My Turn: Time to change the TRPA | SierraSun.com
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My Turn: Time to change the TRPA

John Sell
Crystal Bay, Nev.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has created much of its own conflict. Decades ago the original Regional Planning Compact stated the basic problem as “increasing urbanization is threatening the ecological values of the region.”

Yet much of the TRPA’s efforts and budget today are focused on increasing urbanization. There is a false sense of good compromise when the accomplishment is slowing down the loss of lake clarity. It is a false sense of achievement much like creating a dirty house but taking satisfaction in cleaning it yourself, but unfortunately never getting it as clean.

We are continuing to make a mess. TRPA has monetized the system so that money can become more important than common sense. Is money the solution or the problem? TRPA has enabled and promoted the commoditization of Lake Tahoe through constructs like land coverage and Tourist Accommodation Units (TAUs). These are now things to be bought, sold and transferred in the ceaseless pursuit of profit. Protecting Lake Tahoe has become a big, complicated business and yet lake clarity continues to decline.

An ominous new battlefront is looming. The Tahoe Basin is more than 90 percent developed. Once you can no longer grow horizontally the focus will be on growing vertically. It is already underway. When you attend TRPA meetings and workshops, the buzzwords are “new urbanism,” “increased density,” “compact development” and “transect zoning”. It is already happening with the controversial Community Enhancement Program (CEP) projects. Even though they are among the largest development programs ever proposed for Lake Tahoe, they are considered pilot or trial programs.

This new urban density for Lake Tahoe is based on an expanded public transportation system that does not exit and may never exist. In the face of existing budget realities, current public transportation will be fortunate to maintain existing schedules and routes.

There are no specific plans for ensuring the kind of transportation system that a new urbanism for Lake Tahoe would need. Of course there are ubiquitous plans to create a plan. The Tahoe Regional Transportation Plan includes such meaningless planning factors as “support economic vitality of the area, especially enabling global competitiveness, productivity and efficiency”.

As a moderate user of TART, what troubles me most is that I have never once seen any of the familiar faces encountered at various TRPA meetings on board a TART bus. TRPA has not detailed the infrastructure or financial realities to support its field of dreams vision for Lake Tahoe development, yet it is proceeding ahead. That appears irresponsible.

TRPA’s challenge is too complicated and its tasks too conflicted. The recent turnover of various TRPA officials bears witness to the conflicts and pressures. TRPA has created the equivalent of a development arms race. The more we do development, the more we need development. We need to return to a more simplified approach and a new or different TRPA.


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