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

Marguerite Sprague

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first 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.

As a member of the committee that’s brainstorming for Placer County’s planning effort, I’ve heard quite a few rumors about what we’re doing and how it all works. Lots of those rumors aren’t accurate, so here is my attempt to describe what this process has been like so far for me.

It all began calmly enough: a public announcement inviting interested people to apply to be part of a citizens’ committee to work on an update to the Tahoe City Community Plan for Placer County.

It sounded interesting, and I believe it’s important for residents to participate in these processes. I grew up in Orange County when that beautiful region was rendered unrecognizable — today’s “The O.C” — and I appreciate what unchecked development can do.

So I applied. I figured I would never hear back because so many people would be applying: It was a pleasant surprise when weeks later I was invited to join the committee.

There are nine of us officially on this committee — six men, three women; all white; mostly in the middle-aged spectrum. Most of us attend most meetings.

We range from Tahoe-City-born-and-bred to me, the comparatively new kid. I’m often the one asking questions and trying to understand the many different entities and issues that we must balance.

I’ve heard concerns expressed in many places — from committee meetings to the grocery store — and through listening have realized that a lot of us have been operating with half-facts or downright misconceptions.

Not everyone will read this article, and I am told that some folks enjoy sharing false rumors (often more interesting than the less exciting truth!), but I’d like to share what I have learned thus far as part of the committee, in the hopes it will help shed some light on this process.

Remember: All committee meetings are public. Please attend and help us in this process.

The process has not been particularly straightforward (at least not for me), and there are plenty of rules that must be followed.

Some about how the committee works, to keep all labors public (Placer County rules, e.g., all input to committee members goes through Placer County to ensure that this process is public and the input is recorded) and there are other rules about how the plan must relate to TRPA’s regional plan (TRPA rules).

All the rules and information keep the Placer County staff busy. Budget cuts mean there are too few hands to do the work, which of course hampers the progress.

Why is Placer County doing this? As Placer County officials explain, “California State Law requires that cities and counties prepare and adopt a community plan every 20 years.” (for more info check out

There have been community plans done in the past. Unsurprisingly, the last one was about 20 years ago. You can find 1994’s Tahoe City Community Plan online at: and at:

Heads up: the “ashx” file format on the Placer County site version may challenge some computers (it did mine); the “pdf” file format on the TRPA website is more standard.

Does the committee decide zoning, use, height limitations, etc., for Tahoe City? No: We make recommendations — but don’t decide. Although we certainly hope and expect to have our recommendations taken seriously, the actual authority to make those decisions lies with the Placer County Planning Commission.

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

Tune in next week for Part Two: Acronyms, Visions and Us: Oh My!

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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