My Turn: NIMBYS, CAVES & BANANAS, oh my
Its difficult to tell if the author of The difference between good growth and bad growth guest column (March 10 Sierra Sun) had Lake Tahoe in mind when he submitted My Turn, or maybe was just thinking of where hes from, Grass Valley. However, as the column appeared in the widely read Lake Tahoe Sierra Sun newspaper, a response is in order. I assume the author is either a developer or land use consultant, especially due to his cheap shots at environmentalists, which he calls NIMBYS, CAVE (Citizens Against Virtually Everything), and BANANAS (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody). The first half of the column appears accurate: The U.S. population probably increased by 100,000,000 people from 1967 to 2006. Californias population is probably expected to increase by 6,000,000 from 2000 to 2012. However, it is Mr. Carvilles conclusion that worries me. He states: We have two choices: Either we adopt the vision and policies to create better, more connected and dense, more socially and expressive towns to reduce auto dependence, air pollution and rural sprawl, or we fail because we listened to those who refused to prepare for the future.I assume hes referring to the NIMBYS, CAVES and BANANAS who are actually trying to insure we preserve much of what we have for the future. Im always suspicious when someone says there are only two choices one being a wonderful result, the other a nightmare. Earlier in the same column, Mr. Carville states that his idea of good growth should be realistic about inevitable and pending growth.Im pretty certain Mr. Carville believes realistic to mean pushing for lots of development. I believe theres at least a third choice, and no doubt others, especially as it relates to the Lake Tahoe Basin. Even though the U.S. population probably increased by 33 percent in a 40 year period, and California probably doubled its population in the past maybe 50-plus years, Tahoe hasnt increased in size even 1 percent! Think about that for a moment. The result is that ever increasing tens of thousands of people come to the lake each year either to visit and run their speed boats, Jet Skis, snow mobiles, drive around the lake, and so on. Or maybe they come to buy or build a first or second home. But we have never increased the size of the lake for these tens of thousands of people, nor have we enlarged the only two roads we have surrounding the lake Highways 89 and 28. Theyre still just two lanes just like they were almost 70 to 80 years ago. And ask any resident what its like in the summer as well as key ski weekends in the winter. Traffic jams in several places around the lake. And, as we welcome all these additional people, hows the lake doing? Well, the lakes health is measured by approximately 34 standards, called thresholds.For example, one of these thresholds measures water quality. In 1968 a white plate used to measure water clarity was visible to a depth of 102.4 feet. Not bad! In 2006, the plate disappeared from view at only 67.7 feet ( the year before it reached an additional 4.6 feet before disappearing suggesting a dramatic decrease in water clarity in just one year). So, just looking at traffic congestion and loss of water clarity, and noting that only about 25 percent of the 35 thresholds as monitored by the TRPA are presently in attainment (i.e. are at an acceptable level), we can see that never-ending development and the use by tens of thousands of people is having an adverse effect on the Lake. Maybe the third choice for handling this population explosion is not to continue squeezing people, cars and homes into the same old lake, but rather to reject much further growth and instead limit the future use of the lake and give it a chance to regain its health. So, how about the increasing population that wants to vacation at the lake or own a home here. Where do they go? Its sort of like having a five-passenger car and trying to squeeze nine people into it. At some point, you have to say no, it cant or shouldnt be done. How about building one or two new man-made lakes and reservoirs and otherwise directing the additional visitors to the numerous other lakes in the region that still have room to grow, afford reasonable recreation and offer reasonably priced housing? Ron Grassi is a retired lawyer and a Tahoe City resident.