Mergers and Demurrers

April 21, 2017

Subject: Sierra Watch Update: Mergers and Demurrers (What the heck is that?)

Mountain Mergers

KSL Capital Partners, the private equity firm seeking to develop Squaw Valley, made big news this month when they announced a partnership with Aspen Skiing Company and their subsequent purchases of IntraWest and Mammoth ski resorts.

Pictured: Squaw Valley Fun

So, what does this mean to North Tahoe and the campaign to Keep Squaw True?  The short answer: not much. 

It might mean that skiers can look forward to an awesome collective pass that, possibly, includes Squaw and Alpine and Mammoth and Aspen and more. And, of course, it might mean something to KSL’s investors.  But it really doesn’t change anything about their proposed development – and what it would mean to the future of Tahoe.

Because, to summarize, private equity firms may come and go; but the mountains remain. And their irreplaceable values run with the property.

For a Colorado perspective on the recent deal-making, you can read more here:

            http://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/16/steamboat-winter-park-real-estate-surge/

Demurrers

Case in point: regardless of who holds title to the property, our court challenges go on.

Placer County sought a demurrer – basically an attempt to get the court to throw out our Brown Act challenge to their illegal approvals of KSL’s Squaw Valley development.

Earlier this week, the court refused. The upshot of the decision is that all of Sierra Watch’s Brown Act challenges to KSL’s proposed development will continue.

Or as Staff Attorney Isaac Silverman put it, “The decision is good news for everyone who wants to ensure the integrity of the public process and ultimately to provide reasonable limits on development in Tahoe and to Keep Squaw True.”

           

Pictured: Tahoe in winter.

Our Brown Act challenge focuses on Placer County’s ineffective backroom deals regarding the lake’s clarity.

You can read more here:

http://www.laketahoenews.net/2017/04/suit-placer-county-regarding-squaw-moves-forward/

Earth Day

With all this talk of mergers and demurrers, we could use a good festival!

Come join the Sierra Watch crew at Tahoe Truckee Earth Day Saturday in the Village at Squaw Valley

It’s one of our favorite places on the whole planet – and it will provide the perfect backdrop to remind us why we need to work together to protect the places we love.

Pictured: Keeping Squaw True!

Happy Earth Day and Onward!

Tom

 

 

 

 

Winter of Discontent

March 31, 2017
   

 

 
Tahoe Traffic and the Winter of Discontent
 
For a lot of folks visiting Tahoe, this is the winter of our discontent.
 
The snow is back – which is great.  Great for skiers, great for our creeks, great for our water supplies. 
               Pictured: Squaw Valley and its SnowpackBut this winter has also brought a whole lot of something else to Tahoe: traffic.
 
Maybe you live in the Bay Area and you hit the road to go skiing.  Maybe you live in Tahoe City and you just want to pick up your kid from daycare.  Or you live in Truckee and you need to get to work on time.
 
And then you hit it: traffic stacked up and solid as a brick wall – on Interstate 80, on Highway 89, or in your own neighborhood.  Gridlock so bad the Sacramento Bee called it Northern California’s “biggest traffic jam”.
 

Pictured:I-80 Traffic in January

And there might be little reward upon reaching your destination.  Even after sitting in traffic, travelers are routinely turned back from Squaw Valley this winter.  After creeping for hours along 89 – only to be told: lot’s full; go home.
 

Pictured: Go Home

The problem is rooted in two things: first, everything we love about Tahoe – the lake, the mountains, the skiing – is what attracts us and others to visit in the first place.  Second, we continue to approve development out of scale with Tahoe’s infrastructure.
 
And that’s where Sierra Watch – and our shared effort to Keep Squaw True – comes in.
 
When facing any problem, the first step towards real solutions is to stop making it worse.  It’s the first rule of holes: stop digging!
 
Unfortunately, new development would do just that: make Tahoe traffic much, much worse. 
 
The Martis Valley and Squaw Valley proposals would add 8,000 new daily car trips to North Tahoe roads.  Next time you hit that wall of stopped cars, try to imagine 8,000 more on the road with you.
 

Pictured: Tahoe City to Truckee – in Two Hours
That kind of gridlock is more than just an inconvenience. 
 
It’s a safety issue – when fire trucks and ambulances are stuck in traffic.
 

