Fullerton citizens unite against Chevron and their own City Council to preserve West Coyote Hills.




This could almost be a sequel to my recent article about something very similar happening in the City of Orange. I’d been waiting for one of our Fullerton Fringer Friends to chime in about this.  But there seems to be a division over at that blog – between those (like Tony) who value retaining the town’s few remaining wild open spaces, and those (like Chris Thompson and our brilliant webmaster Travis) who are religiously dedicated to unlimited private property rights.

To these latter I say:   Give me a break.  If the 20th century taught us anything, it’s that every ideology has its limits. Not allowing a multi-national, hell-of-polluting, Nigerian-slaughtering, multibillion-dollar corporation to develop your town’s last remaining wild space IS NOT THE SLIPPERY SLOPE to letting Curt Pringle pave over your front yard and run a train across it.   Assuming neither of you guys are angling for a job flacking for Chevron, their interests are not the same as yours. Chevron’s bosses are not going to have to live in a town with no remaining wild open spaces, forever.

Okay, here’s an aerial photo of what we’re discussing.  The smooth spot toward the left without any buildings all over it is West Coyote Hills, the last remaining natural open space for MILES around:

Brief Background

Oil’s been drilled from the Coyote Hills since the 1890’s – although extraction has long since ceased.  At this point it’s estimated that there are 450 covered-up wells, although Chevron doesn’t know where nearly half of them are any more!  So at some point recently somebody at Chevron looked at their balance sheets and noticed no profit was being made from this plot, and decided to get the remaining 510 acres zoned residential so they could, through their subsidiary “Pacific Homes,” build 760 homes on it.  A few problems, noted by the Save West Coyote Hills folks:

  • The 510-acre West Coyote Hills is one of North Orange County’s last remaining natural open spaces. It is a sensitive habitat to endangered and threatened animals.
  • We need more parks, not more homes. Orange County is the second most dense county  in the state of California, with North Orange County being even more dense than South.
  • Chevron’s development proposal will add 9,300 more daily car-trips to our already congested streets.
  • Building homes on hundreds of abandoned oil wells (some locations are not even exactly known) is just unsafe.
  • The site is right on top of the Puente Hills Blind Thrust Fault, a known earthquake fault.
  • Development will mean years of dust and pollution to the community.
  • Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever!

When the Fullerton City Council first voted on the question in June of last year, they turned Chevron’s request down 3-2.  Tea partier and then-Supervisorial candidate Shawn Nelson surprised many observers by siding with the two liberal environmentalists on Council, Pam Keller and Sharon Quirk-Silva, in rejecting the deal.  Shawn’s stated reason for the vote was so convoluted (he claimed to feel Chevron was offering the city too many perks or something) that it left most of us puzzled;  but still his “no” vote was so popular it probably helped him win his Supervisorial seat.

And Chevron’s reaction to this rejection was to sue the City of Fullerton for… ONE – MILLION – DOLLARS!

(Of course suing a city like Fullerton ain’t no thing for Chevron – remember, they are in the middle of trying to destroy the entire COUNTRY of ECUADOR, for Ecuador’s  temerity in trying to make Chevron pay for some of the mind-boggling environmental damage they created sucking up oil from that country over the decades.)

So, under the threat of a million-dollar lawsuit, and with Shawn and Pam replaced by tea-partier Bruce Whitaker and garden-variety Repuglican Pat McKinley, the Council voted 4-1 on July 12 to give Chevron what they wanted, ignoring all Sharon Quirk-Silva’s ideas of compromises.  Chevron has always resisted any compromises anyway, just like John Martin’s Ridgeline Properties in Orange;   for over thirty years now they’ve stubbornly refused all public offers to purchase the property (back when we could have afforded it – some contend we still can.)  This company really doesn’t deserve much deference or sympathy from the court or the public.

And so now, the People of Fullerton have had to step up.

And I wish you all the best of luck in your popular referendum to halt this development and save the land for our children and grandchildren.  The rest of this post is taken from the excellent site http://sites.google.com/site/savewestcoyotehills/referendum:

A Primer on Our Referendum

This is an exciting opportunity for us to Save West Coyote Hills. To read more about the referendum process, please click here.

1. What is a referendum?
It is the submission of a proposed public measure or statute for a public vote. Referendum’s can result in a new law/ordinance. It can be used to recall elected officials and to overturn a decision made by a legislative body such as a city council.

2. What are you hoping to accomplish with this referendum?
The Fullerton City Council voted on July 12, 2011 to allow Chevron to develop 760 homes and a commercial area on the 510-acre West Coyote Hills open space. This was a complete reversal of the council’s denial of the same flawed development proposal about a year ago.

