By Chase Schweitzer, Sierra Watch Field Representative. First published as an opinion piece in Moonshine Ink, Truckee and North Lake Tahoe’s Independent Newspaper, under the title, “Placer County Digs Us Further into Housing Crisis“
As we now recognize the hole that we are in regarding this housing crisis, before we can try to pull ourselves out of it we must also recognize who is still doing the digging: Placer County.
The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation estimates that there is currently an unmet need of about 12,100 workforce housing units in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe. Quite a staggering number!
While the Town of Truckee, various agencies, and private businesses are starting to take steps in dealing with the crisis, the only real plan currently coming from Placer County is to make it worse.
Approving overdevelopment in Squaw Valley and Martis Valley West does just that. The Squaw Valley development would need about 751 new employees during winter operations. This is on top of the employees currently working at Squaw Valley.
There would be some employee housing included — 50 units of dormitory-style housing with four beds per room. Not exactly a place for grown-ups. Or families.
But that new housing would only be enough for 250 to 300 employees. Meanwhile, Placer County is allowing for the demolition of 99 existing bedrooms for employees.
Did you do the math? We’d end up with more than 500 winter workers literally out in the cold looking for a place to live.
Further, Placer County also abuses the option of in-lieu fees by requiring only a pittance in place of building the workforce housing that should be mandatory for all resort development. Both KSL and Mountainside Partners are expected to pay in-lieu fees that are less than the cost of one median-priced home in the area.
It doesn’t seem feasible to me that all 500 of those new Squaw employees would fit in a single local area home.
Sitting on this money, Placer County instead only wishes to continue a trend of creating neighborhoods filled almost exclusively with second homes.
There are creative ideas being put forth, but no amount of changing the building codes and fees associated with building tiny homes and secondary units, nor further taxing Airbnb rentals, will do anything if Placer County only allows for development that makes the housing crisis worse.
Instead of helping pay for more studies and workshops that tell us we are in a housing crisis, the county should actually build some housing. It is unfair for them to place the burden on Truckee alone in creating substantive policy for the future.
Now we come back to the rule of holes. Just like traffic and fire issues, the only way to get out of the hole we now find our community in is to stop digging.
Sierra Watch will continue to stand up for the community against the many adverse effects of overdevelopment, especially while Placer County continues to make poor development decisions in the Tahoe/Truckee area.
So, we’ve taken Placer County to court, suing them over their reckless decision-making regarding impacts on traffic, fire danger, and housing (just to name a few).
Sierra Watch will continue applying our expertise in campaign strategy, public outreach, and local organizing to fight the Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan and Martis Valley West, leveraging these skills with direct access to the best experts in the fields of law, wildlife biology, and land-use planning.
Our goal is not simply to win a lawsuit. We want to bring people to the table to work on a collaborative plan that balances limited development with permanent conservation.
If Placer County won’t stop digging us further into the housing crisis hole, we’ll just have to take the shovel away from them.
~ Chase Schweitzer, Sierra Watch Field Representative. If you are interested in reaching out to him, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.