Category Archives: West Coyote Hills

Property Rights

The following is a guest post by Judith Kaluzny, a divorce lawyer and mediator in Fullerton.

Private property rights, like free speech rights, have limitations. Some Fullertonians are bleating about the alleged rights of a very prosperous multinational corporation to a zoning change to permit residential dwellings for affluent people upon a hazardous land area.

Meantime, the city is at work to remove private property rights from Larry Klees, the owner of a small downtown residential property where he provides low income housing for six people. April 19 the city council in a closed session authorized the law firm of Jones & Mayer to take whatever action is necessary to place the property at 138 West Malvern Avenue into receivership.

A recorded grant deed for former oil field property in Huntington Beach sold by Pacific Coast Homes/Chevron Land & Development Company contains a final paragraph as follows: “Grantee acknowledges that the real property has been used by former owners for oil field production operations and/or as oil storage tank farm for the storage of crude oil and petroleum products; that residual contamination is commonly found on properties that have been in such use; and that these residual substances include chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.”

Fine print on the pages of the deed seem to indicate that it also applies to other Chevron property including West Coyote Hills.

In addition, the Coyote Hills map in the EIR geology section shows two landslide zones where houses are to be built, actually the densest–attached–housing is in one of these. Also a liquifaction zone is there. The soils are the same friable soils that are across Euclid from CH, where the path is permanently closed and the hillside is eroding away. As also in La Habra, same soil structure, and severe erosion on properties there. It is also the bull’s eye of the Puente Hills Blind Thrust Fault which, if there is a moderately severe quake, is project by the USGS to be the worst economic disaster in the history of the USA. See USGS comments on the 2006 EIR.

The Klees property is not attractive in appearance. Described by one person, “I think its a unique property that is truly so evocative it could be used for film locations. It appears to be some type of worker or bracero housing and the property runs down to the barranca.

And there is a complaint by a “citizen” October 12, 2010, to code enforcement but the lines for investigative notes are entirely blank. The allegations relate to interior conditions in one unit not specified. But Klees had no notice that the city wanted to take over his private property and redevelop it at his expense.

Klees said one of his cottage rental units had been severely damaged by a tenant he was evicting six months ago. The tenant attacked him; he called the police November 3, 2010. Klees believes it was this disgruntled tenant who made the latest complaint to code enforcement, now known as community preservation.

But the Klees property will give no one cancer or birth defects nor slide down a hill. But he does not get the respect for private property that it seems some people think the city owes Chevron.

Question: does the city knowing these risks on the Chevron property become liable for the harm to the future residents if the council approves this land for residential purposes?

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Editor’s note: If you’re interested in writing a guest post on the proposed development of West Coyote Hills or on any other topic that would be of interest to residents in and near the hills, email me at CindyCotter@gmail.com

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West Coyote Hills Hearing Postponed

5/11/2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PRESS RELEASE #09511
Subject : West Coyote Hills public hearing postponed
Contact : Joan Wolff, Planning Consultant, Community Development Department    (714) 738-6837
Sylvia Palmer Mudrick, Public Information Coordinator, Fullerton City Manager’s Office    (714) 738-6317

The planned Tuesday, May 17, public hearing before the Fullerton City Council on the proposed West Coyote Hills project is being postponed until July.

The new date for the hearing will be Tuesday, July 12.  The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber of Fullerton City Hall, 303 W. Commonwealth Ave. The request to postpone the hearing was made by the applicant, Pacific Coast Homes. Al Zelinka, community development director for the city, said the reason for the request is that the applicant and city staff “identified a procedural oversight pertaining to review of the proposed project by the Orange County Airport Land Use Commission.” The 510-acre West Coyote Hills site is bounded on the north by La Habra, on the east by Euclid Street, on the west by the Hawks Pointe development, and on the south by Rosecrans Avenue.  Gilbert Street divides the property from north to south. Pacific Coast Homes proposes to build a maximum of 760 housing units in an approximate 180-acre portion of that area.  Other components of the project include a 5.2-acre neighborhood commercial development, and approximately 283 acres of open space and recreational uses, including the 72-acre Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve.    Further information about the public hearing or the project may be obtained by calling Joan Wolff, planning consultant for the city’s Community Development Department, at (714) 738-6837. Persons requiring special accommodations to attend the July 12 meeting are asked to notify the Fullerton City Clerk’s Office at (714) 738-6350 prior to that date.

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Chevron Gets a Do-Over

In a 4:1 decision, the Fullerton City Council voted last night to reconsider Pacific Coast Homes’ proposal for a residential development in West Coyote Hills. Sharon Quirk-Silva cast the only dissenting vote.

