My Turn: A look into the North Tahoe community plan process, Part 4
April 23, 2013
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth in a four-part opinion series from Marguerite Sprague about ongoing efforts by Placer County and community members with the Tahoe Basin Community Plan Update. The article is written from the perspective of one committee member and is not intended to represent Placer County opinions nor the opinions of any other committee members. Read part one here, part two here and part three here.
The Tahoe City Community Plan effort is a state-required process. But what is the goal? Have past plans guided us to success?
I asked people who participated in previous Community Plan processes, and got straightforward answers. Although Placer County enjoyed environmental and bureaucratic benefits from the last Plan, Tahoe City did not get the local private investors that had been anticipated and sorely needed.
"Why do we need or want those?" you may well ask. Things were great not so long ago. Why change?
Change isn't really a choice. It goes on whether you want it to or not. "There is nothing permanent except change," said Heraclitus long ago (d. 475 B.C.). Our only choice is to set boundaries on change (through zoning and use policies), to ensure that our area changes in ways we like, OR to cling to old plans that haven't helped our area thrive, and continue to decline. The Community Plan aims to do the former. In the words of Georg Lichtenberg (d. 1799), "I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better."
In Tahoe City's commercial core, "fixer uppers" abound, sitting there year after year in need of improvements. Why? I asked around.
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I'm told, it's so expensive to fix up buildings and meet the multitude of regulations about parking, snow storage and more — which protect our ecosystem, a worthy goal we all share — no one can afford to improve buildings on a small scale today in Tahoe City.
Those costs also apply to selling the building, making it too expensive for anyone without deep pockets. Large corporations might afford the risk of fixing up and trying a new business here. But would they change Tahoe City?
With a large corporation, headquarters would likely be elsewhere. The profits would go elsewhere, the decisions would be made elsewhere and they would be less likely to be an active, supportive member of our community. Most people tell us that they treasure our locally owned businesses: They make this place special. But we have fewer now than in years past.
In the past 10 years, our population has declined more than 25 percent. That impacts us all. School populations are smaller. At the same time, firefighters and other working people increasingly cannot afford to live here. How can we attract more families and make Tahoe City a place where people "live and recreate"? By making Tahoe City a place where people can afford to do business.
One of our community challenges is also a strength: people here differ economically. Some people here don't have to work at a job: their resources come from another source. Other people live and work in the community, and are finding it increasingly difficult to get by, taking multiple jobs just to stay in this region because it is so special. Both groups help each other to survive well.
Tahoe City life will be less satisfying if there are no local business owners with personal stakes in the community. The community is also enhanced by residents who sponsor important efforts and improvements in the area. People tell us they like the "feel" of the Tahoe City area and want to preserve it. The challenge is, what change can allow it to be preserved: what creates the desired result?
This topic keeps coming up and the committee is of one mind: we want to see Tahoe City attractive for small, locally owned businesses.
We're all in this together. The Community Plan process will help shape our path forward, to ensure that the Tahoe City region not only survives, but progresses, as all communities must do.
Perhaps, through appropriate regulations and policies, Tahoe City could become a place where local small business owners can find assistance in meeting regulations. This can make the difference between a business being nurtured into vibrancy vs. being too expensive to pursue. This kind of mechanism can facilitate community involvement: it's our region after all.
Your input is valuable when given respectfully. Some of the community input has been solid gold and very helpful. Committee members are volunteers giving up personal time because they care about this community. We all share the same goal: a vibrant Tahoe City that will preserve what we treasure about our region and which will be here more than three generations out. Help create our community plan by providing your thoughtful insight!
As Dr. Suess cautions us, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.."
For the schedule of meetings and more, go to:
Marguerite Sprague is executive director at the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society and a Tahoe City Planning Committee member. She can be reached for comment at email@example.com.