Opinion: Commission must vote to deny Squaw village redevelopment | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Commission must vote to deny Squaw village redevelopment

Tom Mooers
Opinion

When the Placer County Planning Commission voted in July to recommend denial of the proposed Martis Valley West project, they did so based on a closer look at the proposal's potential impacts on traffic, on fire safety, and on Lake Tahoe.

If they apply the same standard to their review of the proposed Village at Squaw Valley project, they should reach the same conclusion and vote to deny that project, too. Because the Squaw proposal would have unacceptable impacts on traffic, safety, and Tahoe — even more so.

Big development decisions have big impacts — on everything from the affordability of housing in the region to the brightness of stars in the night sky.

The fate of proposed projects like the Martis Valley West and Squaw Valley Village proposals will shape North Tahoe — for better or for worse — for decades, even generations, to come.

So what should we think about when we think about these projects?

When the Placer County Planning Commission asked for information this summer about how the Martis Valley West project could impact traffic, fire safety and Lake Tahoe, they were diving into what might be the most important issues in North Tahoe.

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Here's some of what they learned:

1: In terms of traffic, Martis Valley West would guarantee gridlock. It would add 3,985 daily car trips to existing traffic, clogging roads from Kings Beach to Truckee and everywhere in between.

2: For fire safety, the project's own environmental review projected that, in the event of wildfire in the area, it would take residents and employees 1.5 hours just to leave the property. Then what? They'd be stuck in the traffic — along with everyone else trying to evacuate. This is not an example of planning for disaster; this is planning a disaster.

3: And, when it comes to the lake, the Commission learned how the project would not only be detrimental to the visitor experience and quality of life in Tahoe but, also, directly threaten the clarity of the lake itself. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency calculates that the proposed project would pump 1,395 cars into the Basin daily. That traffic would increase Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) in Tahoe, which, in turn, leads to further loss in the lake's famous clarity.

So, on July 7, the Planning Commission voted to recommend that the Placer County Board of Supervisors deny Martis Valley West.

Now that same Commission is faced with an even bigger development proposal. On August 11, they'll take up the proposed Village at Squaw Valley.

With its 10-story-tall high rises and massive indoor waterpark, the project would truly transform North Tahoe — turning away from the great outdoors and basic Tahoe values and, instead, urbanizing the Valley and funneling people into an indoor amusement park.

Just as was the case with Martis Valley West, the project would have far-ranging effects — it would make the affordable housing crisis in the region worse; it would result in 25 years worth of construction noise.

If the Planning Commission narrows its concerns to the same three issues it did for Martis Valley West, here's what they would need to know:

1: In terms of traffic, the Village at Squaw Valley would add 8,410 daily car trips to our traffic mess — more than twice as much as Martis Valley West.

2: For fire safety, the Squaw proposal is an even greater threat. It would take more than 10 hours to evacuate the valley — just to get to Highway 89 — in the event of wildfire.

3: And, when it comes to the lake, the Squaw project would be even worse for Tahoe — adding almost twice the traffic to the Basin, measured in Vehicle Miles Travelled, and twice the threat to the lake's famous clear, blue waters.

On August 11, the Planning Commission will have another opportunity to consider a massive development proposal and ask: What's important to North Lake Tahoe?

If they ask the same questions about Squaw they did about Martis — and judge the project based on its impacts to traffic, fire safety, and Tahoe, the answers should lead to the same conclusion — and a vote to deny.

For more information about Sierra Watch and the campaign to Keep Squaw True, visit keepsquawtrue.org.

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

Read a different view

This week, in preparation of the Aug. 11 Placer County Planning Commission meeting, the Sierra Sun published two opeds about the Village at Squaw Valley redevelopment, one in support of the project by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, and one in opposition, from Sierra Watch’s Tom Mooers.

Click here to read the letter in support.