Opinion: Squaw Valley redevelopment project should be downsized
May 10, 2016
I was interested to read the April 15 My Turn article in this paper from a group calling itself the Squaw Valley Homeowners Association, titled, "Why we support development of the Village at Squaw Valley."
That new group is actually made up predominantly of second-home owners who are members of the various condo owners associations and is distinct from the Squaw Valley Property Owners Association, which has been around for over 40 years.
The Friends of Squaw Valley believes that most property owners in Squaw Valley, be they single family or condominium, primary or second-home owners, generally support some further development of the current base Village.
However, FoSV disagrees with this SVHOA group's trusting acceptance of the developer's proposals, including the appropriate scope (mass and scale) of the proposed project, the choice of recreational attractions, the extent of employee housing and the most appropriate actions going forward.
SVHOA supports the creation of an indoor recreation area which would, "contribute positively to the transformation of Squaw Valley into a year round resort." Many people (including the majority of FoSV) believe that this indoor, primarily water park, recreation facility (aka the Mountain Adventure Camp) is not in keeping with Squaw Valley, that there are already a multitude of activities in the Valley year round, and, that the facility is far too large and in a visually objectionable location.
Disappointingly, the Final EIR did not explore other attractions for a 4-season destination resort.
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Additionally, SVHOA says that the project will "provide a source of sorely needed quality housing for Valley workers," without mentioning that it falls short of providing on-site housing for half of the incremental increase in full time employees that the Squaw Valley MAC, long ago, requested it to do.
Instead, the project proposes, like every prior Squaw Valley developer, to pay "in lieu of" fees or subsidies for housing outside the Valley.
Going forward, SVHOA puts resolution of the environmental issues in the hands of the Placer County Board of Supervisors and the Planning Department, essentially asking them to overlook the impacts in view of the potential benefits.
FoSV does not agree. In view of the Final EIR's dismissal of most all concerns expressed in the 350 response letters to the draft EIR, we believe the public should continue to strongly make their voices heard through letters to and oral arguments before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.
All issues of traffic, visual obstructions, water, green house gases, etc. were erroneously forsaken. Twenty significant and unavoidable impacts remain.
The Friends of Squaw Valley continue to believe that the best outcome would be for the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors to require a reduction in scope as advised in the Alternative Section of the Draft EIR and codified on page 3-59 of the Final EIR:
"The Reduced Density Alternative was developed to avoid or substantially reduce the project's significant and unavoidable impacts … This alternative would reduce the overall project size (e.g., unit count, square footage, employee housing, and parking) by approximately 50%."
The Final EIR states that this alternative is "potentially feasible." We are aware that the developer will say that such a reduction would not allow the project to "pencil out," that the amenities/benefits would have to be reduced, and that Squaw might fall short in its aspiration to be a world-class resort.
But, as the Friends of Squaw Valley have said for years, the fragility of the Squaw Valley environment should not be sacrificed on the altar of corporate profits nor greed.
We have yet to see any economic analysis justifying the "critical mass" declared necessary for this project. According to a recent Sacramento Bee article, "Squaw Valley's goal is to bring more skiers to the mountain, not make money from real estate."
Considering that, let's recommend the project be downsized to the level of the Reduced Density Alternative.
Upcoming public hearings on this proposed project include the SVMAC 5/14 and Planning Commission 5/26. Please attend and voice your opinion.
Ed Heneveld, an Olympic Valley resident, authored this opinion column on behalf of The Friends of Squaw Valley. Visit friendsofsv.org to learn more.