Pictured: Illegal parking on Squaw Valley Road
It’s a threat to our local economy – when disillusioned visitors vow never to return.
 
It’s a menace to Lake Tahoe – when the pollutants from vehicle traffic cloud the lake and rob it of its famous clarity.
 
And it’s a hazard to the classic Tahoe experience – when we replace the legacy of the Great Outdoors, passed on from generation to generation, with hours stuck behind the wheel.
 
Tahoe deserves better.  Unfortunately, as we learned last fall, Placer County decision-makers cannot be trusted to protect Tahoe values from over-development.
 
So, unless we want to spend our time in Tahoe in traffic, it’s up to us.

 
Stay involved at Keep Squaw True.

© 2016 Sierra Watch, 408 Broad Street, Suite 12, Nevada City, California 95959, Tel. 530.265.2849

 

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North Tahoe Development

July 6, 2016

Tomorrow: Decision Time for North Tahoe Development

The Placer County Planning Commission will meet in Kings Beach tomorrow to make a recommendation on the proposed Martis West project.

What: Placer County Planning Commission
Where: North Tahoe Event Center; 8318 North Lake Boulevard
Kings Beach, CA
When: 2:00 p.m.

If the members of the Commission need a reminder of what’s stake, all they’ll have to do is look out the window at the lake itself.

 

 

 

 

Pictured: View from the Event Center

The Commission is re-opening its hearing on the “Martis Valley West Parcel Specific Plan”. The project is part of a two-step plan to develop the ridge dividing the Tahoe Basin and North Lake Tahoe, west of Brockway Summit.The Martis Valley West project proposes a gated development of 760 new dwelling units on the Martis Valley side of the ridge. The Brockway Campground resort development would include 550 sites and commercial facilities on the Tahoe Basin side of the ridge.

Together, they would transform Brockway and North Tahoe into a sprawling tangle of new roads and rooftops.

For Thursday’s meeting, the Planning Commission is focusing on how the Martis West project would impact three extremely important issues – traffic, fire safety, and Tahoe.

Here’s some of what Sierra Watch and our allies think they should know:

1. Traffic

Anyone who has travelled in Tahoe this summer already knows: traffic is a mess. The proposed project, according to Placer County’s environmental review, would make it much worse – guaranteeing gridlock and threatening public safety.

New development would add 4,000 cars to North Tahoe roads everyday. And it would require a dangerous new intersection just below Brockway Summit; Caltrans opposes a new traffic signal, so drivers would be forced to exit and enter Highway 267 at full speed.

2. Fire Safety

Yesterday’s fire north of Squaw Valley was a reminder: wildfire in North Tahoe is not a question of if but of when.

Fire

 

 

 

 

 

Pictured: Yesterday’s Fire

Yet the project’s location and the nature of proposed development create a recipe for wildfire and disaster. The project is proposed for a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.

If this project were built, what would happen when there is a fire? The lack of transportation infrastructure would exacerbate the tragedy. Limited and narrow roadways would mean it would take over an hour just to leave the property.

Then what? Evacuation would be a matter of out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire as residents find themselves trying to escape on Highway 267, which is gridlocked under normal conditions.

This is not planning for disaster; it’s planning a disaster.

3. Tahoe

Because the project would be so big, and its effects so far-reaching, it is difficult to summarize what the project would mean to the lake.

The most obvious impacts would come from traffic in the Tahoe Basin.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) calculates that the new development would add 1,395 cars into the Basin daily. That traffic leads to an increase in Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT), which, in turn, leads to further loss in the lake’s famous clarity – arguably the region’s most fundamental asset.
NorthhTahoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sierra Watch will be there for the hearing – and beyond. Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, we’ll remain committed to the timeless values of our Tahoe Sierra.

As always, we’ll keep you up to date!

Tom

Squaw Development Marching On

April 15, 2016

Is this really happening?

Highrises in Squaw Valley?  More traffic in Tahoe?  An indoor water park in the Sierra?

According to the developers, the answer is: yes.  This is actually happening.

carini3
   Pictured – Squaw Valley Winter
The would-be developers, KSL Capital Partners, shared the final version of their plan earlier this month.  Placer County followed through with their Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) a few days later.

Together they represent a nightmarish vision for the future of Tahoe. 

The proposal completely disregards the hundreds of citizens, local businesses, state agencies, and conservation organizations who have joined us in urging a more responsible plan.

