A Whole New Measure W

Recently Malibu voters went to the poll to vote on a 38,000 square foot shopping center. The development would be limited to only 15% of the site and anchored by Whole Foods. The plan even called for a community garden to educate school children. Supporters included the Chamber of Commerce, business and education leaders.

What’s not to like about “greenest, most environmentally sensitive plan ever adopted in Malibu”? For one, massive traffic that this huge development would bring. Residents argued there was enough shopping in town: “Build for need, not for greed”. They wanted to keep the city rural: “It is not about us. It is about what we have been given, how we nourish it and how we protect it and how we preserve it for future generation.” Sounds familiar?

On November 3, 2015, Measure W was defeated by a 57% vote, rejecting the development.

Fullerton had its own Measure W in 2012. But it seems our vote against the development of West Coyote Hills is about to be ignored. The Planning Commission did just that at their 10/22/15 Hearing. The City Council will weigh in at their 11/17/15 meeting.

After the 2012 election where nearly 61% of voters rejected development of West Coyote Hills, I asked the City to follow through on my vote. We the people exercised our constitutional right to veto our City Council’s decision. There were 6 development approval that were intertwined. If one was disapproved, so goes the others. This is the “poison pill” language the City purposely wrote into the approvals. So all of the development approvals should have been overturned.

The City stayed silent. In 2013, the City and Chevron offered “The Path Forward” instead. Unfortunately, this has since become “Path Forward to Development”. I was shocked by the 9/30/15 release of the VTTM (Vesting Tentative Tract Map) and its detailed acquisition terms. It has strayed so far from the feasible acquisition concept the Friends of Coyote Hills have repeatedly discussed with the City and Chevron for the last 2.5 years: a fair price, 3-5 years to raise funds, phased acquisition in an order that gives the public the best bang (habitat and park value) for the buck.

It gets worse. As part of this VTTM, the City announces for the first time that Measure W did not overturn the development approvals. The land will be appraised at the highest possible price, and we have only 1 year to raise all the money. The City’s lawyer said that the City Council has final say on the VTTM. So effectively, whether we have a veto power over the City Council is the City Council’s decision, not our State Constitution.

To add further insult, the Planning Commission scolded the Friends during the 10/22/15 Hearing, saying we absolutely can’t use Measure W as leverage for acquisition negotiation. Well it sure looks like the City used it as leverage for negotiating the VTTM. In a memo dated June 16, 2014, the City tells Chevron that yes, Measure W shot down the Development Agreement and yes, it could have shot down the other development approvals too. But the City wasn’t going to decide whether it did or not until they finished working on the VTTM with Chevron, ready for a Hearing. Interestingly, much of the Development Agreement the 61% of us voted down makes a reappearance in the VTTM.

The Measure W election was in 2012. The votes have long been counted. Yet the City seems to think the result of the people’s vote is changeable. Either the Development Agreement was written to subvert the people’s constitutional right to referendum, or the actions of the City since. The referendum process is rooted in the belief that people should rule the elected and not allow the elected to rule the people. What kind of City is Fullerton?

 

*Malibu requires Specific Plans for commercial projects over 20,000 square feet be submitted to voters for approval. This ordinance was a result of a 2014 people’s initiative called Measure R which passed by a 60% vote.

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