Woodside, a small Bay Area town that boasts a population of approximately 5,300 and a median household income of more than $250,000, has decided that it would rather go to the cats than to the dogs. That is meant both literally and figuratively: Town officials apparently would prefer that Woodside be claimed as a mountain lion habitat than to allow new affordable housing to be built. According to local newspaper the Almanac, last week the town put an indefinite hold on all housing projects under Senate Bill 9, California’s new split-lot law that would allow single-family residential lots to be split into two separate lots, each with up to two new housing units.
Per the Almanac:
Town officials found a clause in the law that prohibits development in areas identified as habitats for protected species. Mountain lions are a protected species because they are a candidate for the California Endangered Species Act and Woodside, in “its entirety” is a mountain lion habitat, according to a Jan. 27 memo from Town Planning Director Jackie Young. The Fish and Game Commission planned to release a decision on the animals’ status in November, but the agency has yet to make that determination.
Plenty of people have already voiced why this whole thing seems a little — to reference another animal — fishy. “It is an example of the extreme absurd lengths cities will come up with to evade state law,” Laura Foote, executive director of housing advocate group YIMBY Action, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You can build a McMansion and that somehow won’t hurt the mountain lion … But if you build two units the lion will somehow fall over and die.”
But there is an opportunity here: Let’s surrender all of Woodside to the local mountain lion population. Seize this $135 million, 74-acre compound and open up its seven houses, three swimming pools, tennis courts, orchards and gardens, and barn structure for the exclusive pleasure of area cougars. Kick Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison out of his estate modeled after a Japanese emperor’s palace and invite the neighborhood pumas to frolic among the ponds and the pavilions. Head across the street and raze this huge-ass place, too. Being a Puma concolor habitat means giving heart, soul, and property to those fine, fierce, frisky felines. There are no shortcuts. There are no loopholes. If you are going to fight for Mother Earth and all her wondrous creatures, you have to be all in. Will you join the battle, Woodside?