KSL and the County could have used the Final EIR as an opportunity to offer more reasonable alternatives or real solutions to the plan’s “significant and unavoidable impacts”.  They could have made changes based on the more than 300 comments submitted on its Draft EIR – nearly all of which pointed out that approval of the project would not only be irresponsible but, also, illegal.

Instead, at first read it’s already clear that the EIR demonstrates what we already know: this development is a threat to everything we love about Tahoe; and any participation in the public planning process is, so far, outweighed by only one factor – the developer’s bottom line.

But those of us who love Tahoe know there is a lot more at stake than KSL’s return on investment.

Our team of experts is diving into its whopping 3,800 pages.  You can see for yourself by clinking links to the plan and the Final EIR at:
http://www.placer.ca.gov/departments/communitydevelopment/planning/villageatsquawvalleyspecificplan

You can read some recent coverage of the Final EIR in the Reno Gazette Journal below.

It sounds crazy because it is crazy.  And it’s our job to help restore some sanity to the planning process – and ensure a better future for Squaw Valley and North Lake Tahoe.

If you haven’t already signed up at keepsquawtrue.org, now’s the time.  And if you want to learn more about how to get involved, contact our Field Representative, Chase Schweitzer at (530) 448-1506 or cschweitzer@sierrawatch.org.

This isn’t the first time Tahoe has been threatened by wild development schemes.  Fifty years ago, our parents and grandparents worked together to protect the lake from a plan to ring the lake with freeways and urbanization.  Now it’s our turn.

Tom

 

RenoGazetteJournal

 

 

Squaw Valley updates development plan, critics say it’s too much
April 13, 2016

Benjamin Spillman

Final review calls for 1,500 new bedrooms, a mountain adventure center and creek restoration

RGJ pic

A view of the KT-22 lift area at Squaw Valley Resort.
Resort owners are seeking to redevelop the area and
increase the number of hotel rooms and amenities.

(Photo: Benjamin Spillman/RGJ)

The hotly debated plan to redevelop California’s bustling and picturesque Squaw Valley recently reached another turning point.

Placer County posted the latest version of the Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan in the form of a final environmental review.

That’s the version that will go before the county planning commission and, eventually, the board of supervisors for an up-or-down vote.

The plan calls for 1,500 new lodging rooms, an indoor mountain adventure center and other resort amenities to be added to an area that’s now parking for Squaw Valley Resort.

The nearly 4,000-page document, if approved, would set the parameters for development in the valley for the next 25 years.

Andy Wirth, president of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, parent company of applicant Squaw Valley Real Estate, said modernizing the iconic resort that first came to prominence with the 1960 Olympics is key to keeping pace with other major mountain destinations.

“We are in a hyper-competitive marketplace,” he said. “This isn’t about growth. This is about remaining competitive.”

Wirth cited Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia as an example of the modern face of competition. That resort recently announced a $345 million development plan that includes an indoor adventure center, an outdoor adventure park with non-skiing activities, a luxury hotel and several dozen new town homes.

Opponents of the proposal, however, say the development plan is too intense for Squaw Valley and will cause traffic congestion, disturb the scenery and use too much water. In a recent op-ed the general manager of the Squaw Valley Public Services disputed opponents’ water claims and stated the valley has sufficient water to supply the proposed village project.

The environmental group Sierra Watch, which is responsible for organizing much of the opposition to the Squaw Valley plan, wants the plan changed to decrease building heights, reduce the number of new hotel and condominiums and pare back the plans for the adventure center.

They’ve rallied dozens of businesses to oppose the plan and collected thousands of petition signatures.

“This was a step in the process where they could have scaled back the development but they didn’t in spite of what they are hearing form everyone,” said Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch.
Mooers said there should have been more changes to the final environmental impact review based on public comments when it was in draft form.

The fact there weren’t, he says, shows Squaw Valley and county officials aren’t taking the potential consequences of development seriously.

“They are full steam ahead on the Titanic,” Mooers said. “The county’s review process is downplaying what this project would mean to Squaw and Tahoe.”

Backers of the project, however, accuse the opposition of mischaracterizing the plan.
They say criticism glosses over the fact the planned new development would take place in an area that is currently an 80-acre parking lot.

