Mountain lion habitat is used to justify denying affordable housing in a wealthy California community. Officials in Woodside, a mansion-filled area known for its computer entrepreneurs, allege wildcat property prevents them from building multi-unit housings.
(Photo : Pixabay)
New Housing Legislature
SB 9 – a new California law that makes it easier to develop multi-unit housing in areas formerly protected for single-family houses – has long enraged Woodside residents. However, a provision in the bill exempts places that are designated habitats for endangered animals.
The Woodside is habitat for mountain lions that environmental groups are petitioning the state’s Endangered Species Act to list as threatened or endangered, “no parcel within Woodside is currently eligible for an SB 9 project,” the town’s planning director wrote in a memo on January 27.
Many housing activists, among others, have accused the town council of cynically utilizing environmental concerns to evade complying with state law.
SB 9 is “nimbyism dressed up as environmentalism,” according to Scott Wiener, a California senator who co-authored the bill.
Woodside is home to mountain lions and renowned tech entrepreneurs like Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit, and Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle. A 16th-century Japanese royal castle inspired his 23-acre Woodside mansion.
The town’s typical home price is $5.5 million, with a median household income of more than $250,000. There are large houses and estates dotted around the terrain and extensive ranches.
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(Photo : Johanna Turner)
Mountain lions, also known as pumas, cougars, and panthers, have wandered into California suburbs and cities and may pass through town occasionally. “You can see there’s a lot of habitat in the undeveloped regions around the city,” said Winston Vickers, head of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center’s Mountain Lion Project.
“Any construction should take into account whether it may affect a neighboring transit route, green belt, or significant contiguous habitat area for mountain lions,” Vickers added. “However, it’s probably a stretch to claim that any growth of housing, wherever in a particular city, will likely damage mountain lions.”
Vickers said that any construction should consider whether it may affect a neighboring transit route, green belt, or significant contiguous habitat area for mountain lions.
Dick Brown, the mayor of Woodside, denied an interview request from the Guardian. However, he told AlmanacNews, “We adore animals. Every house erected takes an acre away from the habitat of mountain lions. What are their plans for the future? We’ll soon have nothing but asphalt, no animals, and no birds.”
Mountain lions, according to wildlife experts, aren’t particularly fond of property zoned for single-family houses, nor are they turned off by two-story apartment complexes.
Mountain Lion Foundation is one of the organizations seeking to have mountain lions in the south and central coast listed as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.
(Photo : Paul Houghtaling)
Communities across California have resisted efforts to build more densely, citing the state’s strict environmental laws as a shield.
As California pushes to expand housing amid a crisis of housing affordability and homelessness, communities across the state have resisted efforts to build more densely, citing the state’s strict environmental laws as a shield.
Cities around the state scrambled to adopt design limitations or designate historic areas and locations as SB 9 went into force this year, hoping to discover loopholes in the law.
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