Great news: More protection for Tahoe!

This summer Sierra Watch scored a major win for Tahoe. That victory just got better:

Sierra Watch Logo

Tahoe Truckee True Logo Small

Contact: Tom Mooers; (530) 265-2849 x200

September 30, 2021

SIERRA WATCH SECURES COURT PRECEDENT TO PROTECT LAKE TAHOE

Sacramento, Calif. – The California Third District Court of Appeals took action last week that could have major implications for new development proposed in the Tahoe Sierra. The court granted Sierra Watch’s request for partial publication of its August decisions over Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed development in North Tahoe, thereby securing the conservationists’ win as legal precedent.

Pictured: Lake Tahoe & Olympic Valley from Palisades Tahoe on Monday

“Establishing our recent victory as citable law helps protect Tahoe from harmful development proposals,” says Tom Mooers, Executive Director of Sierra Watch, “And it’s another great example of how we work to stand up for our mountain values.”

For more than ten years, Sierra Watch has led a grassroots effort to stop Alterra Mountain Company’s proposal to remake North Tahoe with a series of highrises and an indoor waterpark. Of particular importance is the future of Lake Tahoe and ongoing efforts to protect its clarity. 

For decades, development in the Tahoe Basin—as defined as the watershed of Lake Tahoe—has been highly regulated, monitored by the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to ensure that new projects do not harm the lake’s famously blue waters.

Projects just outside the Tahoe Basin, however, do not fall under that jurisdiction—even though they can have a major impact on the lake.

In the case of Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed development in the valley formerly known as Squaw, the project is proposed for land outside the Tahoe Basin. Because snowmelt in the valley does not flow into the lake but, instead, into the Truckee River, land use decision-making authority falls exclusively to Placer County—not the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Traffic from Alterra’s proposed development, however, would pour into the Tahoe Basin, adding more than 1,000 new daily car trips to Tahoe’s traffic—each car contributing the pollutants which, in turn, would cloud the lake and rob it of its clarity.

In its case against Alterra’s erstwhile project, Sierra Watch argued that the California Environmental Quality Act required vigorous review of potential impacts on the lake. 

“Just like what your next door neighbor does on his or her property can impact your home, development next door to Tahoe can be destructive to the lake,” says Mooers of Sierra Watch. 

Alterra countered that there was no need to review potential impacts because the project “did not propose development in the Tahoe Basin.”

The court agreed with Sierra Watch, writing in its decision, “Lake Tahoe is a unique and significant environmental resource” that merits special emphasis in environmental review; and review must “determine whether the project’s impacts on Lake Tahoe and the basin were potentially significant—not simply summarize, and then declare inapplicable, another agency’s framework for evaluating these types of issues.”

The court’s decision in favor of Sierra Watch in August was a major milestone in the ongoing, ten-year, grassroots effort to turn back Alterra’s proposed development and Keep Tahoe True. It means that Alterra can’t move forward with its proposal without addressing impacts on Tahoe. The court’s latest action—publication of the decision—extends that victory to inform future proposals as well.

“The decision against Alterra’s proposed development helps protect Tahoe now,” says Mooers. “Establishing it as precedent helps protect Tahoe in the future.”

Squaw Valley’s name changes. Our commitment does not.

Alterra announced the new name for Squaw Valley: Palisades Tahoe.

Ironically, they seek to cash in on the Tahoe brand as they threaten at the same time the very values that make Tahoe special in the first place.

Our commitment to this awesome place remains unchanged.

More below:

 

Sierra Watch Logo

Tahoe Truckee True Logo Small

Contact: Tom Mooers; (530) 265-2849 x200

August 24, 2021

SQUAW VALLEY SKI RESORT ANNOUNCES NEW NAME: PALISADES TAHOE

Resort owners Alterra Mountain Co. abandoning old name – but clinging to old development plans for iconic Tahoe destination

 

Olympic Valley, Calif. — The owners of the Tahoe ski mountain known as Squaw Valley announced today a new name for the famed resort: Tahoe Palisades.

The new name acknowledges the centrality of Lake Tahoe to the resort’s mountain region. But, according to Sierra conservationists, new development proposed for the valley threatens Tahoe values and the clarity of the lake.

Squaw Valley winter Tahoe Truckee True

Pictured: Palisades Tahoe in winter

“We welcome the new name as a reminder that the valley is part of the broader Tahoe region,” said Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch. “And we’ll keep working to defend the place no matter what it’s called.” 