They also point out the plan would include restoring a portion of Squaw Creek to a more natural state. And that the taller buildings and parking structures would concentrate the building within areas that are already paved.

Keith Fountain, a homeowner in the Squaw Valley Lodge community, said it’s unreasonable to expect a valley that attracts as many as 12,000 people to the mountain on a busy day to resemble an isolated, backcountry wilderness.

“It is a ski resort,” Fountain said. “People go there looking for all the amenities.”

This is NOT an April Fools’ Joke

April 4, 2016

This is not an April Fools’ Joke.  We wish it were.

Because this afternoon – as in April 1 – Placer County posted KSL’s revised ‘Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan’.  And it’s pretty much the same nightmare vision for North Tahoe that KSL has been trying to squeeze into Squaw for the last five years.

You can see for yourself at: http://www.placer.ca.gov/departments/communitydevelopment/planning/villageatsquawvalleyspecificplan

Proposed Project

In today’s “revised” version, the total number of bedrooms (1,547) remains the same.  The maximum building height (108 feet) is unchanged.  The proposed indoor water park would still have waterslides, fake rivers, and arcades.

Meet the new plan; same as the old plan.

In spite of hundreds of comments to the County in opposition to the draft plan.  Regardless of the more than 50 local businesses who signed a letter asking the County to deny KSL’s proposal.  In the face of the all of the people who have signed our pledge to Keep Squaw True.

Today’s “revised” plan would still add thousands of cars to Tahoe’s roads, cloud out the stars from our night sky, fill our peaceful valleys with 25 years of construction noise, and threaten the blue clarity of the lake itself.

This, clearly, is not a joke.

Next Placer County will release its Final EIR – the last step in assessing what development would mean to Squaw, Tahoe, and beyond.

Then they’ll begin holding public hearings to get a better understanding of how people feel about KSL’s proposal.

And then they’ll vote.

So, if you care about the future of Tahoe, now’s not the time to be fooled.  Now is the time to get involved: http://keepsquawtrue.org/

As always, feel free to contact me with questions or comments –
530-265-2849 x200 or tmooers@sierrawatch.org

Tom

© 2014 Sierra Watch, 408 Broad Street, Suite 12, Nevada City, California 95959, Tel. 530.265.2849


 



 

 

Friday Good News

January 29, 2016
It’s Friday afternoon; how about some good news from a good week in the Tahoe Sierra?

Brockway Development “On Hold”
On Tuesday morning, we learned that the Brockway Campground portion of the new development proposed for the SPI property in Martis Valley and the Tahoe Basin is “on hold”.

We’re not exactly sure what that means, but we’ll do what we can to make it a milestone in the path towards more responsible planning for the region – and protection of the Tahoe Basin piece of the SPI property.

TahoeWinter
 Pictured – Tahoe in Winter
Snowpack Above Normal
Also on Tuesday, California announced that the Sierra Snowpack is above average.  No, the drought is not over.  But our snowpack is deeper than it’s been in five years.  And if you want to know whether or not that’s good, ask a skier.  Or a fish.
Tahoe Watchdogs Standing Up to Squaw
And, on Wednesday, we paid another visit to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency – this time, to thank them.TRPA submitted a strongly worded comment letter to Placer County regarding proposed development in Squaw Valley, pointing out that impacts from the development would “reach and extend into the Tahoe Region”, which, they remind us, is “one of our nation’s greatest treasures”.The letter focused on how KSL’s development proposal would add traffic to the Tahoe Basin, measured in ‘Vehicle Miles Travelled’, a major contributor to loss of lake clarity.
KeepingSquawTrue
 Pictured – Keeping Squaw True
As always, feel free to contact me with questions or comments –
530-265-2849 x200 or tmooers@sierrawatch.orgTom

North Lake Tahoe: On the Brink?

October 22, 2015
North Lake Tahoe: On the Brink?

Sierra Watch spent Tuesday morning in Kings Beach at a meeting of the Placer County Board of Supervisors.  And it provided a big reminder of what’s at stake in North Lake Tahoe.

AboveMartisPeak

 

 

 

 
Pictured: North Lake Tahoe from Martis Peak

In a room overflowing with Tahoe locals, the county officials listened to an update on a set of sweeping development proposals.

Projects proposed for Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Martis Valley, and within the Tahoe Basin that would add thousands of new bedrooms, ten-story tall highrises, and an indoor water park to the North Tahoe region.   

