A wealthy Silicon Valley town blocked affordable housing projects after declaring itself a habitat for mountain lions.
A clause in California’s new housing law prohibits building on habitats for endangered species.
A Woodside town council memo said the town is “in its entirety” a mountain lion habitat.
A wealthy town in Silicon Valley has declared itself a “mountain lion habitat” in order to halt new affordable housing projects in the area.
The state’s new law, known as Senate Bill 9, allows up to four housing units to be built in a single-family lot, but Woodside, California blocked the building of new housing projects.
In a January 27 memo, the town declared that all housing projects started under SB 9 would be indefinitely paused as of January 25 after a petition to consider Woodside a habitat for mountain lions — a species that is a candidate to be considered endangered in the state — was brought before the town council.
The town council was able to identify a clause in SB 9 that prohibits building on “land identified as habitat for protected species,” according to the memo.
“Given that Woodside – in its entirety – is habitat for a candidate species, no parcel within Woodside is currently eligible for an SB 9 project,” the memo reads.
The town’s mayor, Dick Brown, told The Almanac that it is “not the Woodside way” to prioritize housing over habitat for endangered species.
“We love animals,” he said. “Every house that’s built is one more acre taken away from [the mountain lions’] habitat. Where are they going to go? Pretty soon we’ll have nothing but asphalt and no animals or birds.”
He added, though, that the town is looking for alternative options for affordable housing.
Ken Paglia, a spokesperson for The California Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed to Insider on Thursday that “mountain lions can and do use a lot of the area immediately adjacent to Woodside,” and said that since mountain lions are currently being considered as an officially endangered species, they will be “treated as if it’s listed until the final decision has been made, so the undeveloped lands in and around Woodside would be considered mountain lion habitat.”
However, Paglia said, it is up to the California Fish and Game Commission to determine whether the area is an “Evolutionarily Significant Unit,” or ESU.
The petition has been presented to the commission, but he said the panel has yet to make a ruling on whether it considers Woodside to be an ESU for Mountain Lions — a decision that will officially determine if the town is territory for the species.
“California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife is working on a status review for mountain lions and will make a recommendation to the California Fish and Game Commission at some point, probably later this year,” Paglia told Insider. “Then the Commission will vote on whether or not to list mountain lions as a candidate species under [the California Endangered Species Act] within the ESU.”
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