California’s 2021-2022 State Budget Bill (AB128), recently signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, includes $28.5 million for acquisition of remaining undeveloped areas of Fullerton’s Coyote Hills. Although a purchase agreement with landowner Chevron is not yet in place, the additional funding is expected to boost efforts to purchase more land on the west side of the 510-acre site. Chevron’s Pacific Coast Homes has been approved to build 760 homes on the former oil drilling land for several years, but no development has yet taken place there.
An earlier round of State funding provided most of the $18 million used to purchase areas on the east side of the property originally planned for residential neighborhoods, but the bulk of the site to the west is still unprotected.
The new funding was announced earlier this month by the offices of both 29th District State Senator Josh Newman and 65th District Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, both Fullerton residents. According to Newman, the latest funding “maintains the spirit and aims of Governor Newsom’s executive order last October to preserve and protect 30% of California’s lands and waters by 2030.” The Newman and Quirk-Silva worked together on both rounds of funding in coordination with The Friends of Coyote Hills, a community group whose mission is to save all of the remaining Coyote Hills as a preserve. This land is the last sizable privately held open space in north Orange County.
The Friends called the new funding “a huge step forward” in the ongoing effort to acquire the whole site. Board President Angela Lindstrom said The Friends were, “thrilled to continue our partnership with Senator Josh Newman and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva to save all of West Coyote Hills as a nature preserve and park.
“In 2017 and 2018, we worked with both elected leaders to raise $15 million to fund the purchase of the east side of the site. That acquisition is pending State approval while Chevron and the city of Fullerton plan the opening of trails,” Lindstrom said. “Thanks to both elected leaders, we now have the first chunk of funds to purchase the west half. West Coyote Hills is the finest coastal sage scrub in the region, in pristine condition, and supports 56+ pairs of the endangered California gnatcatchers (the largest population in Southern California) and 69 pairs of coastal cactus wrens (a California state species of special concern). Preserving it is Fullerton’s call to action to mitigate the threats of climate change and biodiversity loss.”
Senator Newman is pursuing even more State funding with the aim of “long term stewardship” of the planned preserve. The area has seen an increase in the numbers of hikers and cyclists in the past year due to pandemic restrictions that closed other recreational sites.
The author is a Board member of the Friends of Coyote Hills.
Categories: Local News