Tahoe Regional Planning Agency approves revised Waldorf Astoria plan
CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. — The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board voted to approve the updated plan revision to the Waldorf Astoria, previously known as Boulder Bay.
The developers of the project, located at what used to be the Tahoe Biltmore, made significant changes to the already approved plan from 2011 after making extensive efforts of outreach in the Crystal Bay and Incline Village communities.
“We are very pleased to receive approval from the TRPA board today,” said Founder and CEO of EKN Development Group Ebbie Nakhjavani. “After a myriad of community meetings, we significantly reduced the project density and increased the quality of the project. Our projects are always a collaboration between our team and the local community. We are honored to have the opportunity to bring a greatly enhanced and scaled-down updated project and much-needed revitalization within the area of the Crystal Bay corridor in North Lake Tahoe.”
After some general discussion and questions regarding the project, it was overall agreed upon among the Governing Board members that this project will make strides in projecting the environment in Lake Tahoe, along with bring new life to the community.
There were several revisions that were made by the developers, which include a 47% decrease in density through the removal of hotel and residential units, employee housing consisting of 38 deed restricted affordable housing bedrooms in 14 “on site” affordable employee housing units, along with 10 “infill” affordable housing units located within 10 miles of the project, which the board commended.
The approval validates findings from TRPA staff that there will be no significant effect on the environment from the project, and while some public commenters brought up the increase in the amount of people in the area, it was found by TRPA staff that the total population in Incline Village has only risen by 10%.
“I think we all have concerns about affordable housing and traffic and congestion,” said city of South Lake Tahoe Council Member and TRPA board member John Friedrich. “I think this project does kind of set a template for how we should evaluate other projects contributing to housing; whether we have an inclusionary housing ordinance basin wide in the future, but just making sure that new projects are also contributing to the solutions.”
Other concerns that were brought up during the public comment section reflected worry among community members about traffic in the case of evacuation due to a wildfire or other severe weather incident.
TRPA Executive Director Julie Regan was confident that the developers would work closely with public safety officials to create an evacuation plan in the case of a wildfire in the area, which is also included in the general plans for the project.
“I’ve been taking with staff as well on traffic and fire evacuation issues,” said Regan. “There is definitely a theme throughout the basin on every project that this is a major concern and it is a major concern of all us who live here, work here, and are on this governing board. I know that all of our local public safety officials, those in the room and those that are in other jurisdictions, work closely together. I have the utmost confidence that they have plans, they have protocols and are working together.
“The Governing Board’s decision today clears the way for significant environmental and community benefits to come forward that North Shore communities have been anticipating for many years,” Regan added. “Environmental redevelopment at Lake Tahoe is providing water quality improvements, affordable housing, and revitalizing town centers to be more walkable and bikeable. We appreciate the community’s engagement and the applicant’s efforts to update the project.”
The approval by the TRPA comes right as construction season begins in the basin, May 1, meaning the EKN Development Group can begin work right on track with their general timeline. While some worry about the congestion on the roads, the board overall feels the project is in line with the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan and the plans ahead for the basin.
“I don’t see this project doing anything but enhancing what we’re going to do with traffic and traffic congestion in this region,” said Regan.
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