On August 24th, California’s Third District Court of Appeals sided with Sierra Watch to halt approval for development plans in Palisades Tahoe, formerly known as Squaw Valley. This is part of an ongoing effort since 2010 through the Tahoe Truckee True campaign organized by the Sierra Watch. Sierra Watch is a conservation nonprofit group that engages thousands of citizen volunteers in a long-term strategic effort to secure shared Sierra values.
The battle began when KSL Capital Partners purchased Palisades Tahoe in 2010 as a real estate growth potential. Later they partnered with Henry Crown Company in 2017 to create private equity conglomerate Alterra Mountain Company.
“Alterra was hell-bent on bringing a Vegas-style excess to the mountains of Tahoe”, says Tom Mooers, Executive Director of the plaintiff group, Sierra Watch. The 2015 proposed project comprised of a series of high-rise condo hotels, a roller coaster, and a 90,000 square-foot indoor water park which would be as wide as a Walmart and nearly three times as tall. The approximate timeline for this project would be 25 years.
A panel of three Justices based their decision on the project’s impact on Lake Tahoe, fire danger, noise, and traffic. Keep in mind that the proposed project in Palisades Tahoe is on land considered “very high fire hazard severity zone” with only one way out. The threat of wildfire is more real than ever punctuated by the Caldor fire that closed Highway 50. If the project were built, during an evacuation it would take an estimated 10 hours and 40 minutes to travel three miles out of the valley and onto Highway 89. This would not count the thousands of car trips added to Tahoe’s crowded roads for construction adding to existing gridlock on crowded summer days.
There is also the iconic Lake Tahoe known for its clarity and blue water. Placer County’s environmental review softened the development’s impact on the lake and how the added pollutants from traffic attributes to the diminishing effects on the lake’s clarity.At this moment, Sierra Watch’s Tom Mooers states, “This is great news for Tahoe and everyone who stood with us to defend our mountain values. But our goal was never to win a lawsuit. Our goal has always been to protect our Sierra resources for future generations.”