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Woodside Officials Forced To Reverse Course On Mountain Lion Sanctuary Declaration

WOODSIDE (CBS SF) -- The town of Woodside last month declared the entire town a mountain lion sanctuary and because of that, more homes under certain conditions, couldn't be built, even as the state deals with a housing crisis.

Woodside town officials Sunday night said they've been advised not to declare the entire town a habitat for mountain lions. The announcement comes as the top law enforcement official also weighed in Sunday saying changes needed to be made.

"We know that a mountain lion habitat generally doesn't include roadway, lighted areas, and homes. So it's a rather remarkable claim," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

Bonta said the declaration was a "deliberate and transparent" attempt to avoid complying with SB 9, a new state law that just went into effect this year, allowing homeowners to build up to four residential units on a single-family lot.

The Attorney General's office released a copy of the letter.

The Woodside town council met Sunday, and reversed course, announcing it will accept SB9 housing applications starting Monday, after Fish and Wildlife officials advised them the entire town can't be declared a habitat for mountain lions.

"The town of Woodside has consistently exceeded its state-mandated low and moderate income housing commitments and the council remains focused on doing its part to alleviate the regional shortfall of affordable housing," said Woodside Deputy Town Attorney Kai Ruess.

Housing advocates say some wealthy cities have tried to skirt laws like this for years.

"Affluent towns like Woodside, Atherton, and Hillsborough have gotten away with this for so long without building their fair share of housing," said Peninsula for Everyone's Jordan Grimes.

But others felt the native mountain lion habitat needed to be protected.

"You're taking up the space. If you have one home and another home again, it comes down to space. You just keep going, so where's the mountain lion going to go," said Michael Sojda.

Californians for Homeownership initiated a meeting request last week with Woodside officials prompting the council meeting on Sunday.

"We are glad to hear that the Town has decided to reverse course and allow the development of much-needed housing within its borders. Legitimate habitat exclusions and other environmental protections are a critically important component of state housing law, and it is vital that these protections not be abused by cities and towns looking to exclude housing. We always seek to resolve our disputes without resorting to litigation, and we are happy that we were able to do that in Woodside," said Matt Gelfand of Californians for Homeownership.

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