voters to petition for a referendum in the hopes that the voters of Fullerton would overturn the City Council’s decision. Enough signatures would halt development until an election could be called.
A referendum, if it succeeds, will still not settle the issue. Voters would not be able to vote on an alternative to Chevron’s plan, merely to nullify the Council’s vote, so the question of what to do with Fullerton’s last significant open space would remain.