Amid criticism, 20-year North Tahoe redevelopment planning moves ahead
• Town hall meeting: Scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, June 4, at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach. There, county officials will discuss the process and take public comment on the draft plan.
• Read the draft plan: Click here to view the draft plan
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Not everyone is pleased with the process officials are undertaking to update a document that will serve as a guide for future development on the California side of Lake Tahoe’s North Shore.
“This process has taken community out of community planning,” said Ellie Waller, a Tahoe Vista resident, at a Tahoe Basin Community Plan Update workshop last month.
Waller is a member of the North Tahoe West Area Plan team — one of four citizen advisory groups formed as part of Placer County’s outreach effort to involve the public in planning.
“Members feel that the county is making decisions on critical issues, especially land use, height and density, and disregarding or diminishing the teams’ input over this two-year effort,” said Megan Chillemi, a Kings Beach resident, whose husband, Jack, is on the North Tahoe East Plan Area team. “… It’s time to re-engage the teams.”
These concerns come at a time when the Draft Tahoe Basin Community Plan Policy Update has been released for public input.
“Here’s the reality: The Technical Advisory Committee … along with Placer staff (are) drafting the plans, then asking the teams and public-at-large to comment on their visions — not ours as team members,” Waller said in a follow-up interview.
In an effort to ensure the documents being prepared reflect stakeholder input, Placer County has hosted community workshops, town hall meetings and a Kings Beach charrette since May 2012. Staff also have provided regular updates to regional boards, done regular website updates and published newsletters.
Crystal Jacobsen, project manager for the plan update, characterized the public outreach to date as “very robust.”
And, at some point, the visioning process must stop so a draft plan can be written, she said.
“I know that some team members feel as though their work, the importance of it, may have been diminished over time …,” said Kirk Uhler, vice chair and District 4 supervisor for the county, at an April workshop. “I couldn’t disagree more. (We) very much value the work that the team members put into what has been developed and what is going to continue to be developed during this year for the community.
“Just because we value it doesn’t necessarily mean we agree with it.”
Broad objectives for the Tahoe Basin Community Plan include improving environmental conditions, looking at transportation options and investing in and revitalizing existing town centers through policies, guidelines and actions.
In essence, it’s a vision of what the area — in this case, Placer County’s stake at Lake Tahoe, including the communities of Tahoe City, Carnelian Bay, Tahoe Vista and Kings Beach — aspires to be.
Of those communities, Kings Beach and Tahoe City have the designation of town centers under the 2012 Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Regional Plan, affording them a greater opportunity for redevelopment.
“Lake Tahoe is the gem of the Sierra and always will be attracting tourists, so (a recent economic market) analysis indicated that we need to look for opportunities to help drive that industry,” Jacobsen said.
That same report also found there is a lack of quantity and quality of lodging in the basin.
Since 1962, no new hotels/motels have been built in Kings Beach or Tahoe City, according to county staff. The cost to develop lodging inside the basin is roughly $100,000 more per room, driven by environmental regulations; restrictions on height, density and land coverage; seasonality of the market; and land cost.
“As lodging stock continues to deteriorate, the day trip grows for resorts outside of the Tahoe Basin, and this means they are spending less money in Kings Beach and Tahoe City and more outside of the basin,” said Jennifer Merchant, Placer County’s executive office manager for Lake Tahoe. “We’ve also got those impacts from driving in and out of the basin.”
Bringing lodging and lodging improvements into town centers would require private investment, which there’s been a lack of, Merchant said, despite nearly $200 million in public infrastructure investment in the past 20 years.
“While the significant public investment to date creates an excellent foundation to attract visitors, creation of investment incentives are needed to attract new (investment) and redevelopment,” she said.
Gary Davis, a member of the Greater Tahoe City Area Plan team, applauds the county in its recognition of the issue.
“I’m really impressed with the fact that the county has stepped forward with the commodities issue, and hopefully, that moves along,” he said. “It’s a very, very serious issue for us up here in Tahoe. The development costs are real; they are expensive compared to other areas, as we all know … We’ve stuck in the mud here in getting anything progressive done.”
Others, however, are more apprehensive a precedent may be set for over-development.
“This is a national treasure,” Jennifer Quashnick, with Friends of the West Shore, said at the April workshop. “There is only one Lake Tahoe. We’ve got to do things here uniquely. We’ve got to protect what we have.
“The problem is if we start to overbuild it and ruin what’s special, then people aren’t going to want to come here anymore.”
While all this varying input will be taken into consideration, not all can be reflected in the final policy document.
“When we sit down and adopt (it), not everyone is going to leave with a smile on their face,” Uhler said. “It’s just the way that it is. Yet, please, don’t ever, ever underestimate the role that your active involvement has in forming these plans.”
Board adoption of the final plan is targeted for May 2015, dependent on comments and feedback related to the draft plan. After Placer supervisor approval, it will submitted to TRPA for conformance review in late spring 2015.
When completed, there will be one over-arching policy document, with four sub-plan development codes, with a lifespan of 20 years.
Comments on the Draft Tahoe Basin Community Plan Policy Update will be accepted until 5 p.m., June 23.
They can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailed to Placer County Community Development Resource Agency, Attn: Nicole Hagamier, 3091 County Center Drive, Ste. 140, Auburn, CA 95603.
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