Since the Council voted this time under the shadow of a lawsuit by Chevron, and made the wrong decision for our community, we wish to call for a ballot measure so the public can vote on this issue.

3. What am I committing to by signing the petitions?
You are merely agreeing to allow Fullerton voters to decide for themselves whether the Chevron development is what the community needs. You are not voting on the ballot measure itself by signing the petition. There will be a future election for the actual ballot measure vote.

4. What do you have to do to qualify the referendum for a ballot measure?
We have to collect signatures from a minimum of 10% of registered Fullerton voters within 30 days of the City certifying the approval resolutions/ordinances of July 12, 2011. These signatures must be turned into the Fullerton City Clerk’s office within the 30 days to be counted. The signatures will then be verified by the Registrar of Voters’ office.

5. What exactly are you trying to referend?
The City approved 6 resolutions/ordinances on July 12. In order to put together a “bullet-proof” referendum and subsequent ballot measure, we have been advised by our very smart lawyers to submit 4 referendums. As a result, we are asking the public to sign 4 separate petitions. These are: 1) General Plan Amendment, 2) Specific Plan Amendment, 3) Zoning Change, and 4) the Development Agreement.

6. Can someone just sign 1 of the 4 petition?
Yes they can, but we would really like to ask supporters to remember to sign all 4 petitions. We need to come up with the required number of signatures for each petition (8,800 signatures each). Remember that we need to come up with “bullet-proof” ballot measures that will soundly overturn the City Council’s approval of Chevron’s development plan. To not do so jeopardizes our entire campaign. So please, please, please sign all 4 petitions and no more than once per petition.

7. At the 7/16/11 Referendum Kickoff, you only had 2 petitions for us to sign. Where are the other 2 petitions?
Administratively, the City must have two separate City Council readings of the “ordinance” approvals, so we have to wait until after 7/19/11 before we may begin to collect signatures for petitions #3- Zoning Change, and #4- Development Agreement.  The 30-day clock on these petitions began on 7/20/11.

Just to reiterate, we are circulating a total of four petitions for our referendum drive. That’s because we want to “bullet-proof” the results. The July 12 Fullerton City Council approval of Chevron’s development plan included six resolutions and ordinances. We are aiming to overturn the four most important of those:


1.   General Plan Amendment

Updates to the City’s land use policies and concepts considering the Chevron development plan. Note this includes impacts to policies/information about traffic, open space, bikeway and trail maps.

2.   Specific Plan Amendment

Detailed information about the development; implements the concept in the General Plan.

3.   Zoning Change

Change from Oil and Gas to Specific Plan District (which includes Residential zoning).

4.   Development Agreement

List of perks Chevron will give City for allowing them to develop West Coyote Hills.

Unfortunately these petitions were not available at the same time due to the City certifying the resolutions/ordinances at about a week apart. Petitions #1 and 2 were certified last week (7/13/11), and petitions #3 and 4 this week (7/20/11). This means the signature deadlines for them are also different (see countdown clock to the left).

This is a package deal, so please remember to sign all four petitions. To sign any of the petitions, drop by during our daily office hours.

8. Who can sign the petition?
Only registered voters of Fullerton (with a current Fullerton address) may sign the petition. If someone is not a registered Fullerton voter, but qualifies to be (US Citizen over 18 years old, legal resident of Fullerton, California), you may have them complete a voter registration card and then sign the petition. Please hang on to the voter registration card to turn into the petition organizer to mail. Do not make any notes or marks of any kind on the petition itself.

9. Who can circulate the petition?
A registered California voter or someone who is qualified to be a California voter (US Citizen over 18 years old, resident of California)

10.  Where and when can I go to sign the petitions?
Look for us around shopping centers and events, but if you don’t find us there, you can find us at one of the below locations and times. We’d love it if you dropped by. [UPDATE – Click here to find a calendar of what days the petition takers will be at certain locations around Fullerton, or go by their offices

11. Where and when can I turn in my petition book once I have finished gathering signatures?
Please check our website regularly for our updated office hours and locations. If you have questions, please call (714) 870-9777 or email information@coyotehills.org. Please see this page for our office location/schedules. 

Please turn in your petition books as soon as you have completed gathering signatures. If you have not completed the entire sheet of signatures, but will not be able to work on them anymore, it’s OK to turn them in without the complete 50 or 100 signatures. We are more interested in turning in what we have by the deadline, and whatever you have is better than nothing. Do not share your petition with anyone else to gather signatures. Only one person may circulate a petition.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.