Mountain lion defense crumbles for wealthy California town

AG shuts down Woodside’s claim that big cats exempted it from SB9 projects

Attorney General Rob Bonta (Getty, iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)
Attorney General Rob Bonta (Getty, iStock/Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)


It ended not with a roar but a meow.

The wealthy California town of Woodside rolled over on its attempt to block new affordable housing, citing the presence of mountain lions, ABC 7 reported. It backed down after the initial decision drew nationwide headlines and the ire of California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

Enacted last month, the housing law known as Senate Bill 9 is intended to alleviate California’s housing shortage in part by allowing duplexes of at least 800 square feet per residential parcel and also letting large lots to be split into fourplexes. It doesn’t allow communities to declare themselves off limits, said Bonta, who wrote to Woodside leaders after hearing of its decision.

“If they don’t take the opportunity to get back on track and either withdraw their memo or amend it to comply with SB 9 and the laws in the state of California, then we are ready and willing and able to file a lawsuit against them,” Bonta said.

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Woodside, where single-family homes cost $4.6 million, quickly capitulated. Town council members voted unanimously on Sunday to immediately allow SB9 applications, according to ABC7, which cited Town Attorney Kai Ruess.

Woodside, located midway between San Francisco and San Jose, maintains that it supports affordable housing.

“The town of Woodside has consistently exceeded the state mandated low-and-moderate-income housing commitments and the Town Council remains focused on doing its part to alleviate the regional shortfall in affordable housing.”

The town put SB9 applications on hold while it awaited word from the Fish and Game Commission on whether the lions would be added to the endangered species list, claiming it was a sanctuary for the cats.

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[ABC7] — Victoria Pruitt