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In August, Sea & Sage joined forces with the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of Coyote Hills to help save West Coyote Hills. We have been working for many years to see a solution to the unacceptable development plans that threaten the small remnant of coast Sage Scrub open space in Fullerton.

Below is a press release which was developed by the groups involved in the legal action.
 
August 12, 2011 Press Release
 
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Prime Open Space
Project Would Harm Gnatcatchers, Coastal Sage Scrub

 
The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Coyote Hills, and the Sea and Sage Audubon Society today filed a lawsuit aimed at protecting one of the finest remaining open space areas in north Orange County. The 510-acre site in the City of Fullerton is threatened by the West Coyote Hills development, which was approved by the City in July.
 
The site of the proposed project is the largest unprotected open space remaining in Fullerton, and contains one of the largest populations of coastal California gnatcatchers, a threatened bird species that depends on coastal sage scrub habitat that is vanishing from the region. The 760-home project would destroy gnatcatcher habitat on the site and fragment the remainder.
 
“The project would eliminate nearly a quarter of the gnatcatchers on the site,” said John Buse, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But that’s just the direct effect of habitat destruction – the remaining gnatcatchers would have to subsist in the scattered pockets of coastal sage scrub left by the development, and that seems unlikely.”
 
In 2010, the Fullerton City Council voted to reject the West Coyote Hills project after a long and contentious review process. The project’s developer, a Chevron subsidiary, subsequently sued the City, and the City settled this lawsuit by agreeing to reconsider the project. The City did so in July, when it reversed its previous decision without explanation.
 
“It takes time to preserve a treasure – and that’s just what Coyote Hills is poised to become – an educational and recreational asset to the million residents in this densely developed, park poor region,” said Diane Bonanno of Friends of Coyote Hills, the group that has worked to preserve the site for a decade. “We have also launched a referendum campaign to overturn the city council’s decision to turn the site into another large development complex. Volunteer signature gatherers are active throughout the city.”
 
The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, challenges the City’s failure to disclose and eliminate the project’s effects on gnatcatchers, other rare species, global warming, water pollution, and other environmental impacts.
 
“The City has failed to recognize how devastating the impacts of this project would be,” said Scott Thomas with the Sea and Sage Audubon Society. “The severely fragmented open space, carved out by the plan, could not adequately meet the needs of gnatcatchers or other sensitive species, nor would it meet the open space needs of the citizens of the area.”
 
The groups are represented by Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger of San Francisco.

 


 

Sea & Sage Audubon Society
PO Box 5447 • Irvine, CA 92616 • 949-261-7963

http://www.seaandsageaudubon.org