It was only a matter of time before the matter came before the council again after having been voted down last May, after several months of public meetings and many years of contention. That decision temporarily stopped development, but it left open the question of what would happen to the land. Pacific Coast Homes, a subsidiary of Chevron, is unlikely to let it sit idle indefinitely.

Some expected the company to bring a new proposal to the council, which is likely to be more favorably inclined after several members were replaced in last November’s elections. Two of the three members who voted against the plan are no longer on the council.

But instead of starting the whole process over, Pacific Coast Homes (PCH) responded to their defeat by filing a suit against the city then offering to drop it if the council reversed its decision in a new vote.

PCH may bring a new proposal before the city at any time — the 6-month waiting period set in city code has already expired — but that would likely be the beginning of another protracted struggle. Last night’s settlement means that the council will vote on exactly the same plan that they denied last May. If the city introduces any new conditions, the settlement is void, though, according to Jeff Oderman of Rutan and Tucker, the law firm representing the city in the dispute with Pacific Coast Homes, the suit will not be renewed if the council votes in favor of development and then development is stymied by a third party.

“Anybody … that doesn’t agree with a decision that the council has made just sues the city and then they get, like, do-overs?” — Fullerton resident Elaine Mitchell, during public comments

“At any point PCH could bring this back through the regular process,” said council member Sharon Quirk-Silva, “and there’s a reason that they don’t want to bring it back through the regular process — and that’s because then you would have to go out and start the process again. I understand. That’s time, it’s money. It means many, many public engagements, it means re-looking at the EIR (Environmental Impact Report). I understand why they do not want to do that… But a decision was made… If you’ve seen council members up here over the years, you’re gonna know that we get on the soap box for something, and mine has been process, process, process. And that is something that I won’t waver on, it’s something that I believe in… Chevron certainly has the right to bring it forward, but under the threat of litigation is something that I do not support and I will not support this tonight.”

Pacific Coast Homes has spent years in negotiations with the city to build on their depleted oil fields in West Coyote Hills. In 1977 the city adopted the West Coyote Hills Master (Specific) Plan to guide the development of 1000 acres of oil fields in anticipation of Chevron’s decision to stop pumping oil. Since then about 420 acres have been developed. The plan in contention now is for the remaining 580 acres.

To move forward with the plan, the council would have to agree to rezone the land, which is now zoned for oil and gas. Rezoning has been opposed by those who wish to restore and preserve the land as one of the few remaining examples of coastal sage scrub.

In July of 2009, the city launched a series of meetings intended to involve the public in a decision-making process culminating in a vote of the council the following May.

July 8, 2009 – Informational meeting

July 27, 2009 – Parks and Recreation Commission

July 29, 2009 – Energy and Resource Management Committee

August 3, 2009 – Traffic and Circulation Commission

March 10, 2010 – Planning Commission – meeting one

March 18, 2010 – Planning Commission – meeting two

May 11, 2010 – City Council – meeting one

May 25, 2010 – City Council – not-s0-final decision

Pacific Coast Homes’ argument is that they have negotiated in good faith, modifying their plans to meet all objections, and the city council voted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, violating the 1977 agreement. Opponents to the plan insist the 1977 agreement was not binding and that the land is part of a diminishing habitat that should be preserved.

Members of the public expressed opinions on both sides of the argument, eight for the settlement agreement, eleven against.

Organizations for development:

Open Coyote Hills (This appears to be a coalescence of a group that has long advocated for the opening of the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve. Ward is a former mayor who negotiated successfully for the donation of a portion of Chevron’s land to be set aside as a preserve, but the city has never had the money to open the preserve to the public. Opening the preserve is one of the conditions of the development.)

Fullerton Chamber of Commerce

Pacific Coast Homes (Jim Pugliese, project manager at Pacific Coast Homes, is on the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce.)

Organizations opposed to development:

Friends of Coyote Hills

Sierra Club

Sea and Sage – This is the Orange County chapter of the Audubon Society.

The next vote is tentatively set for May 17.

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Pro-Development Candidates Win Council Majority

Supporters of the proposed development of Chevron’s land in West Coyote Hills appear to have gained a majority of seats on Fullerton’s City Council yesterday. Chevron has long sought zoning changes which would allow it to build homes on the last of it’s abandoned oil fields in Fullerton, but activists wishing to restore and preserve the chaparral in a natural state have stymied their efforts.

