Archives for category: Coyote Hills

Coyote Hills Vista

Angela Lindstrom, Friends of Coyote Hills

The 4th District Court of Appeals side- stepped the people’s referendum right issue when it ruled against the Friends of Coyote Hills on their Measure W lawsuit on December 6, 2018.

The judges framed this lawsuit more narrowly as a business contract between Chevron-PCH and the City of Fullerton even though the subject of the 2012 Measure W referendum, the West Coyote Hills Development Agreement, was codified through a City ordinance which is subject to referendum.

The City wrote the West Coyote Hills development approvals so that if the Development Agreement was terminated, the other approvals such as the General Plan amendment, Specific Plan, and even the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) would be overturned.

The Friends of Coyote Hills sued the City of Fullerton after it gave final vesting rights to Chevron-Pacific Coast Homes in 2015, despite the people’s successful referendum which should have terminated the Development Agreement.

The appeals court ruled that while the Development Agreement was approved through an ordinance, the City and Chevron had the final say on whether it would be terminated even after a referendum because that was what they wrote in the Development Agreement. The people’s referendum veto was therefore moot. Since the City and Chevron chose not to terminate the Development Agreement after the referendum, the other development approvals stand.

While it’s not surprising that the appellate court avoided ruling on a constitutional matter, this case leaves the door open for the City of Fullerton and other California cities to write ordinances that deprive people their referendum veto, a right granted by our state’s constitution.

 
In recent years, the State Supreme Court has overruled Orange County courts when cities overstep their powers to make land use decisions at the cost of people’s right to participate.

 
In December 2016, the California Supreme Court unanimously sided with the citizens of Orange to reaffirm decades of well-established planning law that supports the right of voters to use the referendum process to challenge local land use decisions.

 
In March, 2017, the California State Supreme Court sided with the Banning Ranch Conservancy against the City of Newport Beach. The Orange County Register reported that “The case hinged on a simple question: Did the city of Newport Beach violate its own municipal ordinance in 2012 when city planners approved development at Banning Ranch, even though voters in the city had previously said they wanted the land to remain open space?”

 
The Friends of Coyote Hills have until January 15, 2019 to file a petition to the State Supreme Court to review this case. A generous donor has already kickstarted a $20,000 challenge grant to support the Friends of Coyote Hills’ continued effort to save Coyote Hills and preserve the public vote.

If you can make a donation please visit the Friends of Coyote Hills website at www.coyotehillls.org or call 657-325-0725.

Coyote Hills Vista

by Angela Lindstrom

Reprinted from the Early October Issue of the Fullerton Observer

The Friends of Coyote Hills vs. The City of Fullerton and Chevron-Pacific Coast Homes (PCH) appeal was heard in court on September 20, 2018. The Friends sued the City in 2016 after it approved the West Coyote Hills Vesting Tentative Tract Map (VTTM) that gave Chevron-PCH vested right to develop the site. This was despite a successful 2012 Measure W referendum that should have overturned the City Council’s approval of the Development Agreement.

 The lawsuit was first tried in October 2016. The judge ruled against the Friends, reasoning that Measure W did not overturn or terminate the Development Agreement. Rather Judge Claster said it negated the Mayor’s authority to sign this Agreement. Therefore the Development Agreement never came into effect.

While this may seem like splitting legal hairs, terminating the Development Agreement is significant because the City wrote in other ordinances that upon the termination of the Development Agreement, all of the West Coyote Hills development approvals are automatically nullified.

The City holds the view that only they and Chevron-PCH can end the Development Agreement, not voters because that is the power the City gave themselves in the Development Agreement. In the event of a successful referendum, they have the option, not mandate, to terminate the Development Agreement (Section 2.3). Since they didn’t choose to terminate it after Measure W, all other development approvals are still valid; no auto-nullification.

That raises the question: what was the point of Measure W if the people’s vote could not overturn the Council’s approval of the Development Agreement?