Resort owners Alterra Mountain Company, based in Denver, have sought to remake the Tahoe-Truckee region with development of a size, scale, and scope the Sierra has never seen. Plans for the valley include a series of high-rise condo hotels, a 90,000 square-foot indoor waterparkas wide as a Walmart and nearly three times as tall, and a rollercoaster. 

Sierra Watch, seeking to protect Tahoe from Alterra, has built a grassroots movement to Keep Squaw True (now Tahoe Truckee True). Over the last ten years, the conservation non-profit has engaged thousands of volunteers, produced a movie, and challenged development approvals in court.

Keep Squaw True flashmob

Pictured: Tahoe locals in 2017

Last month, California’s Third District Court of Appeals sided with Sierra Watch and dealt a staggering blow to Alterra’s plans. A panel of three Justices found that project approvals ignored important development impacts, essentially sending Alterra back to the drawing board. 

A key issue to the court is highlighted by the resort’s new name: impacts on Tahoe and the lake’s famous clarity. Sierra Watch argued that the County’s environmental review downplayed impacts on the lakeespecially how traffic from the new development would have added the pollutants that are steadily robbing the lake of its clarity. 

The court agreed, ruling that “(T)he final EIR still never discussed the importance of Lake Tahoe or its current condition.”

Officials at Alterra acknowledged the setback but expressed ongoing commitment to their erstwhile project.

Palisades Tahoe Logo

Pictured: Palisades Tahoe Logo

So, as Alterra seeks to cash in on the Tahoe brand with its new name for Squaw Valley, conservationists further their commitment to protecting Tahoe itself.

Sierra Watch is offering a new design of its ubiquitous purple stickers; they now read Tahoe Truckee True, furthering the notion that what is known as Squaw Valley is part of a broader mountain region.

“We appreciate Alterra’s willingness to re-consider the history of what we’ve known as Squaw Valley,” says Tom Mooers, Executive Director of Sierra Watch. “And we’re committed to convincing them to join us in re-imagining its future with a collaborative effort to keep Tahoe Truckee True.”

We Won in Squaw Valley! Now What?

Sierra Watch prevailed in court last month, marking a major victory in our ongoing commitment to defend Tahoe’s Squaw Valley from reckless development.

Tahoe Truckee True in the News
So, now what?

Technically, the appellate court ruled that the matter be sent back to the trial court with specific instructions to grant our petition for writ of mandate and spell out how Placer County should comply with state law.

Essentially, the ball is in their court; would-be developers Alterra Mountain Company have three basic options:

1) try to appeal the court’s decision to the California Supreme Court;
2) push the same failed project through a new public planning process; or
3) come to the table and seek a collaborative resolution.

Their first option is to ask the California Supreme Court to review the appellate court’s decision. According to our legal experts, it is unlikely that the Supreme Court would agree to do so—but possible. If Alterra seeks another day in court, Sierra Watch will be there to greet them.

Alterra’s second option would be to try again—go back through another public process to seek another round of entitlements for its proposed development. But that could be a long, long road.

Sierra Watch in the News
In its decision, the appellate court agreed with Sierra Watch on our basic challenge: Placer County’s 2016 approvals were based on inadequate environmental review. And the court spelled out where the review fell short: in assessing the project’s impacts on Lake Tahoe, fire danger and evacuation, noise, and traffic.

Alterra and Placer County could use the decision as a road map, marking what actions they would have to take to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act—with a new Environmental Impact Report, opportunities for us to comment, public hearings, and, potentially, more legal challenges.

If you imagine Alterra’s attempts to seek entitlements as an elaborate, ten-year board game, they’re not quite back to square one. But they’re likely a lot closer to the start than to the finish.

Meanwhile, times have changed and the road to development has only gotten steeper. All of the regional problems we pointed out at the County’s public hearings in 2016 have, regrettably, gotten worse.

Lake Tahoe continues to suffer a steady loss of clarity. In 2015, you could see 73.1 feet into clear waters; last year only 62.9 feet.

If you’re Alterra, do you really want to stand up in a public hearing and pretend again, like they did in 2016, that their massive development is no threat to the multi-generational effort to Keep Tahoe Blue?

The risk of catastrophic wildfire has grown. California keeps learning hard lessons about allowing too much development in places where there are not enough ways to evacuate.

If you’re Alterra, do you really want to stand under our smoky skies and tell everyone: no problem? That a projected evacuation time of more than ten hours—to travel less than three miles out of Squaw Valley and onto a gridlocked Highway 89—poses no threat to public safety? That we can just, as they argued before, “shelter in place” on a golf course? That Placer County should roll the dice on wildfire when the stakes are human lives and the jackpot goes to Alterra?

