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Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Update on the Proposed Chevron-Coyote Hills Development in North Orange County

by the Sierra Club's Coyote Hills Task Force


West Coyote Hills is located in north Orange County at the border of Los Angeles County in the city of Fullerton. It is a rectangular 510-acre parcel with an adjacent 72- acre nature park. The site has two mitigation areas for prior development by the owner: a section 4D and a section 7 totaling 34 acres. However, the EIRs name another 30 acres which we are investigating.

The flora and fauna are unique because this is one of the last intact parcels of Coastal Sage Scrub remaining (95 percent of this ecosystem has been destroyed by development). The site has four very threatened habitats, a California Fully Protected Species (White-tailed Kite), a Federally Threatened Species California Gnatcatcher (60 pairs, 212 birds at most recent count), a healthy population of Coastal Cactus Wrens which are presently in rapid decline (69 family groups at last count). The Cactus Wren is one of 13 California Species of Special Concern in the West Coyote Hills. It is on the Pacific Flyway and 160 species have been recorded by one individual. Plant surveys have been perfunctory and lacking in protocol but still 91 native species have been counted. Animal surveys have also not been scientifically conducted, but the Coyote is present as the keystone species. The site is connected by the Brea Creek Corridor (no culverts) to the Puente Hills.

Property is owned by Chevron Corporation fully-owned subsidiary Pacific Coast Homes (PCH). PCH has submitted a proposal to build 760 units plus commercial which would level the heart of the site. This was one of the richest oil extraction sites in California. Chevron ceased all operations by 1994. There are 230 well sites plus other toxic areas.

We have been working to preserve West Coyote Hills since 2001. Three Draft EIRs have been issued, in 2003, 2006 and 2008. The 2003 DEIR was superceded by the 2006 Revised DEIR which had four sections revised in the 2008 Revised Recirculated DEIR. The Task Force hired Shute Mihaly and Weinberger (SMW) to respond to all three along with various experts in biology, hydrology, etc. We also visited various state and Federal agencies and asked them to submit comments. Some of these were the AQMD, Toxic Substances Control Board, USGS and California Earthquake Safety Board. We are told that the Final EIR should be out any time which means that it will go to the Planning Commission for a recommendation and then to the City Council for a vote.

Most recently Chevron submitted an application for a 404 Permit from US Army Corp of Engineers to fill the ephemeral creeks on the site. We also hired SMW to respond. When we requested to see the ACE response to the comments submitted, we were happy to find that the EPA submitted a strong response requesting that the permit be denied due to noncompliance with the Clean Water Act.

Currently Fullerton is revising its General Plan and the Planning Dept. did not include Coyote Hills as a focus area. It is currently zoned Oil and Gas and as part of its development application Chevron has requested rezoning. We have been lobbying from the beginning to have Coyote Hills included as a Focus Area. Citizens attended the input sessions and asked that this area be preserved—to no avail. Finally, the General Plan Advisory Commission (GPAC) has put this issue on the agenda and is supposed to discuss it on December 1.

Right along we have been visiting our legislators from city council members to our county supervisors (Coad then Norby), to Ackerman (state senate) and Dunn, Duvall and Corea (state assembly).

West Coyote Hills is included in the Orange County Green Vision Plan. It is targeted for acquisition in the Coyote Creek Watershed Plan, which was developed by Orange County in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the L.A. Dept. of Public Works, and many other stakeholders. It was completed and distributed on March 23, 2007, at a cost of $480,000. The San Gabriel Rivers and Mountains Conservancy supports saving it as a nature reserve as does the regional office of the California Department of Recreation and Parks. We have had support, not only from the Angeles Chapter but also from Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, Sea and Sage Audubon and the Center for Biological Diversity.

For many years we have offered monthly hikes led by a naturalist. Please come and join us: dates and times are at

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