Aug 102016
 

The Placer county planning commission has a big vote coming up this week up the hill in Lake Tahoe. Squaw Valley has been pitching a plan to redevelop its parking lots with additional lodging and hospitality offerings. The ski industry is changing all over the country and Squaw says it wants to remain competitive with Colorado, Utah and many other resorts around the country who have been upgrading and enhancing their offerings to skiers.  From the perspective of Placer county, this means more jobs and more economic development for the region. It is a total no-brainer were it not for…

…This project being in Tahoe. Out there there will always going to be opponents to any proposed redevelopment, even if it’s on a parking lot. Did you catch that? They are using an existing ugly parking lot for the space to expand their facility, no trees will be harmed!

The vocal opposition seems to be a mixture of NIMBY types (remember my past posts about Incorporate Olympic Valley?) and one particularly aggressive environmental group, Sierra Watch.  This organization has waged a  campaign, much of which is built on distortions, in a way that’s not often seen – even in the socialist utopia known as Lake Tahoe.

It’s interesting to note however that, Sierra Watch isn’t always so aggressive in its opposition to development in the region. The Squaw Project appears to receive far more intense and virulent opposition than anything else Sierra Watch has undertaken in recent years.

I am pretty sure I have figured out why. A look at Sierra Watch’s publicly available financial filings shows something they haven’t been telling the public, or even their supporters about.

Over the past few years, they’ve had massive infusions of cash on their balance sheet. In fact, Sierra Watch’s assets nearly quadrupled over 12 months from July 2014 to June 2015. This totals to a 375 percent increase.

Where does the cash come from?  There’s been speculation that it may come from developers in the region since Sierra Watch seems to be mildly opposed and simply quiet on some projects but seems to be opposed to Squaw with the furor of a movement.

What’s even more interesting is Sierra Watch seemingly hasn’t disclosed any of this on their website or in other public communications. But, It makes sense why they have been threatening a lawsuit. They now have the resources to sustain a legal battle until they get what they want.

All of this makes one wonder what Sierra Watch is really after here with Squaw. A lot of questions can be raised, again because other developments seemed to have been approved with far less controversy.

Is this just another attempt to get a massive cash infusion into its coffers? Is their vocal opposition based on the fact that they see another massive cash payout that can come from a big employer like Squaw? This reminds me of the labor unions threatening Roseville with environmental lawsuits which could all be settled if Roseville agreed to a project labor agreement. (Which they did and the electric rates are higher as a result) We call this “Greenmail”.

What is the whole story behind all this cash suddenly swishing around Sierra Watch’s coffers?

There are a lot of questions here. A lot. It looks like the planning commissioners and supervisors need to know what is driving this group’s opposition as they contemplate the issues over the next few weeks.

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