The drought is drying up our watersheds. The Sierra snowpack at the end of last winter was at 0% of normal. Do you want to put on your Alterra hat and stand in the empty streambed of Squaw Creek—bone dry right now—and say there’s enough water for a waterpark?

Alterra’s project would be bad for traffic—adding 3,000 new daily car trips to Tahoe’s traffic mess.

Alterra’s project would be bad for workforce housing—adding 500 employees, with no place to live, to the long list of working families looking for a home.

Alterra’s project would even be bad for winter—adding 40,000 metric tons of CO2, the pollutants that drive climate change, more than 30 times the regulatory threshold of significance.

Would you really want to stand up and try justifying the traffic, the fire danger, and the pollution? For what? Highrises, a waterpark, and roller coasters? If you were a member of the Placer County Board of Supervisors, how could you pretend to agree?

But there is a third option. Alterra could come to the table, end ten years of conflict, and seek a collaborative resolution. Simply sit down and work together on development that, instead of making everything worse, would respect our shared mountain values.

Whichever route Alterra chooses, Sierra Watch will be ready.

We’ll stand up in court again if we have to. We’ll mobilize our growing grassroots movement to turn out for public hearings if need be. And we’ll join a positive planning effort—in good faith, with a true spirit of collaboration.

In the meantime, we celebrate the fact that we have once again proved we can work together to protect the places we love. That Tahoe has been spared from a disaster of reckless development. That there is no indoor waterpark in Squaw Valley.

We appreciate the role we’re playing in writing one of the great chapters in the proud history of Sierra conservation.

And we move forward with confidence, understanding that our commitment is rooted in our shared love of the mountains. A love that is as timeless, almost, as the mountains themselves.

Onward!

Great news from court: Sierra Watch wins Squaw Valley court cases!

As you can see in the press release below, we won!

Thanks, as always, for standing with us as we defend our mountain values.

Onward!

 

Sierra Watch Logo

Tahoe Truckee True Logo Small

Contact: Tom Mooers; (530) 265-2849 x200

August 24, 2021

TAHOE CONSERVATIONISTS SCORE COURT VICTORY OVER SQUAW VALLEY DEVELOPMENT

Sacramento, Calif. – In a sweeping victory for Tahoe conservationists, California’s Third District Court of Appeals sided with Sierra Watch and dealt a staggering blow to development plans for Squaw Valley.

“Today’s decision marks a major milestone in the multi-generational commitment to conservation in the Sierra Nevada,” says Tom Mooers, Executive Director of the plaintiff group, Sierra Watch. “And it’s a great example of how we can work together to protect the places we love.” 

Squaw Valley

Pictured: Squaw Valley

A panel of three Justices based their decision on the project’s impacts on Lake Tahoe, fire danger, noise, and traffic. The ruling reverses a 2018 trial court finding and, essentially, sends the erstwhile developer, Alterra Mountain Company, back to the drawing board. 

It’s a major victory for conservationists in their ten-year struggle to stop massive development from transforming Tahoe. Alterra had sought to remake the region with a series of high-rise condo hotels, a 90,000 square-foot indoor waterparkas wide as a Walmart and nearly three times as tall, and a rollercoaster. 

The project, as proposed in 2015, would have taken 25 years to construct and added thousands of car trips to Tahoe’s crowded roads. 

“Alterra was hell-bent on bringing Vegas-style excess to the mountains of Tahoe,” says Mooers of Sierra Watch. “It was a direct threat to everything we love about the Sierra.”

The battle began when KSL Capital Partners purchased Squaw Valley in 2010, citing the “great growth potential” of its new real estate asset. In 2015, the private equity firm made its plans public, asking Placer County to entitle development of a size, scale, and scope the region has never seen.

The conservation non-profit Sierra Watch responded by building a grassroots movement to turn back the project and Keep Squaw True. Thousands of volunteers got involved. Hundreds spoke up at public hearings.

Keep Squaw True Supporters

Pictured: Tahoe locals in 2017

In November of 2016, in spite of overwhelming opposition, the Placer County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the project by a 4-1 votewith the only ‘no’ vote coming from the Supervisor who represented Tahoe and Squaw Valley. 

A month later, Sierra Watch filed its initial legal challenges, pointing out that Placer County’s approvals violated state law. Today, the court agreed.

The California Environmental Quality Act, better known as CEQA, requires Placer County to research and write an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to fully assess and disclose the negative impacts the new development would have on Squaw Valley and the Tahoe Sierra, and to lessen those impacts to the extent feasible.

The court, however, ruled that Placer County’s review was “inadequate”, taking issue with the the County’s disclosure and mitigation of the impacts on Lake Tahoe, fire danger, noise, and traffic.

