Planning for People
At the office water cooler, at children’s soccer games and at fitness centers around the Tahoe Basin, community members talk about not only water and air quality, but employment opportunities, transit reliability, workforce housing and public gathering spaces.
“[It’s important for us] to sustain the community, as opposed to sustaining just the environment,” said Steve Teshara, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.
The Lake Tahoe Basin chambers of commerce hosted two socioeconomic workshops in September in an effort to determine characteristics of a sustainable community, as well as a means to measure the features. Results from the workshop have been compiled and will be used to design a socioeconomic research plan to parallel Pathway 2007, the 20-year regional plan being developed by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
Teshara said the chambers were pleased with the workshops held in both South Lake Tahoe and on the North Shore in mid-September. With results in hand, the chambers will sit with the Tahoe Science Consortium to develop a research and tracking program for socioeconomic indicators and measurements determined from the meetings.
The Tahoe Science Consortium contributes to the restoration and management of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
“[It’s] important to keep these issues in the forefront so they are adequately addressed in the Pathway 2007 process,” Teshara said.
The socioeconomic research plan can be expected in the next four to five months,
Teshara said. Initially it will forecast just the next year, but will evolve into a multi-year approach to plug in with Pathway 2007.
While workshop participants agreed that sustainability is a challenging concept to define, it is generally accepted that sustainability provides a balance between environmental protection and social and economic concerns. Local government officials, business owners and residents gathered at the workshops to determine the characteristics that define a sustainable community, including issues of education, commuting, business viability, social diversity and effective leadership.
“The whole reality is that all of those pieces make up a healthy and sustainable environment,” said Kelly Atchley, executive administrator of the Tahoe City Downtown Association. “The science of Lake Tahoe is critical, but if you don’t have a community to steward the good health, there won’t be anyone to take care of the lake. It’s the people. It’s the place. It’s the environment … keeping healthy makes for future citizens.”
Traditional data tools such as sales tax and transient occupancy taxes are already used to assess economic viability. But in an effort to also gauge community character and sustainability, further measurements are necessary. Participants in the workshop agreed that it is essential to analyze and assess the numbers and ratios of commute distances, public gathering places, school enrollment trends, art and cultural events, housing prices, wages, and locally spent dollars to better take the temperature of community sustainability.
The chambers will continue to host follow-up workshops so the public will have more opportunity for input. This is not just a one-time process, Teshara said.