Truckee town manager retiring, not before launching housing talks
Correction (Jan. 6, 4:07 p.m.): An earlier version of this article said that the population of Truckee was 6,000. According to an email from Tony Lashbrook on Friday afternoon, it was actually 10,000. The text has been corrected to reflect this.
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Tony Lashbrook was just 36 years old when he moved to the town of Truckee. The then-10,000-person community in the Northern Sierra Nevada had voted in 1993 to incorporate after the residents decided that the county wasn’t representing their interests.
Lashbrook had spent most of his life in the Sierra, having grown up in Calaveras County and working in Mariposa County prior to taking a job as Truckee’s community development director. So when the town sought to create its own general plan protecting its small town character and natural resources, Lashbrook was hired to help make that vision a reality.
“At some point I decided that I wouldn’t work any place that I wouldn’t pay to visit,” he said in an interview with the Sierra Sun.
Now, after 23 years of serving Truckee, Town Manager Tony Lashbrook is planning his retirement. According a letter penned by Lashbrook to the mayor and councilmembers, he will be leaving his position in July 2017.
“I’ve been doing 36 years of local government work without a break, and I just want to kind of enjoy this place,” Lashbrook said Wednesday.
But he was quick to point out, as he also mentioned in his official announcement, that he has plenty to do between now and his departure in July — including launching a dialogue on the local housing shortage.
Lashbrook said one of the bigger challenges when he began with the town was that it was brand new, so many things like contracts for basic services and general policies had yet to be established.
In essence, everything was created from scratch, but from there grew what Lashbrook said was one of the biggest advantages to working in the town: community involvement.
“The community was very excited about controlling its own destiny,” he said. “It was a very hopeful mindset in the community in those early years, and I think to some extent that’s been maintained.”
He recalled a community survey in 1995 — a year after he’d started — in which the town sought community input on how the general plan should be created.
Lashbrook said the survey got about 600 responses — an impressive number for back then. He said it helped community “define what it wanted to be when it grew up,” which is exactly the kind of involvement he said hopes will continue when it comes to tackling things like housing.
“I don’t know that we can fully grow our way out of the housing crisis,” Lashbrook said. “We’re going to continue to have the second home interest and we’ve got this growing short-term rental interest, too.”
He said the recent North Tahoe-Truckee Regional Housing study identified a need to build 12,000 new units over 20 years to support future employment growth and the large percentage of local employees currently commuting to town.
However, he added that the complete build-out of Truckee is only about 6,000 more units, and that the inclusionary housing requirement would only generate roughly 900 more affordable units for locals.
“That’s obviously not enough,” he said. “What we need to start doing is figuring out how to get a higher percentage of the units we’re building to be maybe affordable by design to locals, so more focused on smaller, higher density, second units, all of those kinds of things, versus what we’ve been building.”
This problem isn’t new — the housing struggle of Truckee has been documented in news articles since the early 2000s.
Lashbrook said part of the trouble is the way the community was built in the 1970s — it consisted of mainly large homes on larger lots, and it was created for second-home owners.
In the early 2000s, Lashbrook said a building boom occurred of those same kinds of large homes on large plots of land. As the town’s population started to swell, a workforce housing shortage plagued the region until the recession.
The economic downturn of 2008 caused the population to decrease. As a result, he said the housing tension did dissipate temporarily. But as the local resort market regrew, so did the need to house its employees.
“There’s not a lot of resort development in the town of Truckee,” he said. “But there are a lot of resort employees that live in the town of Truckee.”
Lashbrook said that’s why he weighed in on the Village at Squaw Valley redevelopment plan on behalf of the town.
“We need to start thinking about housing at the service worker sector,” he said. “It’s infrastructure — you can’t run your business without it.”
He added, “I think government can do some stuff, but there’s got to be a shift in the private sector thinking too. It’s got to be part of our business model. That’s why the regional housing discussion is important.”
The town is planning a number of public workshops in the coming months to discuss housing solutions, with dates to be determined.
Lashbrook said he’s confident his predecessor will be well poised to continue implementing the town’s goals of maintaining Truckee’s small-town charm.
And though he may be leaving local government, Lashbrook intends to stay right here in Truckee.