California maintains a longstanding commitment to maintaining the clarity of Tahoe’s famously blue waters. CEQA even expressly designates the Tahoe Basin as an area of “Statewide, Regional, or Areawide Significance.” But, Sierra Watch argued, the County’s environmental review downplayed the impacts on the lakeespecially how traffic from the new development would have added the pollutants that are steadily robbing the lake of its clarity. 

The court agreed, ruling that “(T)he final EIR still never discussed the importance of Lake Tahoe or its current condition.”

The threat of catastrophic wildfire hangs over every mountain community in the Sierra Nevada. Even today, smoke clouds the skies over Squaw Valley, and one of the routes out of the Tahoe Basin, Highway 50, is closed due to the Caldor fire.

Smoke in Tahoe Squaw Valley

Pictured: Squaw Valley under smoky skies, Aug. 24, 2021

Yet Alterra’s development is proposed for a “very high fire hazard severity zone” with only one way out. If the project were built, it would take an estimated 10 hours and 40 minutes just to travel three miles out of the valley—and onto Highway 89, already at gridlock on crowded summer days. The court found that even this drastic figure was a substantial underestimation of evacuation times.

In oral arguments in July, Alterra’s lawyers acknowledged the danger, claiming residents and visitors could just “shelter in place” and that the EIR had adequately assessed the issue of evacuation.

The court, however, found otherwise, ruling that “(T)he EIR’s misleading estimation of evacuation times is still that–a misleading estimation of evacuation times that prevented informed decisionmaking. We find the EIR inadequate in this respect as a result.”

The court also found fault with environmental review of noise impacts and traffic mitigation.

Sierra Watch also challenged Placer County’s approval under California’s good governance law, the Brown Act. And, in a parallel decision, the court sided, once again, with Sierra Watch.

The Brown Act requires a governing body to “post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting” and, also, that key documents relevant to important decisions be made “available for public inspection.”

In the case of its Squaw Valley development and its impact on Lake Tahoe, Sierra Watch argued, Placer County officials did neither. Instead, the County negotiated, in secret, a last-minute deal with developers. 

That deal was not part of any agenda. Nor was it made “available for public inspection”. The County argued that it did make the last-minute documents available to the public—by putting a memo in a filing cabinet the night before the hearing in a locked office building.

“The question for us, then,” writes the court in a separate ruling, “is whether the memorandum was ‘available for public inspection . . . at th[at] time.’ It was not. No document at the County clerk’s office, after all, was ‘available for public inspection’ at 5:40 p.m. on November 14, 2016 — a time when the clerk’s office was closed.”

The court also held that the Board’s agenda for the meeting was, according to the decision, “inaccurate and misleading.”

Sierra Watch is represented by Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, a public interest law firm specializing in government, land use, renewable energy, and environmental law.

“We’re proud to play our role in helping Sierra Watch hold officials accountable to the law and protect California’s invaluable natural resources,” says Amy Bricker, an attorney at the firm.

Squaw Valley winter Tahoe Truckee True

Pictured: Squaw Valley in Winter

Looking ahead, Alterra could seek a re-hearing; they could appeal to the California Supreme Court.

Meantime, conservationists are celebrating their victory and re-committing themselves to what, so far, has been a ten-year effort.

“This is great news for Tahoe and everyone who has stood with us to defend our mountain values,” says Mooers of Sierra Watch. “But our goal was never to win a lawsuit. Our goal has always been to protect our Sierra resources for future generations.”

“And we feel like we’re just getting started.” 

Tahoe on Trial July 21/How to Watch

Sierra Watch will be standing up in court on July 21st to defend Tahoe from Alterra’s reckless Squaw Valley development – and you can watch!

The court is conducting oral arguments by video conference, and they’ve shared instructions on how to log on to their BlueJeans Events conferencing application.

WHAT:

Oral arguments before the Third District Court of Appeals in Sierra Watch’s two challenges of Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed development in Tahoe’s Squaw Valley.

WHEN:

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

2:00-4:00 p.m. Pacific Time

HOW:

The public is invited to join the proceedings online through a web browser on the BlueJeans Events app –

https://primetime.bluejeans.com/a2m/live-event/sgtbqesh

Or by phone –

+1 (415) 466-7000 (US) / PIN: 4619394 #

WHY:

This is an important milestone in the ongoing effort — ten years and counting — to keep Tahoe Truckee True.

Alterra Mountain Company seeks to remake Tahoe with development of a size and scope the region has never seen.  Development would include a series of high-rise condo hotels and a massive indoor waterpark. 