15 10 20 Tahoe Area Projects Map

 

 

 

 

 

Map: Tahoe Area Projects (Placer County)

The good news is that the meeting also provided a great reminder of the widespread commitment to ensure meaningful public involvement in the planning process − and to secure responsible decisions that respect the irreplaceable values of Tahoe and the Sierra.

Placer County has issued an environmental assessment (the Draft Environmental Impact Report), for just one of the four biggest projects, the Squaw Valley proposal.  Public response was overwhelming.  A total of 338 local jurisdictions, regulatory agencies, private organizations, and individual citizens submitted comments on the Squaw assessment to Placer County.

Nearly all of the citizen comments − 97% − expressed opposition to the project.

Tahoe Event Center

 

 

 

 

Pictured: Sierra Watch ‘Keep Squaw True’ Supporters in Kings Beach Tuesday

And Sierra Watch volunteers turned out in force on Tuesday.  The room was literally overflowing with Keep Squaw True supporters in purple t-shirts.

At one point, the Chair of the meeting interrupted to ask the crowd to watch the meeting from another room − in order to avoid upsetting the Fire Marshall.

In the months ahead, we’ll have plenty more opportunities to be reminded of what’s at stake − and to stand together for better future for North Lake Tahoe.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

Tom

© 2014 Sierra Watch, 408 Broad Street, Suite 12, Nevada City, California 95959, Tel. 530.265.2849
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Squaw Valley Design Review Committee Meeting

August 11, 2015
Come hear the latest from KSL at the Squaw Valley Design Review Committee
What: Put on a Keep Squaw True T-Shirt and show up at KSL’s presentation to the Squaw Valley Design Review Committee.
When: Monday August 17, 3:00 pm, meeting starts at 3:30.
Where: Basecamp at the Village at Squaw Valley.  Base Camp is located on First Street on the east end of the Village in Building 5, next to Wanderlust Yoga Studio.Who: Keep Squaw True supporters, concerned Tahoe residents, and their friendsRSVP: Email us at isilverman@sierrawatch.org and we’ll have a Keep Squaw True T-shirt waiting for you.

With your help we’ve made it clear that Squaw Valley and North Lake Tahoe deserve better than the traffic, noise, and environmental degradation promised by KSL’s proposal.

Jun 26 Planning Commission Hearing_J Riessen 2
Planning Commission Meeting – June 26

Just as importantly, we’ve demonstrated that our community will stand up to make sure that any new development in Squaw is worthy of the Tahoe Sierra.  That’s why we packed the Planning Commission meeting in Kings Beach with concerned citizens wearing Keep Squaw True T-Shirts.  And it’s why three hundred and forty four individuals, jurisdictions, environmental organizations, and regulatory agencies submitted comments on the draft Environmental Impact Report; all but four were critical of the project and environmental assessment.

Now it’s time to do it again.

On Monday August 17th, Vice President of Development for KSL owned Squaw Valley Real Estate Chevis Hosea is scheduled to make a presentation to the Squaw Valley Design Review Committee.  In this presentation he will respond to their recommendations for changes to the proposal’s design guidelines.

We expect that Chevis’ presentation will be slick, complete with 3D animations and a beautiful scale model, and that none of the minor edits will address the core problem with KSL’s proposal—that it’s of a size scale and scope that’s incompatible with the environment, infrastructure, and way of life in Squaw Valley and North Lake Tahoe.

Which mega resort

And that’s why when the floor is opened for public comment, we anticipate that we’ll be asking the Design Review Committee to recommend denying KSL’s design as proposed.

I hope you can join us, put on a Keep Squaw True tee, and help send the message once again that Squaw Valley deserves better.

RSVP to Isaac isilverman@sierrawatch.org  to let us know that you are coming. Include your t-shirt size and we will give you a “Keep Squaw True” t-shirt next week at the meeting.  We’ll have a table set up outside so you can’t miss us.

And if you already have a shirt, wear it!  The more purple the better.

What: Put on a Keep Squaw True T-Shirt and show up at KSL’s presentation to the Squaw Valley Design Review Committee.

When: Monday August 17, 3:00 pm, meeting starts at 3:30.

