By DAVE WADLEIGH
In the April issue of Moonshine Ink, there was an opinion piece submitted by members of the Squaw Valley Homeowners Association Board of Directors Forum entitled Squaw’s Development Plans Are Good for the Valley. As is apparent from the title, the submission was in support of the proposed development plans and respectfully stated the opinions of the authors. Despite its appearance, this piece has roots in a deeper issue behind the development and one of the greatest threats to Tahoe: Does money matter more than people’s lives?
The issue lies in the foundation on which the legitimacy of these opinions is built. The authors submit that they “believe we are typical of the 1,175 multi-family residential unit owners who account for nearly 70 percent of the 1,700 total residential housing units in Squaw Valley.” The logic continues on to include mention of the quantities of property and transient occupancy taxes paid by these unit owners. It is easy to simply accept these statements as proof of the authors’ legitimacy, but to do so would mean ignorance of their true meaning. To attain an educated understanding of these points, you must first understand the terms being used.
Multi-family residential units are defined — on the homeowners association’s own blog — as being “made up of condominiums, town homes, condo-hotels, and timeshares.”
They also state that “most Squaw Valley multi-family residential owners (approximately 90 percent) enjoy their ownership as second-home and not as their primary residence.”
The transient occupancy tax is defined by Placer County as “a rental tax paid by the guest for short-term rentals up to 30 days.” When you consider these definitions, along with the aforementioned statements, you see that this pro-development argument is being made confidently from a podium of money.
Throughout the course of the development debate, the permanent residential population of the area has delivered an unprecedented, undeniable, and exceedingly clear position on the issues: Do not go through with the proposed development. Their reasons are plentiful, but the important point is that this population, whose lives are the most directly affected, has clearly voiced its position. On the other side, you have proponents of the development who do not actually live in Tahoe, and their stance is that spending money in the area gives their opinions equal or more weight than that of the permanent residents.
Take a moment to consider why the two parties differ in their opinions. The answer is often convoluted by politics and resentment, and gets overlooked. Permanent residents are interested in what will be best for the lives of people who spend every day living with the benefits and consequences of these choices. Second-home owners are interested in what will be best for the investment they have made in their properties; they do not have to feel the consequences of such choices on a daily basis.
The outcome of this issue may very well set the precedent for Tahoe’s future, and your educated understanding of its reality is imperative. No matter how you feel about congestion, the environment, property value, or any of the surface issues, ask yourself if the wishes of people who spend more money are more important than the wishes of people who spend more of their lives. Ask yourself, is a dollar more valuable than a minute of your life, a day of your life, a year of your life, or an entire lifetime? If the power of money wins, we will have stepped down a road toward a new Tahoe where the primary residents leave, and the beautiful, authentic mountain culture that we all love is lost with them. I beg you, take note of the issue and stand up for the value of lives.
~ Dave Wadleigh is a ski coach at Squaw Valley, Sierra Nevada College business student, and a Tahoe City resident.