The Future of Homewood

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A little history: Homewood Mountain Resort sits on private property and boasts the largest parcel in the Lake Tahoe Basin as a former mine. The resort was once two ski areas. They later merged and changed hands over the decades but the resort was always privately owned and family run — until real estate equity firm JMA Ventures LLC, the current owner, was able to purchase the resort with grand plans for redevelopment.

It has become increasingly apparent that Homewood is in some trouble. It’s time for the community to work with local government and regional housing foundations to offer a solution to these stalled out development plans. We need to bring control of this treasure back to the region.

The redevelopment plans have been delayed, it appears, indefinitely. It is an insult to the community to allow this gem, a truly unique property, to fall any further into disrepair. Upon acquisition, grand promises were made by JMA. They made a commitment to revitalize the resort without major disruption of what many consider a hub of the community. JMA promised to be a member of our community and, as such, to be an asset.

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Almost every long-term local employee has been let go over disagreements or thrown their hands up and quit. (To the one who remains: Bless her heart.) Management has brought in many people from other areas; some good, some bad. Many do their best to be a part of the community. The lower paying jobs go to international J-1 students. JMA houses them in the leaky remains of building two at the Tahoe Inn. These are student employees from another country, paid $12 an hour, and being charged $400 per month. They get a bunk bed which is hopefully near the heater and away from the leaks in the roof. No cooking, no laundry, one bedroom, and one bathroom — for eight “kids.” (It is up to county code for employee dormitories.)

JMA’s acquisitions are being neglected and are becoming further dilapidated. They purchased the Tahoe Inn as the operational albeit dingy motor lodge and it’s been allowed to completely deteriorate. Posing threats due to illegal transient occupation, visual nuisance, and likely environmental concern, as the roof on the main structure has been collapsed for multiple winters. Not until after sitting empty for years did they recently start to offer what remains for their student employees.

The south lodge at Homewood burned down and nothing was rebuilt. The only guest building on the mountain itself was closed and turned into a maintenance building. The Sprung instant structure formerly known as the mid mountain pavilion (temporary 2007) was reworked, made pseudo-permanent and renamed the Big Blue View Bar. Instead of serving hot food, bowls of refrigerated chili are handed to guests and they are then pointed to a microwave. For a family of five it takes a half hour to heat chili. They did purchase a lakefront restaurant and marina, but they manage that similarly. No kayak, SUP, mountain bike, or other rentals are available under their leadership.

We have a desperate need for regional long-term housing. The county is in the process of moving its maintenance yard up to Cabin Creek in Truckee. If we could use the housing funds available, TOT, and maintenance building budget, then we could ensure the revitalization promised takes place. Placer County is possibly the only party enabled to move forward with major revitalization projects within the TRPA zone (see Dollar Creek Crossing, Tahoe City Lodge, etc.). Without massive county support, none of these would be moving forward. It seems short-sighted to move the county maintenance yard out of the county.

I propose a study be funded. Determine feasibility of the maintenance yard, long-term housing, and resort revitalization becoming a county project, or consider the formation of an improvement district for the project. Long-term cost analysis should include wear and tear, diesel, and payroll savings from having the maintenance yard in-county versus out. The study should also include long-term projections of increased revenue both from regional property value increases and TOT resulting from the project. Finally, they should use the mountain housing council’s studies to see the cost of the current commuter employee system to our local economy. This will help determine the additional income from having Homewood be a bustling community again. Goals include: to ensure Placer County remains the best place to work, play, and live. To bring life back to the struggling West Shore. To reduce traffic.

~ Sean Michael Wiley was born in 1988 at Tahoe Forest Hospital. Now he keeps birds and loves to ski Homewood and Alpine. He currently runs a boutique vacation rental business in Tahoe City, but has likely served you a smoothie, coffee, or breakfast over the years at various local businesses.

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