Where: Base Camp at the Village at Squaw Valley. Base Camp is located on First Street on the east end of the Village in Building 5, next to Wanderlust Yoga Studio.

base camp and map
Who: Keep Squaw True supporters, concerned Tahoe residents, and their friends.

RSVP: Email us at isilverman@sierrawatch.org and we’ll have a Keep Squaw True T-shirt waiting for you.

To Review:
Denver-based KSL Capital Partners purchased Squaw Valley in 2010 and is now pursuing a sweeping set of entitlements that would remake the region with development of a size, scale, and scope Tahoe has never seen.

Their current proposal, known as the Squaw Valley Village Specific Plan, includes a series of highrise hotels and condo projects with more than 1,500 new bedrooms and a massive indoor amusement park as wide as a Walmart and ten-stories tall, with waterslides, fake rivers, arcades, and simulated sky-diving.

All told, the project would be so big it would take 25 years of day and night construction to complete.

Decision-makers need to know how you feel about it.

State planning law − the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) − requires thorough environmental review of large development proposals.  In May, Placer County released its initial assessment, known as a Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR), designed to encourage public scrutiny and citizen involvement.

The Draft EIR for the proposed Squaw Valley development runs more than 2,000 pages and assesses the project’s potential impacts on everything from water quality to climate change.

Even a quick read makes it clear that KSL’s proposed development would transform Squaw Valley into a noisy, urbanized place.  In the terminology of the Draft EIR, proposed development would have “significant” and “unavoidable” impacts on Squaw Valley − and beyond.  For example:

  • Traffic: According to the document, development would add to area traffic and “exacerbate unacceptable operations” on Squaw Valley Road, on Highway 89 in Tahoe City, in Truckee, and in between.
  • Views: To Squaw’s iconic mountain scenery, the project would make a “substantial contribution to the cumulative degradation of the existing visual character or quality of the site and its surroundings” with a “significant and unavoidable impact on scenic vistas.”
  • Noise: The project would generate noise louder than “applicable Placer County noise standards”, especially for the 25 years it would be under construction − even at night.

Equally remarkable is the information and impacts not included in the Draft EIR.  For example, assessment of local water supplies is based on a study that does not include records from the current, record-breaking drought, they don’t even analyze traffic impacts on Saturday morning in the winter, and impacts to Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River are completely ignored.

Fortunately, CEQA is designed to encourage public involvement and three hundred forty four individuals, organizations, regulatory agencies, and jurisdictions sent letters to Placer County commenting on the draft Environmental Impact Report before the dealine.  All but four were critical of either the proposal, the report, or both.

I strongly recommend you follow the link below and skim a few of the letters, many of them are powerfully written:

Placer County dEIR Comments (http://www.placer.ca.gov/departments/communitydevelopment/envcoordsvcs/eir/villageatsquawvalley/comments%20received%20on%20draft%20eir)

Even if you missed the deadline for the public comment period, it was only the first step in what we expect will be a long public review process.  And next week’s Design Review Committee hearing is your next opportunity to make your voice heard. Come join us!

Reminder: RSVP to Isaac isilverman@sierrawatch.org with a t-shirt size and we will give you your shirt next week.  The more purple the better!

 

 

 

Keeping Squaw True: Last Chance for Letters

July 15, 2015
Keeping Squaw True: Last Chance for Letters

Friday marks the close of the 60-Day comment period − it’s your last chance to submit a letter on the environmental assessment of proposed development in Squaw Valley.

Squaw Valley
Pictured – Squaw Valley

To review, KSL Capital Partners purchased Squaw Valley in 2010 and is now pursuing a sweeping set of entitlements that would remake the  region with development of a size, scale, and scope Tahoe has never seen.

The proposed Squaw Valley Village Specific Plan includes a series of highrise condo projects with more than 1,500 new bedrooms and a massive indoor amusement park with waterslides, fake rivers, arcades, and simulated sky-diving.

State planning law requires thorough environmental review of large development proposals and an opportunity for the public to weigh in with citizen comments.

That time is now.

The idea is that decision makers, in this case the Placer County Board of Supervisors, need an opportunity to accept and understand public reaction to a proposed project.

Sierra Watch has engaged a team of experts in law, planning, hydrology, transportation, and biological resources to compile our own thorough letter.  But Placer County needs to hear from you, too.

Although the process can seem quite complicated, the most important point is quite simple: anyone can write a letter.  And you only have until Friday.

