Battle Over What Remains of Coyote Hills Heats Up Again

west-coyote-hills_estates.jpg
WestCoyoteHills.com
Pacific Coast Homes rendering for a section of West Coyote Hills.
Whenever plans heat up to build ever more estate homes in the highlands ringing Fullerton, Friends of Coyote Hills mobilizes the masses in the flats to come out against more building there. Well, here we are in the second week of July. Hot enough for you?

"Opposition to Chevron's plan to build in the last open space in North Orange County will continue strong at a City of Fullerton 'Informational Meeting' concerning the oil giant's proposal for its West Coyote holdings," states an email blast the group sent alerting supporters to Wednesday's 7 p.m. gathering in the Fullerton Senior Center, 340 West Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton.

West Coyote Hills is bordered to the north by the City of La Habra, on the east by Euclid Street, on the west by the City of La Mirada and on the south by Rosecrans Avenue.

Noting that "citizen opposition to any development on the site has kept Chevron at bay
for the last six years," Friends of Coyote Hills suggests the 510 remaining acres would be "a superb location for a natural park with a multi-use trail for hikers, bikers and horseback riders."

The "played-out oil field" is not well suited for the proposed 760 additional residential estates and ritzy retail because it is "home to some of the largest remaining populations of endangered California gnatcatchers and coastal cactus wrens, plus dozens of types of songbirds and birds of prey rarely seen in the asphalt jungle."

"Citizens in Fullerton and surrounding cities are also deeply concerned about additional traffic, soil contamination, pollution from construction activities, water shortages and watershed issues," states the blast.

Developers beg to differ.

Over over at WestCoyoteHills.com, Pacific Coast Homes claims its planned community "makes for a beautiful balance," preserving 55 percent of the land for "natural open space offering miles of trails, vista parks and an interpretive nature center," while "a new community with distinctive new homes, a neighborhood park and a retail village" would emerge on the other 45 percent.

To that end, the developer has gone to great lengths to "fact check" information dispersed by Friends of Coyote Hills. The most recent example was a letter dated Feb. 18 by project manager Jim Pugliese, who accused Friends of Coyote Hills of having misrepresented the plans and recycled inaccuracies in a previous Fullerton Observer article.
 
"[W]e would like to respond to your new misrepresentation that our plan will destroy the property's habitat for protected species," Pugliese wrote. "The U.S. Fish Wildlife Service concluded just the opposite in its 2004 Biological Opinion for West Coyote Hills. It found the restoration and preservation program for the project would actually create more quality habitat than currently exists on the site because invasive non-native plants would be removed and the degraded oil field would be restored with native coastal sage scrub.
 
"All of this coastal sage scrub habitat, which would provide quality habitat for the California
gnatcatcher, would be protected-and would not include any 'yards of homeowners' as your
article suggested. We're unsure how you arrived at this conclusion given the clear descriptions
in the Biological Opinion and Specific Plan."

Pugliese claims that, "Throughout our planning process, we've enjoyed a positive collaborative relationship with many Fullerton community groups, including trails users, educators and neighboring homeowners. Our invitation to meet with the Friends of Coyote Hills remains open."

Sounds like he'll get that chance Wednesday night. (Jim, they'll be the ones with the signs.)
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