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Fullerton’s City Council is nearing a decision on approving what would be the largest housing development the North County city’s seen in nearly a decade.

Plans for West Coyote Hills, a 760-home and retail project proposed on an abandoned oil field, are being taken up this month. A decision could come next week.

The 510-acre site, on the northwest edge of Fullerton near the city line with La Habra, would include 16 half-acre sites set aside for pricey custom homes. Plans also call for 540 single-family homes and 204 townhomes. Home lots would average 7,000 square feet to 8,000 square feet.

The project would bring a big jump in homebuilding for the city, which, like most of Orange County, has seen a slowdown in construction in the past few years.

Fullerton saw permits for just 35 single-family homes in the past two years, according to the Burbank-based Construction Industry Research Board.

Coyote Hills could create some 1,800 jobs, with about half of those construction-related, according to Jim Pugliese, project manager for Pacific Coast Homes, a unit of Chevron Corp. that’s developing West Coyote Hills.


But West Coyote Hills faces major opposition from environmentalists and others who see it as taking the last piece of wild, open space in the largely developed city.

An expected timeline for construction has not been disclosed by Pacific Coast. Assuming the 510-acre Coyote Hills project gets the city’s OK, some construction on the development’s high-end homes could move ahead in as little as two years, officials for the developer said last week.

Oil operations at the site ended in the late 1980s. A plan to redevelop the now-fenced- off land first was drawn up in 1977 and later updated in the mid-1990s.

Pacific Coast, which would sell off land to individual builders after getting entitlements and doing early work, has been busy of late trying to keep the project moving.

Fullerton’s Planning Commission approved the Coyote Hills plan earlier this year. Since then, the developer has been spending much of the past few months trying to get locals to back its plan amid opposition.

The project calls for 352 acres of open space to remain on the land, in addition to the planned homes, the developer said.

Pacific Coast’s agreed to pay nearly $11 million to the local school district as part of its agreement, among other concessions, but still is talking about how to best fund the upkeep of open space and a 72-acre nature preserve on part of the land.

The city wants a little more than $5 million for that endowment.

Pacific Coast also is working with the city on financing details of the project.

A total estimated cost for Coyote Hills has not been disclosed by Pacific Coast, nor has the developer said how it would fund the project, according to Joan Wolff, planning consultant for the city’s community development department.

There’s “still some moving parts” in terms of Pacific Coast’s funding commitments, Pugliese said.

One of two council meetings on Coyote Hills took place last week, with the second scheduled next week, after which the city could grant approval for the project.

City Concerns

City officials appeared skeptical about the project’s viability amid the current market for jobs and housing, based on comments during last week’s council hearing.

“This is a tough economy right now,” Councilman F. Richard Jones said.

“We don’t want this to get started and then put the fences back up again” because of the developer’s funding issues, Jones said.

The city hasn’t seen a masterplanned project this large since Irvine’s SunCal Cos. led development of the 293-acre Amerige Heights project from 2001 to 2004. That project counted about 1,150 homes in total.

The Coyote Hills site still contains as much as 6 million barrels of oil, according to Chevron’s estimates. The company, which plans to keep oil rights to the land after development, has been approached by others interested in continuing oil drilling rather than a redevelopment. It’s opted against going that route, according to Pugliese.

“We’re still committed to the project,” he told the council last week.

Source:Orange County Business Journal