By now, most local residents know that Measure W was defeated by a healthy margin on November 6, 2012. At the beginning of this campaign, we posed this question on our blog: Does the "F" in Fullerton Stand for Fool? Fullerton voters deserve huge credit for proving they are not, even when barraged with $1.5 million worth of deceptive advertisement.
Is West Coyote Hills saved? Not quite, but we have taken another giant step towards that goal. Here are our next steps.
Number one. The City of Fullerton must uphold the people's vote and it needs to follow the ordinances they wrote themselves to nullify all approvals for Chevron's development plan. No if's or but's and no play on words. The full spirit of those ordinances must be followed. As stated in the Measure W’s Impartial Analysis written by the City's special counsel on the West Coyote Hills matter: "... either party has the right to the terminate the Development Agreement and in that circumstance the other project approvals would become null and void".
Section 2.3 of the Development Agreement, the subject of Measure W states: “If either party reasonably determines that … this Agreement will not occur because … any of the Existing Development Approvals for the Project is/are disapproved by the City’s voters at a referendum election … then such Party shall have the right to terminate this Agreement … and the Existing Development Approval[s] for the Project shall similarly be null and void… “
The Development Agreement defines “Existing Development Approvals” to mean all Development Approvals, including without limitation the following: General Plan Amendment, Specific Plan Amendment, Zoning Amendment, Tentative Tract Maps, EIR (Environmental Impact Report), and all conditional approvals for the aforementioned. In other words, everything Chevron has worked towards since 2003 with the release of the draft EIR.
Fullerton voters rejected Measure W by exercising our right of referendum accorded to us by our state's constitution. We did this by following a lawful process, and despite a playing field that was tilted very much in favor of the opposition. There is no option but for the City to terminate the Development Agreement. When that decision is made, it then follows all other project approvals are nullified as stated in the approval ordinances the City wrote to protect itself from a scenario that would only benefit the developer at the expense of the City.
When the City upholds the voters’ will and follows the law to reject all development approvals, it will have set the clock back almost 10 years when Chevron began its current application for approval. According to the referendum process, they can return with a different plan after one year, but no sooner. We hope that they will find it more profitable to use their resources to negotiate the sale of West Coyote Hills for a park. If not, let’s hope the Fullerton City Council will represent the interest of their constituents. If not, voters will step in again.
Number two. Line up the money to purchase all of West Coyote Hills. I’ve written in the past about real funding sources for the purchase of West Coyote Hills. I’ve also stated that the problem is not the availability of funds but rather the lack of a willing seller in Chevron. Public pressure (our last decade of work culminating with the recent defeat of Measure W) combined with funding make a willing seller.
Fullerton is not in this alone. Throughout the election, we were cheered on by our neighbors in La Habra, La Mirada, Buena Park, Brea, and even Anaheim who hoped Fullerton voters would make the right choice and save West Coyote Hills. We were also cheered on by organizations that have long stood by us and are experienced in saving lands for parks: Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense League, Center for Biodiversity, Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, League of Conservation Voters, the River and Mountains Conservancy, and more. They were ecstatic with the news of Measure W’s defeat and called it simply “amazing”. At the same time, they offered more help to take this to the next level. So the question now is not whether we can succeed in saving all of West Coyote Hills, but why we should fail.