Tag Archives: referendum

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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Council Ok's Chevron's Development Plan, Opponents Plan Referendum

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.

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