After the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved Alterra’s proposed development in 2016, Sierra Watch initiated two public interest court challenges to the approvals: one based on state planning law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA); the other based on violations of California’s Brown Act.

Sierra Watch’s CEQA challenge is based on decision-makers’ failure to assess the proposed development’s impact on key Tahoe issues like the lake’s clarity, fire safety, and traffic.

Sierra Watch’s second case is based on the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law, challenging Placer County’s lack of public notice for a last-minute deal to avoid a lawsuit by the California Attorney General, negotiated in secret and announced the same day the project was approved.

The Brown Act challenge is first on the docket, to be followed by the CEQA challenge.  The court will release its decisions within 90 days of the close of the hearings.

The arguments will be brief and, likely, shaped by questions from the bench.  So the Sierra Watch legal team won’t be able to address every way in which Alterra’s proposal threatens everything we love about our mountains. 

For more detailed arguments, check out Sierra Watch’s legal briefs: https://www.sierrawatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Verified-Petition-for-Writ-of-Mandate-and-Complaint-for-Injunctive-Relief_KEEP-SQUAW-TRUE.pdf

And for more context on the Sierra Watch effort to keep Tahoe Truckee True, check out our Ten Year Timeline and The Movie to Keep Tahoe True.

Defend our mountains. Double your money.

Sierra Watch

You know what’s great about our bumper stickers?  They work!

For 20 years, Sierra Watch has been working to Save Martis Valley – establishing a bold vision for conservation, day by day, parcel by parcel.

Save Martis Valley, Martis Peak

Pictured: Martis Peak looking toward Lake Tahoe

When Donner was threatened by a reckless proposal to subdivide the summit, Sierra Watch took the lead to secure a better outcome and Save Donner Summit

And in Squaw Valley, we are keeping Tahoe Truckee True, turning back Alterra’s plans to transform Tahoe with highrise condo/hotels, a roller coaster, and a massive indoor waterpark.

It’s a great time to be a part of our ongoing success because your donation will be doubled.  One of your fellow Sierra Watch supporters has issued another challenge grant – pledging to match all contributions, up to a total of $50,000.

Click here to support Sierra Watch as we turn misguided development threats into lasting conservation victories – and double your money:

https://www.sierrawatch.org/donate/

 

Onward!

– Tom

P.S. If you’ve already given – Thanks!  Maybe you could forward this message to someone you know who loves our mountains and will stand with us to protect them.

 

 

 

 

Alterra Announces New Name for Squaw Valley – Press Release

For Immediate Release:

ALTERRA MOUNTAIN COMPANY ANNOUCES NEW NAME FOR SQUAW VALLEY

Waterpark Valley USA! to be marketed worldwide

Olympic Valley, Calif. – The owners of Alterra Mountain Company gathered today in the parking lot of Squaw Valley to announce the new name for the famed ski resort: Waterpark Valley USA!

Flanked by executives of Alterra’s parent company, KSL Capital Partners, celebrity CEO Randy Mirth made the special announcement.

“I’ve always said that Tahoe is the last bastion of undercapitalized, undermanaged, and undermarketed grouping of resorts in North America. There is no place like Tahoe for opportunity,” Mirth told the crowd of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows employees paid to be there.

Standing in front of the former movie theatre and bar first built for the 1960 Olympics known as the Far East Building, Mirth also held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the future demolition of the building and mark the actual placement of the 90,000 foot, 10-story tall indoor amusement-style waterpark.

Great Wolf Tahoe

“Partnering with Great Wolf Resorts to manage the base of the mountain, we can finally overcapitalize, overmanage, and specifically overmarket this resort with the new name,” Mirth told the shocked crowd.  “Waterpark Valley USA! will be significantly easier to market to overseas tourists.”

When asked for comment, Sierra Watch Executive Director, Tom Mooers, was incredulous, “Hold on to your speedo, Mr. Mirth.  The Tahoe loving community is not going let Alterra tear down the Olympics to build up a waterpark.”

After the conference, Randy Mirth was quick to follow-up, “We’ve been trying to build this waterpark in Squaw Valley – I mean Waterpark Valley USA! – for more than ten years.”

“Maybe if we start calling it Waterpark Valley USA!, then Sierra Watch will give up on their Keep Squaw True / Tahoe Truckee True mission and we can finally make John Muir proud by bringing the ultimate in amusement-style amenities to the Jewel of the Sierra,” he continued.

“As I’ve tried to tell the fine people of Tahoe, there’s nothing to do here in the summer,” chimed in KSL VP of Development, Cheevis Regal. “But with a name like Waterpark Valley USA!, everyone will know they can ‘send it’ off the tallest waterslides in the West!”