The trick is to figure out what’s important to you − what values do you think are at risk − and to share your thoughts with the County.

Send your comments − by Friday − to:

Placer County Community Development Resource Agency
Attention: Maywan Krach
3091 County Center Drive, Suite 190
Auburn, CA 95603

email: cdraecs@placer.ca.gov

Of course the close of the comment period does not mark the end of opportunities for public involvement.  It’s just one milestone in an ongoing, prolonged effort.

Sierra Watch is built for the long haul, and, when it comes to working together to Keep Squaw True, we’re just getting started.

− Tom

For a little more context, here’s a clip from Tuesday’s Sierra Sun:

Opinion: Tune out schoolyard shouts,focus on Squaw Valley project impacts

July 14, 2015

Tom Mooers
Special to the Sun

Thanks to the editorial staff of the Sierra Sun for last week reminding readers that the deadline for comments on the Squaw Valley Village Draft Environmental Impact Report is fast approaching.

Meaningful public involvement is one of the best ways to ensure a good outcome for Squaw and Tahoe.

Big decisions deserve reasoned debate. Unfortunately, much of the discussion of Squaw Valley gets dragged down into schoolyard-style shouts of “Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!”

This is an all too familiar strategy: if you can’t win a debate on the real issues, attack. Attack people who disagree with you; disparage their integrity; and distract attention from the real issues.

In Tahoe, relentless personal attacks threaten to discourage the kind of public participation the region needs and to shift the public debate away from what really matters: Are development proposals by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings and KSL Capital Partners the right blueprint for the future of Squaw?

It is disheartening to read a rehash of misguided personal attacks in the Sun’s editorial, “Clock is ticking for Squaw Valley expansion input,” stemming from Andy Wirth’s July 9 opinion column in the Auburn Journal.

It would be one thing if KSL’s attacks on Sierra Watch (and on me) were true and helped to set the record straight. They’re not. They are a strategic attempt to disparage and distract.

KSL attacks Sierra Watch for pointing that their project would be so big, “it would take 25 years of day and night construction to build.

But we don’t make this stuff up; it’s spelled out in Placer County’s environmental review of the proposed project, which clearly states, “The Specific Plan would be developed over an estimated 25-year buildout period,” and “Project construction would require night time construction work that would exceed applicable Placer County noise standards.”

The real question is: Should Placer County approve a project of such a massive scale that it might take 25 years to construct?

KSL attacks Sierra Watch for pointing out that many of their buildings would be 10 stories tall. We’re challenged to convey the size and scope of their proposals. Most people, when they hear “108 feet tall” don’t have a clear sense of just how big that is. So we adopt what is a standard, if inexact, unit of measurement for the height of a building: the “story.”

Wikipedia puts “one story” at “around 10 feet”. So when KSL is proposing a series of buildings 100 feet in height, they are indeed proposing a series of 10-story tall buildings.

Madison Square Garden, for example, has only one floor (there’s nothing in between the basketball court and the ceiling). But it is still a 15-story tall building.

The more important point is that no matter how you measure them — in feet (100) or in stories (10) — the proposed buildings are too tall for Squaw Valley.

And we’re accused of being misleading by referring to KSL’s proposed “Mountain Adventure Center” as an “indoor amusement park.”

But their application asks for permission for a massive building that would draw 300,000 visitors to its indoor water slides; action rivers; arcades; wake boarding; 30 bowling lanes; simulated sky diving; miniature golf; water skiing; trampoline; wave rider; and more. That’s a lot of amusement — indoors.

The real question is whether an indoor amusement park — or whatever it’s called — makes sense amid the great outdoors of the Tahoe Sierra.

Hopefully you can tune out the schoolyard shouts and misguided mudslinging to let Placer County know how you feel about what really matters to Squaw, to Tahoe, to you — and write a letter.

Because 10, 20, 120 years from now, no one’s going to care what he said or she said or I said. But they will care about the land-use decisions we make and live with the legacy we leave behind.

Tom Mooers is executive director of Sierra Watch. Visit sierrawatch.org to learn more.

