Supreme Court Will Not Hear Measure W Lawsuit
It came as a great disappointment today when the California State Supreme Court denied our petition review our Measure W lawsuit. It doesn’t mean they don’t think it’s important or that they side with the City or Chevron or The Friends, but that they had too many other cases to review.
What does this mean for voters’ right to referendum? It’s hard to say when the tactic used here may be repeated elsewhere. Some other brave civic group will have to fight that battle, and perhaps set a legal precedent we were not able to do here.
What does this mean for the effort to save Coyote Hills? The development entitlements for West Coyote Hills stand. It will now cost a lot more to buy the land. The 2016 appraised value of $150M for the property may be the selling price.
It’s a good time to review our accomplishments since 2001 – 18 years of fighting to save all of Coyote Hills for a park for our community. We’ve been lucky to enjoy this quiet and beautiful open space neighbor that staved off horrendous traffic, blight and noise. It anchored me to the City of Fullerton, and called upon my best self to help save just this little piece of nature and last piece of our community’s natural character.
Our Measure W referendum – your votes – helped to persuade Chevron to set aside a tract adjacent to the Ward Nature Preserve as open space, moving 59 housing units to other tracts on the site. That more than doubled the Ward Nature Preserve.
Our lawsuit gave us and the City more time to raise funds to buy the land. In fact, most of the nearly $30M of funds raised to-date were done in just the last couple of years. Through our efforts, the City now has access to funds to purchase two other tracts near the Ward Nature Preserve to save the entire east side of Coyote Hills. Had we not taken action, the entire West Coyote Hills site would have been developed starting in 2016 to early 2017!
To recap, our effort to save Coyote Hills has not been in vain. We’ve saved the site east of Gilbert directly adjacent to the Ward Preserve.
So where do we go from here? Acquisition of the rest of the site is now much more expensive. But ironically, I no longer believe this is a money issue: this is a people issue. Chevron can agree to sell the rest of the property by allowing us say two years to raise the money. The Council can agree to do something great and lasting by working with the Friends to keep looking for funding.
Since the land is now valued at its highest entitlement, Chevron can donate the land to the maximum tax write-off. They can take advantage of Federal and State Conservation tax incentives to donate part of the land to reduce income taxes paid by Chevron Corporation. And that’s without doing the work of developing the site over several years.
Besides tax savings, Chevron can walk away with tens of millions of dollars from the acquisition. There are many more funding sources we haven’t tapped, public and private. Examples are additional competitive funds from Prop 68, Orange and possibly LA County funds, and federal grants. The Friends and the City can continue their fundraising momentum to save all of West Coyote Hills.
Everyone has a part in solving this problem. We raised $30M in a contentious environment. Think what we can do when everyone is on the same side!
Let’s pick ourselves up and save all of Coyote Hills as a park and preserve for now and the future.