“Besides,” he droned on, “Squaw Valley has so much water, a lot of it wasted – as it flows through Squaw Creek and, shockingly, into the Truckee River.  Wouldn’t we rather see that water flowing in an indoor lazy river than in an ol’ mountain stream?”

In their own press release, Sierra Watch reaffirmed their commitment to stop Alterra and KSL from complete buildout of the ski resort:

The leadership pushing KSL’s reckless development proposal may have changed, but the plans remain the same. Alterra still hopes to build a 90,000 square foot indoor waterpark with 1,500 new bedrooms in a series of highrise condos and hotel.

While the new name for Squaw Valley has yet to be announced, we must remain vigilant and remember how all this proposed development would threaten a region already dealing with threats to Lake Tahoe’s clarity, unsustainable traffic, dangerous evacuation routes in times of emergency, and drought.

To learn more about Sierra Watch’s commitment to responsible development in Squaw Valley, watch The Movie to Keep Tahoe Truehttps://youtu.be/Q_RdEW1IOMY

Stand with Sierra Watch and sign the Tahoe Truckee True petition today: https://sierrawatch.org/tahoe-truckee-true/action/

Read our announcement in support of finding a name for Squaw Valley that respects our shared history and everyone that comes to the valley for recreation, as well as on our updated Tahoe Truckee True campaign: https://sierrawatch.org/tahoe-truckee-true/name-change/

Happy April 1st!

About Sierra Watch

Sierra Watch works to protect great places in the Sierra Nevada.  Founded in 2001, the Nevada City based non-profit has built a remarkable track record in land preservation in Tahoe’s Martis Valley, on Donner Summit, and for other treasured Sierra landscapes.  For more information, visit www.sierrawatch.org.

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Our 2021 Resolution to Defend our Mountain Values

What a year!

As we finally put 2020 behind and drop into the New Year, let’s not forget to appreciate our shared perseverance. 

In isolation and anxiety and through tragedy, we’ve made it to 2021.

Emerald Bay, Tahoe Truckee True, resolution

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe – Abe Blair Gallery

Here at Sierra Watch, together, we have maintained our stalwart defense of our Tahoe values. We haven’t lost any ground to proposed subdivisions in Martis Valley, to roller coasters and indoor waterparks in Olympic Valley.

In fact we even secured some gains, celebrating the acquisition of land recently proposed for development but, now, protected forever.

Our shared commitment gives us a chance, in the year ahead, to resolve Tahoe’s two biggest development threats.

And that’s our resolution for 2021: to prove that, once again, we can work together to protect the places we love.

Onward into 2021!

Sierra Watch Donate

PRESS RELEASE – Squaw Valley: New Name, Same Fight to Keep “Tahoe Truckee True”

Sierra Watch Logo

Tahoe Truckee True

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For Immediate Release

Contact: Tom Mooers (530) 265-2849 x200

November 19, 2020

SQUAW VALLEY: NEW NAME, SAME FIGHT TO KEEP “TAHOE TRUCKEE TRUE”

Lake Tahoe, Calif. — Although Squaw Valley may be getting a new name, the ongoing fight over proposed development remains.  And conservationists are getting a jump on the resort’s new brand. 

Sierra Watch announced today a new name for its grassroots effort to protect the region’s values as “Tahoe Truckee True.”

“Our commitment to this place remains steadfast,” said Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch.  “And we’ll keep working to defend its values no matter what it’s called, making sure the valley and the region stay Tahoe Truckee True.”

Dr. Robb Gaffney in Squaw Valley Tahoe Truckee True

Pictured: Dr. Robb Gaffney, author of Squallywood, with family representing Tahoe Truckee True

Earlier this year, Alterra Mountain Company announced it will change the name of its resort, characterizing the word squaw as “…deeply rooted in an offensive, demeaning and often violent history.”

The international ski conglomerate, however, has not shown any inclination to change their existing plans to develop the iconic valley, doggedly seeking to remake the region with development of a size and scope Tahoe has never seen.  Development would include a series of high-rise condo hotels and a 90,000 square-foot indoor waterpark—as wide as a Walmart and nearly three times as tall. 

 

Pictured: Iconic Squaw Valley is getting a name and so is the campaign to Keep Squaw True.

The project would take 25 years to construct, add thousands of car trips to Tahoe’s crowded roads, threaten the lake’s famed clarity—and put public safety at risk. 

In the event of wildfire, with all that new development, it would take more than ten hours to evacuate the valley.

