Tahoe governing agency mulls housing/lodging policy revision
February 28, 2016
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — When it was created, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's commodities system was designed to limit growth and overdevelopment in the Tahoe Basin.
The main goal was to cap hotel, residential and commercial unit projects to protect the region.
Now it's a policy that many tourism and business stakeholders say is outdated, limiting redevelopment, revitalization and environmental improvement.
"We have essentially created an economic commodity system that is nonexistent in other communities," said Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce president Betty "B" Gorman. "It has sometimes resulted in sellers being unwilling to sell, as they've operated under the belief that they would hit a windfall at some unknown future time because of commodities."
The group found that most respondents stressed a need for review as one of the primary themes. The group also established that the current system is not well understood.
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In turn, Gorman said, it also keeps prospective developers from taking on redevelopment projects.
Tourism industry analyst and Tahoe-based consultant Carl Ribaudo, of SMG Consulting, further explained that some believe the limited number of Tourism Accommodation Units, or TAUs, artificially inflates values for old properties like motels.
"They add so much cost to dissuade people from investing," he said. "The TAUs have become an obstacle to change."
It's a concern the TRPA has begun to review through its 10 strategic initiatives to be assessed in the coming year. A thorough review of the commodities system is part of that plan.
"The goal is to really take a long, hard look at this system and see what's working and what is not," TRPA spokesman Tom Lotshaw said. As to a timeline, Lotshaw added, "It's not going to be an overnight thing."
The group has already begun a short-term pilot program for exchanging commodity units, but a full revision of policy was described as a multi-year strategic initiative.
An update was presented to the organization's planning commission earlier this month. The TRPA committee that presented listed five themes the group established based on interviews with relevant community stakeholders.
The group found that most respondents stressed a need for review as one of the primary themes. The group also established that the current system is not well understood. Findings determined that there is a belief that the system does not support redevelopment. Commodities are believed to be constrained and that they contribute to housing problems.
"There's a definite need," TRPA senior planner Jennifer Cannon said, describing the potential for policy revision. "It's a need we have been aware of for a while."
Lotshaw added, "It's a system that hasn't been fully updated in a long time."
The level of overhaul — from simple to comprehensive — remains to be seen.
Findings will be presented to the TRPA's governing board at an upcoming meeting.
Speaking to the need, Gorman said, "The business/tourism community is hopeful that some sort of contemporary revisions to this outdated system can be developed."
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