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Voters to Decide Fate of West Coyote Hills in 2012

Chevron’s plans to develop the last significant open space in Fullerton have been stymied once again. Last night, after the success of two petitions opposing the development agreement between the city and the oil company, the Fullerton City Council decided to let voters settle the question in an election in November 2012.

It’s been a long and bumpy road to reach this point. Most of the former oil fields in north Orange County have already been developed. The remaining land in Fullerton has been the focal point of a pitched battle between those who favor Chevron’s plan for an upscale residential development complete with open space and trails, and those who prefer to leave the land wild as an example of the west coast’s dwindling coastal sage scrub.

In July of 2009, the City of Fullerton launched a well-attended series of public meetings at which Chevron’s plans were explained and voted on, first by a series of committees and then by the council. That process concluded nearly a year later in May of 2010 when the council, in a vote that surprised many, turned thumbs down on development. Chevron didn’t give up. Instead they filed suit against Fullerton, arguing that the city had failed to negotiate in good faith; since Chevron had met all objections with a series of modifications, compromises and deals, they felt their plan should have been approved.

Next Chevron offered to drop the suit if the council would reconsider its vote. In April of 2011 the council, whose membership had changed after the November elections, overturned its decision of a year earlier and voted to approve Chevron’s plan after all.

But that wasn’t the end. Friends of Coyote Hills, who have fought to preserve the hills since the group’s formation in 2001, collected signatures on four petitions for referendum, two of which succeeded. That gave the city council the option of reversing their decision themselves or leaving the question to the voters, a process sometimes called “the people’s veto.” Last night they voted to put it on the ballot. Now Fullerton voters in the November 2012 election will decide whether honor the development agreement with Chevron or overturn it.

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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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