Attorney General Bonta: Memorandum declaring Woodside sanctuary for mountain lions does not exempt town from state housing laws | State of California – Department of Justice


OAKLAND -California Attorney General Rob Bonta sent a letter to the town of Woodside today after its planning official issued a memorandum declaring the entire town a mountain lion sanctuary to avoid compliance with the plan Senate Bill (SB) 9. SB 9 is a vital part of the state’s efforts to address housing supply and affordability in California. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2022, allows homeowners to build up to four residential units on a single-family lot. In the letter, Attorney General Bonta informs Woodside that his memorandum violates state law and must be changed.

“Woodside has declared its entire suburban town a mountain lion sanctuary in a deliberate and transparent attempt to avoid complying with SB 9,” said Attorney General Bonta. “This memorandum is – very clearly – against the law and, ironically, contrary to the best interests of the cougars that the city claims to want to protect. At the California Department of Justice, we are committed to doing everything we can to alleviate California’s housing crisis, and we need our local partners to do the same. My message to Woodside is simple: Act in good faith, obey the law and do your part to increase housing supply. If you don’t, my office won’t sit idly by.

In the letter, Attorney General Bonta warns Woodside that his attempts to circumvent SB 9 and restrict housing production violate the law. Specifically, the letter points out that:

  • There is no valid basis for claiming that the entire town of Woodside is habitat for mountain lions. A habitat is land that has the capacity to support a specific species, including providing food and shelter. Land that has already been developed — with, for example, a single-family house — is not, by definition, a habitat; and
  • Any exemption under SB 9 requires the city to review the attributes of an individual parcel of land. An entire town cannot be declared habitat for a protected species, and the exemption of a specific lot should be based on substantial evidence.

Attorney General Bonta is committed to advancing housing access, affordability, and equity in California. In November, Attorney General Bonta announced the creation of a housing strike force within the California Department of Justice and launched a housing portal on the DOJ website with resources and information for landlords. and California tenants. The Housing Strike Force encourages Californians to send housing-related complaints or advice to [email protected] Information about legal aid in your area is available at

A copy of the letter can be found here.


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