Attorney General Bonta: Memorandum Declaring Woodside a Mountain Lion Sanctuary Does Not Exempt Town From State Housing Laws

Sunday, February 6, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND - California Attorney General Rob Bonta today sent a letter to the Town of Woodside after its Planning Manager issued a memorandum declaring the entire town a mountain lion sanctuary in order to avoid compliance with Senate Bill (SB) 9. SB 9 is a critical component of state efforts to address housing supply and affordability in California. The law, which went into effect on January 1, 2022, allows homeowners to build up to four residential units on a single-family lot. In the letter, Attorney General Bonta notifies Woodside that its memorandum violates state law and must be amended.  

“Woodside declared its entire suburban town a mountain lion sanctuary in a a deliberate and transparent attempt to avoid complying with SB 9,” said Attorney General Bonta. “This memorandum is — quite clearly — contrary to the law, and ironically, contrary to the best interests of the mountain lions the town claims to want to protect. At the California Department of Justice, we're committed to doing all 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, follow the law, and do your part to increase the housing supply. If you don't, my office won't stand idly by.”

In the letter, Attorney General Bonta warns Woodside that its attempts to sidestep SB 9 and restrict housing production violate the law. Specifically, the letter highlights that:

  • There is no valid basis to claim that the entire town of Woodside is a habitat for mountain lions. Habitat is land that has the capacity to support a specific species, including providing food and shelter. Land that is already developed — with, for example a single-family home — is not, by definition, habitat; and 
  • Any exemption under SB 9 requires the town to examine 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 would have to 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 DOJ’s website with resources and information for California homeowners and tenants. The Housing Strike Force encourages Californians to send complaints or tips related to housing to Information on legal aid in your area is available at

A copy of the letter can be found here

# # #