“Go back to the Bay Area!” the nice young man yelled from his pickup truck window, crossing a solid yellow line as he passed me on Old Brockway Road last month.
“I’m not from the Bay Area,” I thought to myself, instead of yelling back. I’m an owner of a Truckee business. I live here year-round. I even ran for a local political office.
Why did he think I was from the Bay Area, anyway? Because I was driving the speed limit? Or because I keep my sporty SUV squeaky clean?
He does happen to be correct though. I am from the Bay Area. But I left 30 years ago and haven’t spent more than a few days in a row there since.
You might not have said those same words out of your car window, but I’ll bet you’ve thought them. We locals seem to have this common feeling against these evil invaders from down the hill.
But how many Tahoe and Truckee “locals” are really from here? I’ll bet not that many. I know I’m not.
So who’s a local, anyway? How can you even tell? While checking out at Safeway, a shopper in front of me was complaining about the long line and poor customer service. The rest of us in line were rolling our eyes and mumbling “tourist” under our breaths. But heck, that person might have been from Glenshire for all we knew.
My young speed demon friend and fellow grocery shoppers were all probably just exhibiting stress over the congestion that is quite the norm during our busy seasons.
It seems our small community can’t support such a large number of people without friction. Too many folks in too little space and we end up with some grumpy people. As summer season is approaching, we’ll likely have more of this situation.
By averaging the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) secured over the last five years as reported by the Town of Truckee, it shows the amount collected in July, August, and September was 43 percent higher than in January, February, and March, and 54 percent higher than in October, November, and December. I guess I always thought our winter season was the big attraction, but these numbers clearly indicate summer is even more popular.
Our economy needs this influx of tax money. It pays for the roads, trails, and infrastructure we all enjoy. And without the summer tourists, we likely wouldn’t have so many great restaurants and cool mountain town businesses.
But at what price? Since I’m in the real estate business I checked the local MLS. At the time of writing, there was only one long term residential rental listing in the MLS database in the greater Truckee and North Tahoe area. And its monthly rent was $3,000. Not many locals can afford three grand per month for rent.
As for residential listings for sale, there are only 38 total in all of North Tahoe and Truckee for under $600,000. Of those, only 20 are under $500,000, and a mere 11 are under $400,000.
With such low inventory it’s just a matter of time before the latest big projects, like the approved Truckee Railyard development as well as the pending Canyon Springs, Coldstream, and Hilltop planned housing developments get some traction.
More homes mean more people, more cars, and more congestion — all forcing us to add and widen roads.
We need the economic growth that these housing developments provide, but too much growth will lead to a decrease of the mountain charm that brings people here.
We’ll need some creative planning for smart road management and to avoid overdevelopment. A way to ensure locals and visitors can happily coexist in our confined space.
Maybe we could take a lesson from the folks who created the odd and even days on the Tahoe Rim Trail. Some TRT sections are open to mountain bikes only on even days, while they’re bike-free for hikers on odd days.
Maybe before Tony Lashbrook, retiring Truckee Town Manager, steps away, he could implement an odd and even day for locals and visitors on our roads?
Seems to work when it comes to sharing the trails. But I bet support for this silly idea would be lower than President Trump’s current approval ratings.
Since I doubt that idea has any merit, or is even remotely realistic, when driving around Truckee and Tahoe this busy summer season, remember we’re all here because we like the area. Whether you’re a local or a visitor — and we really can’t tell each other apart — be nice and share the roads, trails, and shopping check-out lines.
Our mountain town charm depends on it.