Opinion: A smaller village at Squaw Valley both possible, necessary
The Friends of Squaw Valley (FoSV) has spent the last four years informing the public about the Village at Squaw Valley development proposal as well as advocating for a more reasoned and compatible project that preserves our community character. We are in favor of a better village, but with a “Goldilocks” balance (not too big nor too small).
However, as informed by the required Environmental Impact Report, we remain opposed to the specific plan that will be presented to the Placer County Board of Supervisors (BOS) on November 15. The proposal contains too many environmental and social impacts that just are too severe to inflict upon our community and the greater Tahoe region.
FoSV has sought consensus in trying to speak as one voice and represent all interests reviewing this project. Some want no project. Some want no indoor water park. Some want building heights reduced.
But there have been several common themes expressed during conversations with our neighbors and in responses to surveys. This proposed Village at Squaw plan is too large (1,500 bedrooms), too environmentally harmful (20 significant and unavoidable impacts; traffic alone exceeds existing conditions), too long timeline (25-30 years of construction), too risky (uncertainty of future climate and recreation conditions; not enough performance guarantees nor oversight), and far too detrimental to the future of the Valley.
We love Squaw because it is a great ski mountain located in a beautiful valley. Thankfully, that challenging terrain will persevere. There has been considerable debate about the “soul” of Squaw, but that is a very subjective notion.
We contend it has to do with the essence of the valley, the Resort and the community in harmony, the ski experience, the history to date, and the legacy we would hope for our children.
We fear that this oversized village with its adverse impacts would forever change “raw” Squaw into a congested Disney-esque experience. Challenge, risk, solitude, uniqueness, openness, human-powered adventure will be transformed into urbanized, crowded, unaffordable, inner tube ride of cookie-cutter sameness.
FoSV contends the Final EIR was excessively dismissive and did not adequately evaluate smaller, less impactful alternatives. We believe that a viable, reduced size village is possible that still meets the objectives and desired financial returns of the developer. We intend to present this “existence proof” at the November 15 BOS hearing.
FoSV urges the Board of Supervisors to listen to the community, respect the vote of the Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Council, and to seek out a smaller sized development because it is more compatible with the character of Squaw Valley and attendant environmental impacts.
Our analysis shows that a smaller village can be financially viable for the developer and produce only a slightly reduced revenue for the county. Properly balanced development can accommodate all interests of the developer, County and community.
Ed Heneveld, an Olympic Valley resident, authored this opinion column on behalf of The Friends of Squaw Valley. Visit friendsofsv.org to learn more.