In response, conservation non-profit Sierra Watch launched a campaign to Keep Squaw True, recruiting thousands of volunteers in a growing grassroots movement that has, so far, stopped Alterra from pursuing its project – first proposed nine years ago.

“We appreciate Alterra’s willingness to re-consider the history of what we’ve known as Squaw Valley,” says Tom Mooers, Executive Director of Sierra Watch.  “And we’re committed to convincing them to join us in re-imagining its future.”

Keep Squaw True and Tahoe Truckee True Logo

Pictured: There’s a new sticker in town – Sierra Watch unveils the new name of its ongoing campaign.

After the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved Alterra’s proposed development in 2016, Sierra Watch initiated two public interest court challenges to the approvals: one based on state planning law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA); the other based on violations of California’s Brown Act.

Sierra Watch’s CEQA challenge is based on decision-makers’ failure to assess the proposed development’s impact on key Tahoe issues like Tahoe clarity, fire safety, and traffic.

Sierra Watch’s Brown Act case challenges Placer County’s last-minute deal with the developers and the California Attorney General, negotiated in secret and announced the same day the project was approved.

Both challenges are on appeal.  In the meantime, Alterra’s development, first proposed nine years ago, is on hold.

“Our goal is not simply to win a lawsuit,” say Mooers of Sierra Watch.  “Our mission is to protect the timeless natural resources of one of our great Sierra places.  No matter what we call it, our values will remain Tahoe Truckee True.”

Tahoe Truckee True in Squaw Valley

Pictured: Sierra Watch supporters in Squaw Valley representing the movement for responsible development.

For more, read Sierra Watch’s message to the organization’s supporters announcing Tahoe Truckee Truehttps://www.sierrawatch.org/tahoe-truckee-true/name-change/

 

About Sierra Watch

Sierra Watch works to protect great places in the Sierra Nevada.  Founded in 2001, the Nevada City based non-profit has built a remarkable track record in land preservation in Tahoe’s Martis Valley, on Donner Summit, and for other treasured Sierra landscapes.  For more information, visit www.sierrawatch.org.

 

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Keeping Squaw Valley and Tahoe True – 4 Years and Counting

Four years ago today, Placer County officials approved massive development for Tahoe’s Squaw Valley.

At a packed hearing in North Lake Tahoe in 2016, hundreds of volunteers turned out to argue against approvals and to Keep Squaw True.

keep squaw true

Yet, somehow, the Placer County Board of Supervisors granted the would-be developer all the entitlements they asked for. Those approvals were not only irresponsible, they were also illegal.

Since then, the proponents of the project have a new name – Alterra Mountain Company. Unfortunately, their plan to remake Tahoe is the same.

But, in case you haven’t noticed, Squaw Valley has no new massive indoor waterpark, no new highrises.

The difference is us. Since the reckless approvals were made four years ago, Sierra Watch has been seeking to overturn Alterra’s nightmare vision for Squaw Valley and secure a better future for Tahoe – in court, at events, and online.

Thanks for being part of that ongoing success. The San Francisco Chronicle covered our story four years ago. And we’re still at it today.

San Francisco Chronicle

Huge Squaw Valley expansion approved, but meets with objections

By Peter Fimrite

November 16, 2016 Updated: November 16, 2016 5:50pm

Tom Mooers, Sierra Watch

Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle – Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch, walks on the Grove Street Pier at Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City, Calif. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved an ambitious expansion plan at the nearby Squaw Valley ski resort which is opposed by Mooers’ group.

A sprawling hotel and resort entertainment complex approved in Squaw Valley has laid bare a cultural, economic and philosophical gulf that has for years bedeviled one of the world’s most picturesque mountain retreats.

The 4-1 vote by the Placer County Board of Supervisors late Tuesday gave the go-ahead to the biggest resort development in Lake Tahoe history — an expansion project that aims to turn the 67-year-old ski area into a year-round destination for the jet set.

The idea is that Squaw Valley will be able to compete with snowy paradises around the country, while immunizing itself from the whims of the drought and the ravages of climate change. But some local residents say the development is so ambitious that it threatens to steamroll the character of the region.

“This is really about our resort re-establishing itself as one of the preeminent resorts in North America,” said Andy Wirth, the president and chief executive officer of the development company, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings.

Squaw Valley Dog

Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle – A dog hangs in the village at Squaw Valley Calif. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved an ambitious expansion plan at the nearby Squaw Valley ski resort.

“It sounds like fun,” countered Tom Mooers, the executive director of Sierra Watch, a nonprofit environmental group, “but it doesn’t sound like Tahoe.”

