Appeal Filed on Coyote Hills Measure W
On February 2, 2017, The Friends of Coyote Hills filed an appeal on the Measure W referendum. Last October, an Orange County judge ruled that Measure W did not overturn the City Council’s approval of the development of West Coyote Hills.
The people of this community don’t want West Coyote Hills to be developed with 760 houses and a shopping center. Over the years, we crowded City hearings by the hundreds. When the Council didn’t listen, we pounded the pavement and gathered thousands of signatures from our community. In 2011, 61% of voters vetoed the City Council’s approval of the West Coyote Hills Development.
That people’s veto power was interpreted by the local court as simply denying the Mayor from signing the Development Agreement. So if the Measure W veto had failed, the development of West Coyote Hills would have moved forward. But when the Measure W veto passed, the development of West Coyote Hills still can move forward. Heads we lose and tails we lose.
Referendums are an expression of direct democracy but in Fullerton, we have a special coin tossed where the people always lose. To the judge’s credit, he made one literal interpretation of what the City wrote in their approval ordinances which apparently left a lot room for interpretation. However, the people’s intent of Measure W was clear. No development on West Coyote Hills.
Our neighbors in Orange were not satisfied with the “heads we lose-tails we lose” referendum coin toss. They took their case all the way to the State Supreme Court that sided with the people. They explained that when residents take action on City information, they should be held to the “plain language” understanding of a reasonable person. Ordinary people can’t be expected to understand complicated legalese. Furthermore, the Supreme Court emphasized that city councils are prohibited from taking action “with intent to evade the effect of [a] referendum.”