“Commencing this Fall 2017, Pacific Coast Homes will be conducting field sampling/testing activities at the West Coyote Hills property. These activities will provide additional information regarding geotechnical and environmental conditions before construction under the project approved by the City of Fullerton can begin. These preliminary sampling/field testing activities do not involve project construction. As part of this process, Pacific Coast Homes will have field and environmental specialists present to ensure that all safety, habitat and wildlife protection measures are in place and observed.”
On September 18, 2017, the City filed its Respondents’ Brief in the legal challenge to the City’s approval of the Vesting Tentative Tract Map (VTTM) No. 17609 and certification of an Addendum to the previously certified Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the West Coyote Hills project. The VTTM No. 17609 authorized Pacific Coast Homes to subdivide the 510 West Coyote Hills to develop up to 760 residences, a small commercial center, and fund public benefits as outlined in the VTTM to include, but not limited to, permanently dedicating over 60% of the 510 acres to restored habitat/open space to include over 220 acres of contiguous open space. Most importantly, the VTTM set forth a process that provides the City the ability to purchase additional acreage to preserve as open space by acquiring “neighborhoods 1 and 3,” as well as additional neighborhoods or the entire project site if funding is available. The public benefits contained in the VTTM include trail development, an interpretative center, an endowment to maintain the West Coyote Hills open space, as well as other amenities as found in:
VTTM 17609 Public Benefits.
The City prevailed in Superior Court on this court case and appellants, Friends of Coyote Hills; Center for Biological Diversity; and, Friends of Harbors, Beaches, and Parks appealed to the Court of Appeal.
City (Respondents’) Brief
On December 6, 2018, the Fourth Appellate District of the Court of Appeal of the State of California sided with the City and Pacific Coast Homes in the appeal filed by Friends of Coyote Hills. All three judges affirmed the City’s actions. The appeal was directed at the meaning and effect of Condition 26 of the 2011 Specific Plan and TTM resolutions, which provided that “[i]n the event the Development Agreement is terminated, all other approvals for the project shall be null and void.” Consistent with what the City has argued from the beginning, the Court found that Condition 26 must be read in the context of the entire package approved by the Council in 2011, and that the City and PCH clearly did not intend a referendum of the DA ordinance to terminate the other project approvals. In addition to unanimously siding with the City, the Court also ordered the plaintiff to pay the City’s legal costs for the appeal defense.
Senate Bill 714
State Senator Josh Newman introduced Senate Bill 714 in the 2016-17 Legislative year to allocate $15 million contained in the California budget to the West Coyote Hills project. However, the language within the bill as it was introduced and later amended, did not reflect the many years of local work regarding West Coyote Hills and effectively required a re-start of all planning for West Coyote Hills under the management of a state agency. If made into law, SB 714 would have erased all of the progress made towards restoring the critical habitat, opening up access through a trail system, providing access to the City’s Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve, allowing the private property owner to fund the public benefits through the lessened development of portions west of Gilbert Street.
To read a legal analysis of the impact of Senate Bill 714 as introduced, if enacted, please select one of the following:
In August, 2018, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva was able to insert language into two budget trailer bills (SB 862 and AB 1828) which effectively cured the City’s concerns about SB 714 and usurping the City’s local control. The language made the $15 million available for expenditure to enhance public access and for other public purposes concerning West Coyote Hills and set forth a process through the Department of Finance for distribution of the funds to the City. This action effectively freed up the funding for use by the City to secure more land and further the public access and public benefits of the proposed conservation area.Assembly Bill 510
Steps are being taken to purchase parts of the West Coyote Hills property that are currently planned for development in order to potentially expand the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve. State and Regional Agencies are currently evaluating grant applications to fund the land purchase. Any additional property that is purchased would be added to the 300 acres to be dedicated as open space and would create the largest nature preserve in North Orange County. This land would be opened for public enjoyment with new trails, vista parks and a nature center.
Please take a moment to show support for acquiring additional land to expand the Robert E, Ward Nature Preserve at West Coyote Hills. Names and comments will be collected by the City and included in grant applications submitted to various agencies.
Steps are being taken to purchase large parts of the West Coyote Hills property that are currently planned for development. Under the terms of an acquisition agreement with Pacific Coast Homes, the City of Fullerton and others are making progress in securing state and regional grant funding to acquire the eastern section of the Coyote Hills property– an area of 220 acre of contiguous open space. Even more land can be acquired if funding becomes available. This is a rare opportunity to preserve land in the midst of the second most urbanized region in California.
Multiplier Effect and Public Access
Any additional land acquisition would add to the property already set aside by PCH and the adjacent Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve. In addition, PCH will fund the construction of new trails, vista parks and a nature center at West Coyote Hills, and fund a $3,840,000 million endowment to maintain the property in perpetuity.Regional Benefits
Appraisals were based on a model used to acquire all federal lands. Land values to acquire the land planned for residential development on the eastern half of the Coyote Hills property were set at $19,337,500 million.
Note: While not included in the Acquisition Agreement, PCH has agreed to consider selling this property at an appraised value established using a federal land acquisition model.
The City has identified more than $20 million dollars in potential grant funding from the following agencies: San Gabriel Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, The California Department of Parks and Recreation, The California Wildlife Conservation Board, The California Department of Fish & Game, and the Orange County Transportation Authority (through its Measure M2 Environmental Mitigation Fund). The Friends of Coyote Hills have also secured a matching grant for $1 million.
Willing seller, Pacifi c Coast Homes (a Chevron Subsidiary)
Vesting Tentative Tract Map approved by City Council November 17, 2015
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Categorical Exemption August 25, 2016
Appraisal completed September 11, 2015
Review of Appraisal completed April 18, 2016
Listed in the Tonner Conceptual Area Protection Plan (CAPP)
All environmental clean-up funded by Chevron
$1.33M habitat and management endowment funded by Chevron
$3.84M maintenance endowment funded by Pacifi c Coast Homes
Neighborhood 2 acquired with Vesting Tract Map
$9.4M Neighborhood 1 Appraised fair market value
$9.3M Neighborhood 3 Appraised fair market value
$15M Neighborhood 4 Estimated fair market value
$2M San Gabriel Rivers & Mountain Conservancy, Prop. 1
$1M CA Natural Resources Agency Urban Rivers Grant, Prop. 1
$50K Henry W. and Ellen R. Warne Family Endowment Fund
$2M California Department of Fish and Wildlife - submitted by Region
$1M CA State Coastal Conservancy (submitted 5/31/17)
$1M CDFW Prop. 1 Watershed Restoration (submitted 7/14/17)
$810K Wildlife Conservation Grant Program
TBD OCTA M2 Acquisition Funds
$3M Habitat Conservation through Wildlife Conservation Board
$1M Private Foundations
$2M Land & Water Conservation Grant Program (due Feb. 2018)
City of Fullerton