In May the five-member Council voted 3-2 against development, but Chevron is free to try again. Yesterday’s election may have improved the oil company’s chances of getting the approval they need to begin building.

Two council members were in secure seats: F. Richard Jones,who voted in favor of development,and Sharon Quirk-Silva, who voted against. Three seats were up for grabs. Of the three, two look likely to be filled by pro-development candidates. The third could go either way.

Don Bankhead, whose term had expired, was re-elected. He voted in favor of development last May.

Doug Chaffee is the likely replacement for Pam Keller who was termed out and chose not to run again. Pat McKinley is running closely behind Chaffee in the unofficial results. Chaffee voted against Chevron’s development proposal when it came before the Planning Commission in March, while McKinley has said he favors development.

Bruce Whitaker is leading the race to serve the rest of Shawn Nelson’s term. Nelson left to take a seat on the Board of Supervisors. Whitaker, also a planning commissioner, voted in favor of Chevron’s development plan in March.

The Council will probably look like this:

Don Bankhead – For West Coyote Hills Development

F. Richard Jones – For West Coyote Hills Development

Sharon Quirk-Silva – Against West Coyote Hills Development

Doug Chaffee – Against West Coyote Hills Development or Pat McKinley – For

Bruce Whitaker – For West Coyote Hills Development

Election results are available from the Orange County Registrar.

UPDATE (11/23/2010): The Orange County Registrar of Voters certified the results of the November 2nd election yesterday. McKinley overtook Chaffee, leading by 90 votes. The Orange County Register calls that “close but probably beyond the reach of a recount.” This leaves us with a newly constituted city council that is (so far as we can tell from public statements) 4:1 in favor of development in West Coyote Hills.

UPDATE (11/30/2010): Chaffee is paying for a recount. OC Register’s story: http://bit.ly/g5sNWV

UPDATE: (12/16/2010): Recount canceled. OC Register’s story

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Fullerton Candidate Positions on West Coyote Hills Development

Fullerton’s City Council elections in November could make all the difference in Chevron’s bid to build houses on their oil property in West Coyote Hills.

West Coyote Hills, July 2009 (Photo credit:Cindy Cotter)

On May 25, the Council voted 3-2 against a zoning change that would have made development possible, but now three of the five council seats are open, two because the incumbents’ terms have expired (Don Bankhead and Pam Keller) and one because Councilman Shawn Nelson won a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Two council members will hold their seats: Sharon Quirk-Silva, who voted against development and F. Richard Jones, who voted for it.

Who’s For and Who’s Against Development

Seven candidates are vying for the two four-year seats for which the terms have expired.

Johnnie Atkinson – AGAINST (FO – Mid-Septemberr)

Don Bankhead – FOR (OCR-9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

Marty Burbank – FOR (OCR-9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

Doug Chaffee – AGAINST (OCR-9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

Jesse LaTour – AGAINST (OCR-9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

Barry Levinson – AGAINST (OCR-9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

Pat McKinley – FOR (OCR-9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

Greg Seborne – FOR (OCR-9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

Four candidates are running in a special election to serve the remaining two years of Shawn Nelson’s open seat:

Roland Chi – FOR provisionally (OCR – 9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

Tony Fonte – AGAINST (OCR – 9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

Aaron Gregg – FOR provisionally (OCR – 9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

Bruce Whitaker – FOR (OCR – 9/30) (FO – Mid-September)

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Edging Closer to a Development Decision

Jim Pugliese, project manager for Pacific Coast Homes, presents their plan to the Fullerton City Council at a public hearing on May 11, 1010 (Photo Credit: Cindy Cotter)

The Council should decide soon

Finally, after 30 years of conflict and negotiation, Fullerton City Council is on the brink of deciding whether to let Pacific Coast Homes, a subsidiary of Chevron, build on the last of Chevron’s abandoned oil fields in West Coyote Hills. Tuesday night the developer and a small army of consultants (two rows of seating were reserved for them) presented the project to the council as protesters marched outside. That was followed by 62 questions from the audience.

On May 25 the council will listen to public comment and are then expected to vote.

Continue reading

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Planning Commission Recommends Approval of Hills Development

Last night, in what may be the beginning of the end of a thirty-year struggle, the Fullerton Planning Commission sent a proposal for the development of Fullerton’s last sizable open space to the city council with the recommendation that it be approved. In a five-to-one vote, the commission said yes to zoning changes that would allow Pacific Coast Homes, a subsidiary of Chevron, to build houses and commercial property on depleted oil fields in West Coyote Hills. Continue reading

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