Woodside Drops Cougars as Reason to Bar More Housing

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A wealthy California town has abandoned a claim that it is exempt from a new state law allowing increased housing density because the entire community is habitat for mountain lions.

The town of Woodside said in a statement late Sunday that applications for development of multiple residential units on single-family lots will now be accepted.

The announcement came hours after California Attorney General Rob Bonta said that claiming all of Woodside as a mountain lion sanctuary was “a deliberate and transparent attempt to avoid complying” with the law.

The law that took effect Jan. 1 is aimed at easing California’s housing shortage.

Woodside resident Norris Finlayson said he understands why the town tried to declare itself a mountain lion sanctuary - to get around a state's new law requiring communities to build more affordable housing.

The town statement asserted that it had “paused” new housing applications on Jan. 25 while town officials worked to determine whether Woodside was exempt from the law under provisions that exclude areas that are habitat for protected species.

The town said the question arose because the state Fish and Game Commission is considering a petition to list the mountain lion as a threatened species. But wildlife authorities have since advised that the entire town cannot be considered habitat.

"I think it needs to be approached thoughtfully," said Zara McDonald with the Bay Area Puma Project.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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