Wealthy Bay Area town accepts new housing after AG denies mountain lion sanctuary claim

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Monday, February 7, 2022
Wealthy Bay Area town accepts new housing after lawsuit threat
The Wealthy California town of Woodside accepted the request for new SB9 housing after California Attorney General Rob Bonta threatened to sue.

WOODSIDE, Calif. -- For the past 10 days, the town of Woodside claimed it was not eligible for new SB9 housing projects citing the town was a mountain lion habitat.

RELATED: Woodside says mountain lions make wealthy town exempt from building affordable housing

That didn't sit well with California Attorney General Rob Bonta who sent a letter on Sunday challenging that notion.

"They have made a claim which is not substantiated. They provided no evidence for their claim and SB9 does not allow for entire towns or cities to be declared off limits with the provision of SB9. It requires a parcel specific inquiry," said Attorney General Bonta.

SB9 is an attempt to alleviate California's housing shortage. According to Attorney General Bonta, the state needs 3.5 million housing units by 2025.

Bonta was ready to sue one of the wealthiest small towns in America where the average home price is $5 million.

"If they don't take the opportunity to get back on track and either withdraw their memo or amend it to comply with SB9 and the laws in the state of California, then we are ready and willing and able to file a lawsuit against them," said Bonta.

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A new, mixed-income housing development has been proposed for the Marin County city of Belvedere, which is one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S.

For Woodside resident Vanessa Nell who's lived in this community for 11 years, the wildcat habitat claim didn't seem honest.

Luz Pena: "Have you seen mountain lions?"

Vanessa Nell: "I saw once a mountain lion at the zoo in Oakland. But, not here? Not here, never," and added, "If anybody else comes in to the city and doesn't belong to these picky groups they are really rude, these people."

Hours after Bonta's letter Woodside council members had a meeting. After nearly an hour and a half of a closed session meeting. Woodside council member unanimously agreed.

"The town of Woodside will accept applications for SB9 projects as of Monday Feb. 7, 2022."

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Claiming they understand now why their entire town cannot be considered a habitat for mountain lions.

"In the two weeks since Jan. 25 of 2022, Town staff has received guidance from the Department of Fish and Wildlife on how to identity habitat and how to property implement this provision of the law. The Department of Fish and Wildlife advised that the entire Town of Woodside cannot be considered habitat."

Woodside council members highlighted their support for 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."