My Turn: Building more condos is not the right answer

LAKE TAHOE – Although I’ve had a home here in Tahoe City for more than 35 years and been an active member of the Sierra Club for the past 6+ years, my wife and I moved part time about two years ago to Healdsburg, Calif., which is about an hour north of the GG bridge.Healdsburg, in many respects, is similar to Lake Tahoe. It is clearly a tourist oriented destination with over a dozen B & Bs, dozens of wineries, the Russian River with its beaches and boating, and Healdsburg has lots of fine restaurants. I wanted to share with you a quick anecdote re planning and development learned from Healdsburg and which in my opinion applies to Lake Tahoe.Recently, one of the restaurants in Healdsburg closed its doors. And about the same time, one of the five coffee shops in the central core also closed its doors. In checking with our two local newspapers and my friends and neighbors there, I noted something: There were no letters sent to the newspapers pointing to the closures and claiming the town was in jeopardy of dying and therefore we needed to build more condos and develop more attractions to get more people to visit Healdsburg to save it. Instead everyone continued on as normal allowing nature to take its course.So what happened? The coffee shop was replaced by an upscale pizza establishment and there were no empty seats there 2 weeks ago when I tried to get in. And the former restaurant was replaced by a restaurant with a broader menu and nicer interior and was doing fine? And Healdsburg built no additional condos nor changed any of its zoning laws.What’s the message? That it’s normal that many retail establishments close up eventually in most every community but they usually get replaced by someone with a better idea and some money and they become successful with the same base of people as before and they manage to attract new customers as well.Said differently, there’s no need, as TRPA and developers claim here at Lake Tahoe, to build additional condos and homes to add people who hopefully will frequent what otherwise is a dying establishment. That argument for new development projects is a red herring.Ron Grassi is co-conservation chair for the Tahoe Area Sierra Club.

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