The California state constitution grants voters the right to overturn laws made by their government.

The City Council approved the Development Agreement. Sixty-one per- cent of Fullerton voters rejected that approval. And yet, the City took no action to end the Development Agreement.

The appeals court judges challenged both sides on whether the Development Agreement was terminated by Measure W. Does the City have the last say to terminate the Development Agreement over the people’s referendum?

If so, what would be the point of a referendum? The Friends’ attorneys argued that when the Development Agreement was terminated by Measure W, all development approvals were auto-nullified — just as the City wrote in other ordinances they approved (No. 2011-32 and 2011-33, Condition 26).

Chevron-PCH’s attorney stuck to the lower court’s reasoning — the Development Agreement was never effective due to Measure W, so it can’t be terminated and that Measure W was a single-issue referendum. Fullerton voters were just trying to strike a better deal than the City for the development of West Coyote Hills. This case is not about the people’s referendum right he said.

 The City’s attorney argued that the Development Agreement was an exchange of public benefits for the City and private benefit for Chevron-PCH (vested right to develop West Coyote Hills). They would never allow the development to proceed without this guarantee, so after Measure W, it re-codified the terms of the Development Agreement in the VTTM (which is not subject to a referendum).

In a final remark, the Friends’ attorney pointed to recent cases where the California Supreme Court upheld the people’s right to referendum over city policy making that interfered with that right.

“It’s a complex case,” concluded Judge Bedsworth. 

The judges have up to 90 days from the September 20th hearing to publish a ver- dict which will be determined by agreement of at least 2 of the three judges. 

For updates on this and other Coyote Hills issues visit http://www.coyotehills.org 

DougCoyoteHillsMagnify

Matthew Leslie

4th District Supervisor candidate Doug Chaffee has inappropriately included a photograph of a Friends of Coyote Hills billboard in a campaign mailer sent to households last week. The image was included in a montage of photographs meant to illustrate the Fullerton mayor’s argument that North Orange County has not received its “fair share of park and recreation funding.”

While the observation about unequal distribution of county funding for parks may be accurate, the combination of images used on the page is misleading. An image of the candidate gazing out across the hills, assembled together with no fewer than four signs for city parks or trails, and a photo of the Friends of Coyote Hills billboard, all set against the backdrop of undeveloped land, is obviously meant to imply that the candidate shares FCH’s vision of preserving all 510 acres of the property as a park. Doug Chaffee’s actions in recent years, however, tell a different story.

While Doug Chaffee did vote against the original development as a Planning Commissioner in 2011, and was later seen as the only voice on the Fullerton City Council to save the area for a park, in 2015 Doug Chaffee joined other members of the Fullerton City Council to approve Chevron-Pacific Coast Homes’ Vesting Tentative Tract Map (VTTM), a modified development plan that could potentially result in the same number of homes in the area. The Friends of Coyote Hills opposed the 2015 VTTM plan because of the inadequate timeline allowed for fundraising efforts to acquire neighborhoods slated for development, and for the use of a VTTM itself, seen by many as an end-run around legal requirements that should have required Chevron to submit an entirely new application for development following the 2012 referendum that saw over 60% of Fullerton voters opposing the original plan.

Doug Chaffee also joined other members of the council in objecting to State Senator Josh Newman’s legislation that would establish a path for state funding to purchase the land.

DougCoyoteHillsMailer

The inclusion of the billboard, prominently featuring the group’s website, prompted a response in the form of a statement to the Friends of Coyote Hills Facebook page and Twitter account:

“It has come to our attention that a candidate in the OC Supervisor 4th District election used a photo of our Save Coyote Hills billboard in his campaign mailer. Just want to remind everyone that we are unable to endorse any political candidate due to our 501c3 nonprofit status. In addition, we are definitely not affiliated with said candidate.
Hope everyone votes with saving Coyote Hills in mind. Good elected leaders make a huge difference!”

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