Soon-to-be county Supervisor Shawn Nelson used his final Fullerton City Council meeting Tuesday night to seek a new hearing on a massive housing development that he helped reject.
Chevron Oil’s plan to build 760 homes on its oil field in the city’s northwest corner was turned down by the council on a 3-2 vote May 25, with Nelson casting one of the three votes to deny the controversial Coyote Hills project.
But Tuesday night, at his last council meeting before being sworn in June 22 as a county supervisor, he suggested holding a special council session June 21 to give Chevron another chance.
“Chevron created this mess by not getting all this information prepared,” he said, referring to a list of objections he and two other council members had to the project. “They weren’t ready, and they pushed it anyway.”
The Fullerton council will have a 2-2 split on the project after Nelson leaves. He was elected June 8 to fill the vacancy created on the Board of Supervisors when Chris Norby, also a former Fullerton City Council member, was elected to the California Assembly. The election results will be certified June 22, and Nelson can be sworn in the same day.
Chevron has been working with the city on its plans for the 510 acres since 1998.
Nelson noted that when he joined the council nine years ago, one of the first issues discussed was the future of Coyote Hills.
It was a surprise last month when Nelson sided with the two council members who opposed the Chevron development and voted to turn it down.
Nelson, according to the Orange County Register,
said he supported Chevron’s right to develop, but didn’t like the specific development agreement. He also said he was philosophically against all of the concessions committees and staffers were “wrenching out of” the developers — like $10 million for the school districts, a 72-acre nature preserve with a learning center, trails, fire vehicles and other benefits.
Furthermore, he said the agreement document was rushed through, a complicated water agreement was still up in the air, and developers hadn’t answered important questions.
“Everyone got their Christmas list out,” Nelson said. “I’m very uncomfortable. I’m looking at a development agreement that was put on my desk this afternoon. I’m not in a position to support this tonight.”
But Tuesday night he said that if Chevron is “willing to make drastic changes” to its plan before Monday, there is time for the council to reconsider before he leaves.
He predicted Chevron would be back before the council in six months with a revised plan anyway.
“They’re kind of desperate right now,” he said. “Probably the best deal we’re ever going to cut is in the next five days.”
But Council member Pam Keller, who voted against the Coyote Hills project last month, noted, “Our community is very, very, very divided” on the Chevron plan.
Keller isn’t running for re-election in November, leaving two open council seats, hers and Nelson’s.
Chevron will “probably try to get someone sitting here in my seat that will vote the way they want.”
In the end, the council voted to uphold its rejection of Chevron’s development, and there will be no special meeting.
— TRACY WOOD