The plan over the next 25 years is to build 850 new hotel, condominium and residential units — with at least one building climbing as high as 10 stories — as well as entertainment complexes and an enormous year-round adventure camp on more than 100 acres of what is now mostly parking lot.

The new Squaw would include skier services, shopping, restaurants, bars, employee housing and parking lots. Thirty-five time-share units would be built near the mouth of Shirley Canyon. The Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan — five years in the making — would cost as much as $1 billion and, by all accounts, fundamentally change the look and feel of the west side of Lake Tahoe.

Conservationists and many residents in the area see an environmental disaster.

"Tom Mooers" & "Sierra Watch"

Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle – Sierra Watch executive director Tom Mooers walks along the Lake Tahoe shoreline in Tahoe City, Calif., on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved an ambitious expansion plan at the nearby Squaw Valley ski resort which is opposed by Mooers’ group.

“The history of Tahoe is local jurisdictions making decisions about developments that harm the lake,” said Mooers, who claims the development will clog local roads with traffic, spew sediment into the Truckee River and Lake Tahoe and consume massive amounts of scarce water. “There is a direct connection between this project and our ability to maintain the lake’s clarity and keep Tahoe blue,” he said.

Mooers said he will appeal the project in Placer County Superior Court, arguing that the developers violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not adequately assessing the project’s impacts, particularly the 1,400 daily car trips that traffic engineers say the development will generate.

But it was primarily the resort’s cultural influence that prompted hundreds of people — many wearing purple “Keep Squaw True” T-shirts — to crowd into Tuesday’s marathon hearing in Kings Beach to express their opposition.

The rebuilding of Squaw Valley, they say, will destroy the outdoorsy, back-to-nature feel of their ruggedly beautiful mountain communities. Mooers and others were particularly upset with the project’s signature feature, a 90,000-square-foot Mountain Adventure Camp with bowling alleys, arcades, a movie theater and water features, plus simulated skydiving and rock climbing walls that mimic the great pitches of Yosemite.

The Tahoe experience “is rooted in the appreciation of the great outdoors,” Mooers said. “This would encourage us to send our kids indoors in a 10-story building that would have North America’s largest water slide.”

Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan Alterra Mountain Company

Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle – A scale model depicts a large development (foreground, with dark gray roofs) planned for the current parking area at Squaw Valley.

The Squaw Valley ski resort was expanded for the 1960 Winter Olympics and was, at the time, one of the great resort destinations in the country. Although the 6,000-acre ski area is still world class, the facilities themselves lag far behind big mountain complexes in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, Wirth said.

“Since the ’60s, Squaw Valley has fallen,” Wirth said. “We are quite proud of what we have to offer, but it’s frankly, on the competitive landscape, insufficient. The resorts in Colorado and Utah are bigger and have more variety.”

He said Squaw Valley has invested $50 million since 2011 on snowmaking, chair lifts and improvements to the resort village, but the efforts haven’t been nearly enough to compete with the big boys.

The expansion ramped up in 2012, when Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows Ski Resort joined forces and began operating as Squaw Valley Ski Holdings. The combined resorts make up the second-largest ski area in Tahoe behind Heavenly Valley.

Like its Sierra competitors, Squaw Valley has been hit hard by drought. Last year Vail Corp., which owns Tahoe’s Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood resorts, reported its annual skier visits were down more than 30 percent since the 2012 season. All of the resorts have been investing in infrastructure and all-season facilities in a bid to entice customers.

The biggest problem at Squaw Valley, Wirth said, is the quality and variety of lodging at the base of the mountain — but the plan approved Tuesday includes much more than that. The adventure center will have a year-round training center for athletes, including the U.S. Ski Team.

Among the development’s supporters is champion moguls skier Jonny Moseley, who won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

“I am one of Squaw’s biggest fans. I tour the country bragging about Squaw,” Moseley said during Tuesday’s hearing. “I really look forward to seeing Squaw reach its full potential … (but) it cannot get there without significant investment in infrastructure.”

Several local parents, meanwhile, said they wanted their children to be able to see performing arts, go to the bowling alley or swim in a lap pool.

Others cited the potential economic benefits to the region. The plan — which is half as big as the first plan proposed in 2011 — is expected to bring in $22 million in tax revenue, $20 million in transit initiatives, and $150 million in new infrastructure, including road, utility and fire service improvements.

The project will also include the restoration of Squaw Creek, which was channelized before the Olympics, and Olympic Channel, which was diverted into a culvert pipe.

Wetland areas and a dog park would be built, according to the plan, and there would be improvements to parks, hiking trails, bicycle paths and playgrounds.

Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: pfimrite@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @pfimrite Tahoe True