California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Sunday, Feb. 6, sent a letter to Woodside officials warning that the town can't exempt itself from state housing law by claiming it's a mountain lion habitat.
"There is no valid basis to claim that the entirety of Woodside is a habitat for mountain lions," Bonta wrote in the letter. "Habitat is land that has the capacity to support that species, including providing food and shelter. Land that is already developed -- with, for example a single-family home -- is not, by definition, habitat."
As first reported in The Almanac, the town argues that because the state Fish and Game Commission lists mountain lions as a protected species, no parcel in the town is eligible for a Senate Bill 9 project, which starting Jan. 1 made it legal for property owners to split single-family lots and build up to four residential units. Woodside said those lot sizes, at as small as 1,200 square feet each, would be smaller than the minimum lot size required by the Town's zoning rules.
In a press release, the Attorney General's office said the mountain lion habitat claim is contrary to the law and contrary to efforts to alleviate the state's affordable housing issues.
In Woodside small homes are currently listed for sale on Zillow at $1 million and up; a 1-bedroom apartment rent is about $2,500 a month.
"My message to Woodside is simple: Act in good faith, follow the law, and do your part to increase the housing supply," Bonta said. "If you don't, my office won't stand idly by."
The letter also states that any exemption under SB 9 would require the town to examine the attributes of an individual parcel of land.