Town invokes wildlife protections to halt multi-family housing

The California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency Act requires cities to permit property owners to build an additional residential unit on parcels of land zoned for single-dwelling units. The law went into effect statewide on January 1, 2022.

One California town is attempting to prevent property owners from taking advantage of the new law by invoking wildlife protections contained in a clause in the law.

California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency Act

The HOME Act applies to property in the R1 and OP1 zones. It permits property owners to split an existing home into two units or subdivide one lot into two separate lots. However, some properties are exempt:

  • Located in hazard zones, such as earthquake faults, conservation land and flood zones
  • Contains an existing price-controlled unit
  • Within a historic district
  • Requires removing more than 25% of existing structure walls

Wildlife protection clause

The town of Woodside halted Home Act applications based on a clause that bans development in areas identified as habitats for protected species. Town leadership claims that the entire town is a habitat for protected mountain lions and thus property owners are not permitted to build additional structures under the HOME Act. Town officials say that they want to protect their rural town from outside developers building high-rises. Critics accuse the town of blocking attempts to address the critical housing shortage in the state.

More disputes like this one will likely crop up around the state as the state’s push to deal with the housing crisis clashes with the desire of property owners to keep multi-family housing units out of their communities.