© 2014 Sierra Watch, 408 Broad Street, Suite 12, Nevada City, California 95959, Tel. 530.265.2849

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408 Broad Street, #12
Nevada City, California 95959
US
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Stand Up To Keep Squaw True

June 22, 2015
 Squawsticker_2015_Skier 

 

 

 

Thursday June 25th: Stand Up To Keep Squaw True

If you care about the future of Squaw Valley and North Lake Tahoe it’s time to stand up.

What: Attend the Placer County Planning Commission meeting

Where: North Tahoe Event Center, 8318 N Lake Blvd, Kings Beach, CA 96143

When: Thursday June 25th at 9:30 am (meeting starts at 10:05)

RSVP: Isaac Silverman (530) 265-2849 x203 isilverman@sierrawatch.org to let us know to expect you and what size Keep Squaw True t-shirt you need.  You don’t have to RSVP to attend but if you do we’ll give you a t-shirt.

On Thursday June 25th the Placer County Planning Commission meets to hear comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for KSL’s plan to remake Squaw Valley in the image of an urbanized mega-resort.

This is the first time that Placer County will be hearing from the public since the release of their environmental report. We need to send them a message: Squaw Valley and North Lake Tahoe deserve better than the noise, traffic gridlock, blighted views, urbanization, and environmental degradation promised by KSL’s plan.

We will have a table set up to hand out Keep Squaw True t-shirts, gather petition signatures, and answer any questions you may have.  And we’ll also be testifying at the hearing.

Join us

But we can’t do this alone.  We need you to join us on Thursday, put on a Keep Squaw True t-shirt, and speak your mind about KSL’s plan.

tshirts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RSVP to isilverman@sierrawatch.com and let me know your t-shirt size. We’ll have it waiting for you.

You can raise a technical deficiency in their analysis − a detailed critique of the peak projections for traffic on Highway 89.  Or you can say something deep: I want to see the stars at night.  Or something clear: deny this development application and ask KSL to submit a reasonable proposal.  Or you can simply come, put on a t-shirt and stand in solidarity with your friends and neighbors.

The important thing is that you show up.

KSL’s Plan

To review, KSL’s plan, known as the Squaw Valley Village Specific Plan, includes a series of highrise hotels and condo projects with more than 1,500 new bedrooms and a massive indoor amusement park as wide as a Walmart and ten-stories tall, with waterslides, fake rivers, arcades, and simulated sky-diving.

The map below uses KSL’s renderings to show what’s planned.  It’s shocking, and it understates how massive this project is—in addition to what’s pictured it would allow more than 30 houses to be built in the mouth of Shirley Canyon.

SW_SV_mapwbuildings_June2015_2-2ZZZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

All told, the project would be so big it would take 25 years of day and night construction to complete.   Decision-makers need to know how you feel about it.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report

State planning law − the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) − requires thorough environmental review of large development proposals.  In May, Placer County released its initial assessment, known as a Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR), designed to encourage public scrutiny and citizen involvement.   The Draft EIR for the proposed Squaw Valley development runs more than 2,000 pages and assesses the project’s potential impacts on everything from water quality to climate change.

It’s available on line at: http://www.placer.ca.gov/departments/communitydevelopment/envcoordsvcs/eir/villageatsquawvalley/draft%20eir

Even a quick read makes it clear that KSL’s proposed development would transform Squaw Valley into a noisy, urbanized place.  In the terminology of the Draft EIR, proposed development would have “significant” and “unavoidable” impacts on Squaw Valley − and beyond.  For example:

  • Traffic: According to the document, development would add to area traffic and “exacerbate unacceptable operations” on Squaw Valley Road, on Highway 89 in Tahoe City, in Truckee, and in between.
  • Views: To Squaw’s iconic mountain scenery, the project would make a “substantial contribution to the cumulative degradation of the existing visual character or quality of the site and its surroundings” with a “significant and unavoidable impact on scenic vistas.”
  • Noise: The project would generate noise louder than “applicable Placer County noise standards”, especially for the 25 years it would be under construction − even at night.

Equally remarkable is the information and impacts not included in the Draft EIR.  For example, assessment of local water supplies is based on a study that does not include records from the current, record-breaking drought.   Fortunately, CEQA is designed to encourage public involvement.  This is where you come in.   Please feel free to call at (530) 265-2849 x 203 or email at isilverman@sierrawatch.org if you have any questions.

© 2014 Sierra Watch, 408 Broad Street, Suite 12, Nevada City, California 95959, Tel. 530.265.2849

 

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