For most of a two-hour meeting last month, the leaders of a wealthy Silicon Valley town debated a new state law that vexed them: Senate Bill 9, allowing developers to build duplexes on single-family lots.
The same day, the leaders of the town, Woodside, Calif., declared the entire town a mountain lion habitat, blocking such development.
Late on Sunday, two weeks after the announcement drew outrage from affordable housing supporters, ridicule on social media and the threat of legal action from the state attorney general, the Town Council abandoned its approach.
Woodside’s brief era as a self-declared big cat sanctuary was over.
The council released a statement saying that the Department of Fish and Wildlife “had advised that the entire Town of Woodside cannot be considered habitat.”
Does this mean these techbro executives would rather mountain lions eat their children rather than allow for even the most rudimentary housing density. I suspect they would!
During the January meeting, Town Council members and residents discussed the dangers of building in areas at high risk to wildfires and whether the law would really help create affordable housing in a town with multimillion-dollar homes, and where the median income is $250,000 or more.
The idea of affordable housing in Woodside was “practically meaningless,” one person said, according to an audio recording of the meeting.
Some Woodside residents spoke in favor of the habitat designation, with one describing seeing mountain lions on home security cameras. But others argued against resisting the law, and said that creating more housing would help families seeking a first home.
Daniel Yost, who served on the Town Council for five years, said on Monday, “I never heard anyone express any concern about preserving mountain lion territory.” But, Mr. Yost said, there were complaints by some Council members about housing mandates.
“We’re fortunate here in Woodside. It is a wealthy community,” Mr. Yost said. “A lot of people have benefited from the California dream here,” he said. While some residents want to “find a way for others to benefit as well,” there were also those who “seem intent on sort of drawing up the drawbridge,” he added.
In all his years in Woodside, Mr. Yost said that he had never personally seen a mountain lion. But he recalled that one weekend when he was away, his neighbors said that they saw a mountain lion on the street.
Since S.B. 9 was taken up by California lawmakers last year, many local government and homeowner groups have vehemently opposed the measure, with some saying it “crushes single-family zoning.”
Sonja Trauss, a housing advocate and the executive director of Yes In My Backyard Law, said that her organization had documented about 40 cases in which towns sought to limit, block or discourage S.B. 9 housing. Many towns were passing “urgency” ordinances, she said, with little time for review by the public and elected leaders.
That new house could cast a SHADOW! Better call in the mountain lions!