CITIZENS CONCERNED ABOUT TRAFFIC, NOISE, HIGH-RISES, LIGHT POLLUTION AND DROUGHT
Kings Beach, Calif. – Yesterday, Placer County planning officials held the first public hearing on KSL Capital Partner’s Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan. The proposal would permit a series of high-rise condominium hotels, an indoor amusement park, 30 time-share “cabins” in the mouth of Shirley Canyon, and acres of parking garages in Squaw Valley—development unlike anything the Sierra has ever seen.
The proposal has generated significant controversy, evidenced by the standing room only crowd of approximately 120 concerned citizens that packed the North Tahoe Event Center, many of them wearing purple T-shirts and hats urging the county to Keep Squaw True.
“We asked our supporters to show up today and they came from Squaw Valley, North Lake Tahoe, the Central Valley, and even the Bay Area,” said Isaac Silverman of Sierra Watch, the conservation organization behind Keep Squaw True. “This room is full at 10:00 a.m. on a work day because people care about Squaw Valley and North Lake Tahoe, and they don’t agree with the future mapped out by KSL’s proposal.”
Alex Fisch, the senior planner in charge of overseeing the Placer County’s environmental review, began the meeting by walking planning commissioners and the standing room only crowd through the 23 “significant and unavoidable” impacts identified in the report.
The Draft Environmental Impact Report (dEIR), a 2,000+ page document released just over one month ago, paints a bleak picture for the future of Squaw Valley and North Lake Tahoe. Traffic jams, high-rise condo hotels that block scenic vistas and brighten the night sky with light pollution, construction and traffic noise, significant greenhouse gas emissions, and the destruction of all but one of the remaining buildings from the 1960 winter Olympics are among the “significant and unavoidable” impacts the county warned residents to expect if they approve KSL’s Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan.
Silverman, staff attorney with Sierra Watch was critical of both proposed development and the County Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
“Squaw and North Lake Tahoe deserve better than the gridlocked traffic, urbanization, noise, and cultural and environmental degradation that the County rightly concludes would result from KSL’s proposal,” said Silverman. “Even so, this report contains fatal flaws that minimize the true extent of environmental harm to everything from Squaw Creek and the plants and animals that depend on it, to traffic, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Sierra Watch has lined up a team of experts in planning, hydrology, traffic engineering, wildlife biology, land use law, and even herpetology to help analyze the draft environmental impact report. They will submit comprehensive written comments prior to the July 17th deadline which will detail numerous deficiencies in the County’s analysis.
Public comment today was limited to 3 minutes per individual, yet still lasted over an hour. During that time people from across the North Lake Tahoe region and beyond critiqued the report for failing to adequately describe and mitigate the project’s negative environmental effects or consider reasonable alternatives, and the project itself as out of sync with community values.
Numerous individuals commented on the impacts of the 108′ tall high-rises, groundwater pumping, and traffic concerns.
One local resident, a nurse, complained of the failure of the report to consider the impact of the shipping and receiving center that would be constructed 75 feet from her home of 20 years, exposing her to toxic diesel emissions and constant noise.
A young homeowner in Squaw Valley pointed out that he would be over 50 years old by the time construction, and all of the associated noise, dust, and visual impacts, had ended. An older homeowner noted that he would be dead before the projected 25 year build out is complete.
Not one member of the community, aside from KSL executive Chevis Hosea, spoke in support of the Draft Environmental Impact Report or KSL’s proposal.
KSL Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in Denver, Colorado, purchased Squaw Valley in 2010, citing the property’s “great growth potential”.
Their current proposal would remake Squaw Valley with a series of highrise hotels and condo projects with 1,500 new bedrooms − as many as in three of the giant highrise casinos at Tahoe’s Stateline combined − and a massive indoor amusement park as big as a Walmart and ten-stories tall, with waterslides, fake rivers, arcades, and simulated sky-diving.
“The Draft EIR encourages us to ask some important questions about the Tahoe experience,” said Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch. “Do we want to take our kids to sit in traffic and play in an arcade? Or do we want to find peace and quiet and share the great outdoors?”
California planning law requires thorough environmental review of large development proposals including publication of the EIR at issue during yesterday’s hearing and multiple opportunities for public comment and engagement.
That Draft EIR is available online at: http://www.placer.ca.gov/departments/communitydevelopment/envcoordsvcs/eir/villageatsquawvalley.
Public comments will be received through July 17, 2015. They can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed directly to:
Maywan Krach, Community Development Technician
Environmental Coordination Services
Placer County Community Development Resource Agency
3091 County Center Drive, Suite 190
Auburn, CA 95603
Those interested in more information about Sierra Watch and its effort to Keep Squaw True should contact Isaac Silverman at (530) 265-2849, ext. 203;