We love the irony that developed this week in the emerging cat fight over the incorporation of Olympic Valley. There’s now two different organizations involved. One that seeks to encourage sustainable growth, through local control, oddly named “Incorporate Olympic Valley”. This week, a second group appeared, seeking to maintain the status quo, keeping control of the valley largely in control of real estate developers. Oddly, this group has adopted the name “Save Olympic Valley.” At least it brings a bit of whimsy to an otherwise tense situation. Suggestions have been made that they exchange names
Why the tension? It’s simple. Squaw Valley Ski Holdings has begun a pretty serious attack on the town incorporation proponents. It’s becoming more and more clear that SVSH, and its parent, KSL Capital Partners, are not in Squaw Valley to run a mountain. They’re in Squaw Valley to develop some real estate. They already have made a substantial investment in Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, and we’re sure that they must be feeling quite threatened by the possibility of the incorporation of Olympic Valley. The pressure from investors must be tremendous after three lackluster seasons.
The counter campaign started quietly, A letter from some athletes and other Squaw Valley notables lauding Andy Wirth’s leadership was submitted to the Tahoe Daily Tribune. It seemed innocent on the surface, honest people expressing their own opinion. Ultimately the letter was widely criticized when word got out that most of the people that signed had some sort of business relationship or employment with Squaw.
Things have taken a turn for the worse lately, and it’s becoming more clear that SVSH and it’s leadership team are not the community minded people that they would like us to think. Here’s some examples:
• Andy Wirth submitted a letter to the Placer County Local Agency Formation Commission questioning the incorporation effort, and attacking the intentions of the local community and their desire for local control. This creation of polarization between the corporation and the community is not representative of a community-minded individual.
• Mr. Wirth submitted a guest column to the Tahoe Daily Tribune titled “A Blinding Flash Of The Obvious.” While the letter attempts to support the athletes that signed that first letter, it instead turned into an ugly attack on David Brew, a Squaw Valley homeowner that simply chose to speak up. We agree that Wirth and the various parts that make up KSL Capital’s presence in Squaw Valley have been listening and offering some changes, at least up until now. Their actions tell us that they seem to be done listening. Similar personal attacks were made this week on IOV Chair Fred Ilfeld in the CapRadio interview. Personal attacks on citizens in the local community? Something is wrong here.
• The Save Olympic Valley campaign was launched, complete with a slick website. The website serves no purpose other than to spread disinformation about the incorporation of Olympic Valley, and question the motives of those that are involved in the Incorporate Olympic Valley campaign. Who are these people? Here’s the statement from the site: “Save Olympic Valley is a local coalition of concerned residents, business owners, property owners, workers and others who have come together with Squaw Valley to ask the tough questions that deserve to be answered.” The only actual entity named on the site is the disclosure statement “Paid for by Save Olympic Valley, with major funding by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC” The IOV website clearly lists a Board Of Directors and states their connection to IOV. IOV holds public monthly meetings, that are well advertised, and open to anybody. What is SOV trying to hide?
• Save Olympic Valley has recently run full page ads in the Sierra Sun/Tahoe Daily Tribune, with the same rhetoric attacking the incorporation effort by IOV. Once again, these ads are “Paid for by Save Olympic Valley, with major funding by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC.” We think KSL may be afraid that an incorporation effort may actually be successful.
• Employees have been encouraged to attend an “All Employee Town Hall Meeting” next week to find out the latest plans for Squaw Valley. A couple of employees noted that those employees that were unable to attend have been directed to visit the the Contact Us tab at saveolympicvalley.org. Our question is whether or not Koolaid will be served at the meeting.
• In the March minutes of the Squaw Valley CAC meeting, Mr. Wirth states that KSL owned commercial tenants in the Village will be closed from April 28th until May 22nd for “May Away.” Merchants that are not KSL owned are encouraged to also close during this time. How are employees supposed to pay their rent and grocery bills that month? What sort of community support is KSL providing with this sort of leadership, which is clearly focused on protecting this season’s bottom line for KSL? Local business owners and their employees do not have a couple of billion dollars in the bank to survive what is a essentially a work furlough.
These are not the sort of actions that one would expect from a corporation that is truly trying to work with the community. We’re not alone in that assertion. Unbeknownst to us, the Tahoe Daily Tribune published a new interview with Dr. Robb Gaffney today. Gaffney recently announced his resignation as an ambassador to Squaw Valley. The TDT article has a fantastic quote from Gaffney. It says exactly what we’ve been feeling, and I had no idea Gaffney would say this:
“There’s been a really strong campaign by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings against the incorporation effort, and so for me, it’s one of those red flags when you see the developer actually fighting the community,” – Dr. Robb Gaffney
There’s one giant thing to remember in all of this. The private equity fund that KSL Capital is using to support Squaw Valley is reported to be somewhere between $1 to $2 billion dollars. Incorporate Olympic Valley is working hard to raise $115,000 to fund the incorporation process. Yes, it’s a David and Goliath battle. Our voices are being squashed, and fear is being used to scare people into supporting SVSH and KSL Capital. We suggest you look at information very closely and see who’s really being completely honest and open.
You can start with a great article posted today. MtnAdvisor.com posted the article “Behind The Incorporate Olympic Valley Movement.” The article provides a great Q & A format with IOV Board Member Jamie Schectman. It dispels a lot of the misinformation being spread by SOV. It does so by providing actual facts and expresses a tone that says that IOV would like to work with SVSH and KSL to arrive at a solution. We appreciate that IOV is fully committed to the community of Olympic Valley, a community which includes Squaw Valley, the mountain.
We’re not anti-development at Unofficial Alpine. We have very clearly supported Troy Caldwell’s development at White Wolf, and also the proposed Alpine Sierra subdivision at Alpine Meadows. Squaw Valley is absolutely ripe for some new development and redevelopment, both on the mountain and in the Village. We support smart sustainable growth that is based on a healthy relationship between the corporate owners and the local community. We have no particular stake in Squaw Valley, and in fact, turned down advertising revenue from supporters of IOV. We believe in building strong communities that protect the future of sliding on snow for everyone.