And is Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva aiding and abetting him with her AB 510?
Yesterday on a 5-2 party-line vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to move forward SB 714 — a bill authored by Senator Josh Newman that could conceivably result in the state seizing West Coyote Hills from its owner using eminent domain.
Steve Greenhut described the scope of the state’s proposed intervention in the West Coyote Hills project in this recent column.
As a relative newcomer to Fullerton (he appeared on the scene about 5 years ago) and not having been involved in politics at the city level, Newman is perhaps unaware of all the time and effort that has gone into the compromise development plan that is about to be implemented after unanimous City Council approval. Quirk-Silva, however, has been intimately involved in the process — especially during her years on the City Council — so she has no such excuse. In fact, she has a lot of explaining to do.
Below is a letter sent last week to the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee by Open Coyote Hills — a group of local activists who have worked closely with Pacific Coast Homes (a division of Chevron Land Development), the City Council, and city staff on refining the plan for the past seven years. Several of these committee members have — amazingly — been actively involved in the process for nearly four decades.
ATTENTION SENATOR NEWMAN: We invite you to answer the questions posed in the letter below; if you do so, we will publish your answers without editing.
July 6, 2017
The Honorable Ricardo Lara
Chair, Senate Committee on Appropriations
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: OPPOSITION TO AB 510 linkage to SB 714 – State Coastal Conservancy: West Coyote Hills Conservancy Program
Dear Chairman Lara:
This letter expresses our strong concerns about AB 510 linkage to SB 714 (State Coastal Conservancy: West Coyote Hills Conservancy Program). While we support the desire to preserve and open West Coyote Hills for use and enjoyment, it is critical that our elected leaders in Sacramento understand the history of the property, the benefits of the current plans as approved by the City of Fullerton, and how AB 510 linked to SB 714 would be counter-productive and should not move forward.
Background on West Coyote Hills and Public Benefits
The plan for the West Coyote Hills project approved by the Fullerton City Council reflects the result of dozens of public meetings over more than a decade and accounts for various perspectives. It was approved on a unanimous vote by the City Council in November 2015. It is consistent with the City’s 2012 General Plan. The approval was fully supported by a certified Environmental Impact Report that reflected more than 10 years of study.
For nearly 40 years, members of our group, Open Coyote Hills, have been at forefront in debating and negotiating the best possible outcome for this 510-acre former oil field property in northwest Fullerton. The project as approved by the City requires that 60 percent of the site be dedicated to the public preserved as restored natural open space and habitat preserve. On the remaining 40 percent, where the land has been most impacted by prior uses, residential development is permitted. Under conditions imposed by the City, this is a balanced approach that provides for very significant public benefits including the following
- Preservation of 300 acres of open space for public use and enjoyment.
- Funding to open the adjacent 72-acre Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve.
- Constructing 10 miles of new hiking trails with panoramic Southern California views.
- A Nature Center for use by local schools and residents.
- Funding more than $5 million in financial endowments to maintain the trails, parks and native habitat, ensuring these costs are not a burden on Fullerton taxpayers.
- Granting right for the City to purchase even more of the site for open-space purposes
The combination of 60 percent preservation, funding to open the Ward Preserve, new trails and vista parks, a nature center, and an endowment is quite unique based on our research of other open space projects. We encourage you to review the Interpretive Master Plan at OpenCoyoteHills.com which showcases the vision for how this property will be enjoyed for decades to come.
Questions and Concerns About AB 510 linkage to SB 714
We believe the City-approved plan, after four decades of work and study, strikes the right balance between preserving open space, providing public benefits and allowing limited development. Against that important background, we have the following questions regarding AB 510 linkage to SB 714:
- Why have there been no local meetings regarding AB 510 and the plan to move planning and management of this property to the State Coastal Conservancy and away from Fullerton?
- How did the 510-acre West Coyote Hills property become a candidate for a Conservancy Program? Did it score higher than all the other potential projects in California like Banning Ranch or the Puente Hills?
- West Coyote Hills would become the smallest Conservancy Program (by far) when compared to the Conservancy’s other two conservancy programs – the San Francisco Bay Area Program and the Santa Ana Watershed Program. How can Fullerton be assured West Coyote Hills would be a priority for the Conservancy?
- The Conservancy’s latest Strategic Plan notes that funding is declining for the organization and that staff members are actively working on obtaining new sources of funding in order to sustain work on the coast. How can we be assured the Conservancy will be able to successfully fund and manage West Coyote Hills if it is struggling to meet its currently obligations?
- The California State Parks Foundation concluded $1 billion is needed to deal with deferred maintenance of the State’s 280 parks and beaches. How can we be assured money earmarked for Coyote Hills today won’t be re-allocated in the future to support more pressing needs throughout the State?
- Based on appraisals conducted by the City of Fullerton, the entire 510-acre property is valued at $140 million. Is the State’s goal to acquire the entire property or just add additional open space to the 300 acres already preserved as part of the approved project?
- In addition to acquiring property, what is the State’s plan to fund and open this land, create trails, vista parks, a nature center, and maintain the property? What is the timeline to accomplish all of this?
- If all State funding is utilized for acquisition, where will funding come from to create trails, vista parks, a nature center and maintain the land in perpetuity?
- Is it a good use of State funding to purchase 100 percent of the property and fund the trails, parks and maintenance when Fullerton is receiving most of the land at no cost to taxpayers as part of the negotiated agreement with the property owner?
- Why is eminent domain being considered as an option to acquire this private property?
- Why is the State pursuing a Coastal Conservancy Program for West Coyote Hills? If the primary goal of the Program is to receive funding from other sources, why not simply allow the City to set up a non-profit that can accept funding for the preservation of additional funds at West Coyote Hills?
Opposition to AB 510 linkage to SB 714
Open Coyote Hills must respectfully oppose AB 510 linkage to SB 714 and the State’s attempt to take over planning and management of this property.
If the Legislature decides to utilize taxpayer dollars to acquire property at West Coyote Hills it should be done by carefully considering these requests:
- Local meetings should be required.
- A plan needs to presented that describe the State’s acquisition goals, including:
- Define the acquisition objective (the entire property OR simply adding to the 300 acres already set aside for preservation), timeline and funding sources.
- Define the plan to open the property for public enjoyment through trails, vista parks, and a nature center along with the timeline and funding sources.
- There should be no eminent domain option.
- REQUIRE that local control remain here in Fullerton. There is no need for the State Coastal Conservancy to manage this 510-acre property (or any part of it) that is not along or anywhere near the coast. This property must be managed locally.
We believe we are all working towards the same goal of getting the best possible outcome for West Coyote Hills, but AB 510 being linked to SB 714 is not the answer.
We are available to answer additional questions or testify during public hearings.
Bob Hayden – business owner and equestrian enthusiast
Molly McClanahan – former Mayor of Fullerton
Monika Broome – retired educator
Jack Dean – president of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers
Debra Pember – home building executive
Chris Heusser – former Parks and Recreation Commissioner; CSUF professor
Jerry Young – retired City of Fullerton employee
Rick Crane – Fullerton Positive; Fullerton business owner
Tom Dalton – retired business manager
Katie Dalton – former Parks and Recreation Commissioner
Theresa Harvey – CEO, North Orange County Chamber of Commerce
Governor Jerry Brown
Senator Patricia Bates
Senator Jim Beall
Senator Steven Bradford
Senator Jerry Hill
Senator Jim Nielsen
Senator Josh Newman
Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva
Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker
Fullerton City Council
Fullerton City Manager Allan L. Roeder
To download a PDF copy of this letter, please click here.