Guest Columnb: Sonoma is Placer’s crystal ball for Tahoe
Could Sonoma County be Placer County’s crystal ball for future things to come in Tahoe?
With this year’s deadliest fires in California’s history and four unprecedented winter season wildfires currently burning throughout Southern California, it’s time for the Placer County Board of Supervisors to reconsider their direction of mass development in rural areas, such as North Lake Tahoe.
Consider asking a family living in the urban area of Santa Rosa: “What did you think your chances were of losing your house to a wild fire six months ago?” Well, I did.
One of them was wearing a Sonoma Strong T-shirt and his reply was: “Never.” Homes within his neighborhood are now gone with more than 4,658 structures and 600 businesses destroyed countywide.
As a resident of the North Lake Tahoe area, if I were asked the same question, with my house being located within a national forest with a record number of dying trees, piles of downed trees and brush, my reply would be, “100 percent,” followed by: “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
Comparing the evacuation process that occurred in Sonoma County, which has multiple secondary roads and Highway 101 with four lanes, to the isolated forest lined roadway system planned for the Martis Valley West Development, our community is already at risk without even adding a single home.
The Martis Valley West proposal would route traffic from 760 homes onto the already congested two-lane Highway of 267. With no timely notice to evacuate, the Sonoma County fires were responsible for at least 14 deaths where some remains were found as ash and bones; and could not be identified.
The thought to shelter in place, as noted by local fire officials relating to the Homewood and Squaw Valley projects, also recently approved is beyond normal human exposure and in the case of the Sonoma County fires, resulted in deaths from heart attacks and anxiety. The family from Santa Rosa described winds strong enough to overturn cars and ambers the size of small dura flame logs flying through the air.
Based on the current inadequate infrastructure and Basin-wide emergency evacuation concerns noted by local law enforcement, hundreds of residents, and environmental groups, the Placer County Board of Supervisors are being irresponsible and making a decision based solely on projected tax revenue.
To then spend tax payer dollars in court to defend the county’s approval of the Martis Valley West Project against Sierra Watch, Mountain Area Preservation, and The League to Save Lake Tahoe, with the goal of development, which like the devastation in Sonoma County, would leave residents and visitors in a life and death situation, devastating the Tahoe economy for year after.
Months later, the businesses of Napa and Sonoma counties are strongly encouraging the return of visitors in order to rebound from the lost revenue from tourism. Destroyed lots in the Napa Valley are now up for sale.
As Placer County supervisors in charge of the welfare of the members of their community, please look at the lessons learned from the Sonoma County fires and rescind your approval to increase developments in areas with inadequate infrastructure.
Placer County, please stop pursuing your court battle over the Martis Valley West Development; before we are only left wearing “Tahoe Strong” T-shirts.
Jim Sajdak is a resident of Tahoe City