Proposed Village at Squaw Valley Ski Resort – An Opportunity for Californians to See How CEQA Is Used in Practice

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The August 4, 2012 Sacramento Bee has a brief article (“Placer County Supervisors Hear Proposal for New Resort Community“) reporting that the Placer County Board of Supervisors heard a staff presentation at their July 24 meeting regarding the proposed expansion of the Village at Squaw Valley. See the staff report here.

Located near North Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. In 2012, there are numerous interests at play in the region with competing visions: for example, a coalition wants the Reno/Tahoe region to bid for a future Winter Olympics (see www.renotahoewintergames.org) and obviously wants updated, top-notch facilities, while other vocal local residents want to keep Squaw Valley a little quirky and prevent it from turning into a generic corporate-style operation.

Whatever happens, union officials will probably allign with whichever side serves their own interest of gaining full control of construction for this development with a Project Labor Agreement.

On behalf of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, I submitted a comment about the article. Here is the text:

Here’s more information for the interested reader.

Squaw Valley Resort LLC, owned since 2010 by KSL Capital Partners, LLC (a Denver-based private equity firm that invests in recreational resorts, spas, clubs, etc.) wants the Placer County Board of Supervisors to approve a “Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan and Phase 1A Project” that would amend the existing Squaw Valley General Plan and Land Use Ordinance.

When KSL bought the development, it announced plans to make $50 million in major capital improvements to the property over the next several years.

County staff determined that this project would have a significant enough impact on the environment that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) would be necessary under the thresholds of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

In August, the county will issue a Notice of Preparation informing the public that an Environmental Impact Report will be necessary. The notice will establish a “public scoping meeting.” At this meeting and through the correspondence that comes in during this initial scoping period, the public will find out which parties are absolutely opposed to the project, as well as which parties are intending to get something from Squaw Valley Resort by using CEQA to block the project until their demands are met. There will be intrigue, with hidden agendas and ulterior motives.

Then a draft Environmental Impact Report will be prepared, and the public will comment on it, trying to slow the approval down by forcing the county to rewrite it or make significant changes. This will also build a case for future lawsuits. Then the county will respond to the comments and issue a final Environmental Impact Report to be approved by the Board of Supervisors. Then parties will sue the county claiming the Environmental Impact Report is deficient.

Squaw Valley USA International Mountain ResortIn the meantime, some of the objecting parties will be negotiating a deal with Squaw Valley Resort behind the scenes: accede to our demands and we’ll agree in exchange to drop our environmental objections.

I’ll be watching for CEQA-based interference from the Sacramento Building and Construction Trades Council and its individual entities, particularly the electricians, sheet metal workers, and plumbers unions. I’m sure they would like a monopoly on this project, and it’s much easier to hire lawyers to coerce it out of the developer than to try to sell the developer on union-only construction.

I look forward to comprehensive coverage in the Sacramento Bee of the approval process of this proposed project. It will be a good opportunity to show the public how CEQA is used in practice.

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