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Protecting Lake Tahoe from a Massive Ski Resort Expansion

Case Overview

Homewood Mountain Resort is a small, quaint, family-oriented ski facility located in a primarily residential community of rustic single-family homes tucked among tall trees. When real estate developers proposed to build hundreds of condominiums and hotel rooms along with a commercial center, local residents challenged the plan before the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) as well as the Placer County Board of Supervisors.

Lake Tahoe, viewed from the hill at Homewood.  (Christopher Carfi)

Despite serious environmental issues, TRPA approved the project in December of 2011. The Agency further weakened the existing Tahoe Regional Plan by passing special amendments for Homewood that will waive or loosen restrictions on building height, residential density, and commercial development.

TRPA’s fundamental duty under the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Compact is to restore the Lake’s water clarity and health, which it has so far failed to accomplish.

In January of 2012, community members and conservationists asked a federal court to reject an inadequate Environmental Impact Report and to stop the construction of a 325-unit complex along California’s scenic west shore of Lake Tahoe. The environmental activists emphasized that they were not asking the court for a permanent halt to the Homewood development. Instead, they were seeking a new Environmental Impact Report that properly mitigates the effects of development near Lake Tahoe’s shores, as required by the Tahoe Regional Plan.

In January of the following year, the judge sent the proposed expansion back to the drawing board, ruling that Placer County and TRPA improperly analyzed the feasibility of building a smaller facility.

In a lengthy decision, U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb rejected the developer’s claim that it would lose money if it reduced the size of the planned resort. He noted that the combined Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement (EIR-EIS) inexplicably failed to consider all streams of income, including condominium and hotel revenues. “The EIR-EIS misleads the public by suggesting that [ski lift] ticket sales revenue is the only relevant factor in assessing the financial viability of Homewood …” the judge wrote. He ruled that no construction could begin until a “legally adequate” EIR-EIS that properly considered a scaled-down project had been prepared and circulated.

Earthjustice filed the lawsuit against TRPA and the Homewood developers in the U.S. District Court of Eastern California. Placer County is also named in the suit for violating the California Environmental Quality Act. Earthjustice is representing the Sierra Club as well as Friends of the West Shore, a grassroots community organization representing more than 500 members from the California side of Lake Tahoe.

Case ID

2305

Attorneys

Clients

Friends of West Shore

Case Updates

January 9, 2013 | In the News: Tahoe Daily Tribune

Judge’s Rejection of Tahoe Ski Resort’s Proposed Expansion Good for Lake

A federal judge rejected Homewood Ski Resort’s proposal to build a hotel, condominiums, apartments, chalets, townhomes, penthouse units, and retail space, citing incomplete and misleading information in an environmental impact report. The ruling is an important step in efforts to protect Lake Tahoe and its surrounding area from environmentally destructive development. Homewood must now scale down and reanalyze its proposal.