Mountain Housing Council talks van life


As ski towns rush to meet the needs of their local workforce, many are beginning to adopt temporary housing plans which would accommodate van lifers who commonly populate ski towns both as tourists and local workers.

The Mountain Housing Council discussed the examples of van life solutions in other ski towns as well as possible locations for workforce housing car camping sites at its January quarterly meeting.

The presentation began with a story about Telluride, a small ski town in Colorado. The city has a plan to accommodate van lifers who work locally. The idea was sparked by one of the town’s council members, Dan Enright, which has now come to fruition.

There are now nine parking spots available at the Town Park in Telluride designated for van lifers in the community who work locally.

Included with these camping spaces are restrooms, showers, and designated dish washing spaces.

The Mountain Housing Council used this example as a potential idea for the Truckee-Tahoe region to also accommodate its van life community.

Nathan Donato works locally as a raft guide and lift operator in North Lake Tahoe. He is a graduate of Sierra Nevada University and holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. He has been living out of his van for the past three years. Donato says he would like to see Truckee plow more parking lots in the winter for personal parking use.
Samir Somji


A group of regional leaders called Convene Champion Catalyze, formed by Nevada County Supervisor Hardy Bullock, began talks this past summer about how to handle the local van life community, as many car campers are scattered across the region in need of a safe place to park, without disturbing local neighborhoods.

“We’ve got to be honest about our land use and the capacity we have and how we’re going to accommodate people if we have people coming here all the time,” Bullock said in December. “I think that’s one of the most important concepts with the CCC meeting is that… people are already here, it’s already really busy, we just need to have the conversations and start talking about it in a meaningful way.”

At the meeting, Tara Zuardo, project director of the Mountain Housing Council, said that Palisades Tahoe is looking into partnering with the U.S. Forest Service to create an RV camping pilot program along Highway 89.

“It will be open to their employees, it’s designed to be safe and orderly,” Zuardo said. “It will be (available in) winter only because folks are camping there in the summer. So it’s going to be a pilot program and maybe it could provide some kind of assistance for other locations as well for us to do the exact same thing.”

Placer County Supervisor Cindy Gustafson has also been looking at private lands for RV camping, such as Sugar Bowl and Donner Ski Ranch.

According to Zuardo, Gustafson pointed out in a breakout meeting that having designated local workforce camping sites on public lands would require additional funding, but with private lands the sites would be managed by private owners.

Zuardo also added that there have been discussions of opening up temporary workforce housing at RideOut Elementary School in Homewood.

“Some of the feedback I got from town managers was a hesitation to allow for any temporary housing programs at any kind of school because there could be safety issues. There could be kind of residual problems once the season’s over,” Zuardo said.

The Mountain Housing Council is currently seeking additional members of the community who are interested in helping move this initiative forward.

Elizabeth White is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User