Measure W Legal Appeal Update
The written argument phase has begun. The Friends of Coyote Hills filed legal briefs in July to appeal the 2015 Orange County court’s decision that Measure W did not repeal the City Council’s approval of the development agreement of West Coyote Hills. Therefore, all of the rest of the approvals linked to the development agreement stands.
The judge said our veto only had the administrative effect of barring the Mayor’s signature on the development agreement, not a repeal of the City Council’s approval. Besides, he pointed out that the development agreement stated in case of a successful referendum, the City, not the people, can decide whether or not to terminate the development agreement.
So the development agreement was written in such a way that people could never repeal the City Council’s approval; it was referendum-proof.
The City and Chevron-Pacific Coast Homes started this legal maneuvering in 2010 after the development was denied by the City Council. Chevron immediately sued the City and demanded another hearing. The City agreed.
Interestingly, before the hearing, the City amended the development agreement with referendum-proof language. In 2011, the City Council approved the development.
The Friends gathered signatures to qualify Measure W, “Fullerton West Coyote Hills Development Project” for the November 2012 ballot. As the measure name correctly suggested, if the development agreement was repealed, all development approvals linked to it would be repealed; this was the decision being put before the people of Fullerton.
Interestingly, about 90 days before the election, the City changed the name of the measure to “Measure W, Fullerton West Coyote Hills Development Agreement”, portending their intent to minimize the effect of the referendum.
The City refused to declare the effect of Measure W for three years after the election. In the meanwhile, they worked with Chevron to move the language of the development agreement into what is called a Vesting Tentative Tract Map (VTTM) which is by law not subject to referendum. In 2015, the City Council approved the VTTM, declaring Measure W had no effect on the original development approvals.
What is the point of our state constitutional right to repeal government laws via veto referendum if our government can write laws in such a way to make our referendums meaningless?
The Friends have always said that Coyote Hills is a regional issue. The City and Chevron have now made it a state issue.
All Californians should take notice of our appeal because the City of Fullerton wants to set a precedent to weaken our constitutional rights. If we don’t take a stand against this legal maneuver, not only can it be reused by the City of Fullerton on future developments, it can be reused on any law by any city and county governments anytime.