My Turn: A look into the North Tahoe community plan process, Part 3 |

My Turn: A look into the North Tahoe community plan process, Part 3

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a four-part opinion series from Marguerite Sprague about ongoing efforts by Placer County and community members with the Tahoe Basin Community Plan Update. Read part one here, and part two here.

The article is written from the perspective of one committee member and is not intended to represent Placer County opinions nor the opinions of any other committee members.

Last week’s segment provided an overview of what the committee is and is not, and what it is and is not directed to do by Placer County. This week’s segment picks up answering questions and comments committee members have been asked by local residents.

Question. Is it true that they want to build a 400 room hotel resort where Safeway is?

I heard this before the committee had ever met. The committee doesn’t make these kinds of decisions or recommendations. That’s not its job. We’re not figuring out what specific business should go where.

The Tahoe City Town Center Visioning Options document does sketch out ideas, but as we already realize, that document is a set of “what if” ideas, not a proposed construction project.

Perhaps someday a developer would want to build such a project in Tahoe City, but at the moment, there is no such project that we are aware of. The plan that the committee is working on will consider what types of buildings might be suitable for parts of Tahoe City, but it will not propose any specific project.

And remember, the committee’s plans will serve as recommendations to the Planning Commission, so they are not a slam dunk.

There is another important and fascinating thing to realize when considering this dramatic rumor. The way TRPA’s regulations are set up, no one can create new hotel/motel rooms in the Lake Tahoe Basin today. Not in Tahoe City, not on the North Shore, not on the South Shore: not in the basin.

So in broad terms, if you’re going to build a 400 room hotel in Tahoe City, you’re going to have to tear down 400 hotel rooms somewhere else in the basin. If you’re going to build a new 10 room boutique hotel, you’ll have to tear down 10 rooms somewhere else so the total number of rooms stays the same.

Of course there are more details (and acronyms) to this situation: for more information check out the explanation of Tourist Accomodation Units (TAUs) at

Question: What about the environment? Don’t you care about the unique ecosystem of the Basin?

Yes, we do! Actually, the committee’s discussion often comes around to this topic. No one favors destruction of the natural environment. The restoration of environmental zones and protection of current lake and wetland environments are of the utmost importance to all.

However, this committee’s work cannot protect our fragile natural environment without the dedicated support, participation and ongoing effort of the surrounding community.

The committee recommends how different parts of the Tahoe City area might be used in future years (but does not impact current uses: everything that is in place now is free to stay in place as long as the owner wants it that way), but when it comes to protecting the Tahoe Basin’s ecosystems, the rubber meets the road, both figuratively and literally, in residents’ driveways and neighborhoods.

This committee’s work cannot and will not destroy Tahoe City’s natural beauty, but it’s up to all of us to preserve it.

Comment: I don’t like the ideas I’m hearing about.

There are two main points to this:

1) Come to the meetings! Give us your input and suggestions either at the meetings or by sending comments to Crystal Jacobson of Placer County ( She will give them to the committee. Without your input, your voice will not be heard. Please stay respectful and helpful in your comments: this isn’t rocket science, but it’s not particularly easy work either. Sneering insults do not help the town, but respectful suggestions help us all.

2) For any given recommendation, there will be some people who disagree. Just think about how hard it is to gather five friends together, then decide where to have dinner and what movie to see. Someone is always disappointed that their idea did not prevail. Committees decide by consensus of multiple people and compromise almost always figures into the final decision.

For the latest hot scoop about this process, and the schedule of meetings, and the notes from previous meeting, go to:

Tune in next week for Part Four: Why?

Marguerite Sprague is executive director at the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society and a Tahoe City Planning Committee member. She can be reached for comment at

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