History of West Coyote Hills

Before looking ahead, it’s important to look back to see how we got to where we are today.

Grazing and oil production

The original pristine habitats of West Coyote Hills were first compromised about 200 years ago with the introduction of cattle grazing, and later sheep grazing.  As a result, the native bunch grass was largely lost and non-native weeds and grains were introduced.

The area was again compromised following the discovery of oil in the 1870s with its attendant pipes, pads, and roads.

The 1970s – creating a vision

When the announcement was made that oil production at West Coyote Hills would be phased out, a committee of community leaders lead by future Fullerton Mayor Bob Ward was formed. They rejected the idea that the nearly depleted Coyote Hills oil field would soon be covered with homes – as was planned – and investigated whether funding was available to purchase the property.


After the committee determined it was not feasible to purchase the property for complete preservation, the City Council formed another committee: the Coyote Hills Study Committee.

This group included representatives from 12 civic organizations with divergent viewpoints: Fullerton Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voter of Fullerton, AAUW (American Association of University Women) Educational/School Districts (CSUF, FCC, FESD, FUHSD), CHOOSE ( Coyote Hills Open Space Organization to Save the Environment), Fullerton Recreational Riders, Greater Fullerton Citizen’s Council (homeowner groups), North Orange County Board of Realtors, South West Fullerton Area Residents.

From the discussions and studies conducted by the group, a Master Plan evolved for West Coyote Hills and it was eventually approved by the City Council in 1977.  The Master Plan preserved the maximum amount of open space that was fiscally responsible.  The underlying theme for the Master Plan was the Greenbelt concept, which is designed to cluster homes so open space can be preserved. (Source:  City of Fullerton General Plan — see page LU-38.)

The city and Chevron also signed a legal contract on June 15, 1977.  The contract provided Chevron with development rights detailed in the approved master plan in exchange for the dedication of a nature preserve, trails and a right-of-way so the city was able to extend Gilbert St. into La Habra.

The Master Plan, which was also adopted into the City’s General Plan, allows for 1,169 homes and 149 acres of open space.

1990s and 2000s – Refining the plan

The planning process continued in earnest and substantial revisions were made to the plan in response to changes in environmental regulations and community feedback.

A revised plan emerged in the early 2000s that retained the integrity and vision established in the 1977 master plan – and increased the open space by about 90 percent for Fullerton residents to enjoy.  The plan also included 33 percent fewer homes to reduce density and reduce impacts.

Community benefits included ten miles of trails, five vista parks and a developer funded endowment to cover the long-term costs of maintaining the nature preserve and recreational amenities included in the plan – so this cost would not fall on taxpayers.