Is the Proposed Tahoe City Lodge Getting Special Treatment?

Rebuttal to Parched River to Come; Stalled Tahoe City Lodge Comes to Life

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By Ellie Waller

The Tahoe City Lodge would never be built without the gift of public funds and entitlements that no other developer has recently been afforded. Furthermore, Placer County code changes and new codes and pilot programs were developed during the Tahoe Basin Area Plan and concurrent lodge approval to enable developer Samir Tuma to proceed. And most recently, the county purchased the Bechdolt Building for $4 million-plus to end a lawsuit with the adjacent landowner who was only trying to protect their private property rights.

Let’s start at the beginning, with an excerpt from the Tahoe City Lodge’s notice of preparation, dated June 3, 2015:

“The applicant is currently in negotiations to acquire an adjacent parcel [of] 0.7 acre in size, [which] is located immediately west of the project site, and is currently 100 percent paved. The location of this parcel is identified on Exhibit 4 as a ‘Potential Addition’ to the project. If the applicant acquires this parcel, the site plan will be redesigned, and some of the proposed uses will be relocated onto this adjacent parcel. The proposed uses will not change; rather, the same mix of uses will be redistributed within the expanded project site, but up to 20 additional units may be added to the project. The applicant anticipates completing negotiations before the draft [environmental impact review/environmental impact statement] is released. The project description in the draft EIS/EIR will reflect whether the applicant has acquired this adjacent parcel.” The full notice is linked in the online version of this article.

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Tuma could not come to terms with paying fair-market rates for the Bechdolt Building and proceeded to plan the Tahoe Lodge project, taking parking spaces belonging to the adjacent property as well as an easement to fit 118 condo-tel units on approximately 1.4 acres. The notice was released before the owners of Bechdolt were even aware Tuma was interested in their property.

Creative zoning allowed 118 units to be approved where approximately 52 to 56 would be appropriate (which would have resulted in the project fitting the site).

The Tahoe Basin Area Plan, linked in the online version of this article, implements regional plan redevelopment incentives in town centers, which become effective when the plan is adopted.

The regional plan standards are to be used for building height (kept to three to four stories), density (25 units per acre for residential; 40 units per acre for commercial).

Per the plan: “Many old motels are now blighted, environmentally impactful, and would benefit from redevelopment. With a limited supply of TAUs, there is a concern that the TRPA transfer program may not work as intended without additional TAUs or expanded land use conversion programs.

“The regional plan allows land use conversions through several programs. These programs allow [tourist accommodation units] (TAUs) to be converted to either commercial floor area [CFA] or residential units, but do not allow CFA to be converted to TAUs. This area plan expands upon the TRPA programs with a pilot program for on-site conversions from CFA to TAUs. The program is intended to facilitate the most likely redevelopment projects.”

Entitlements provided to Kila Properties, Tuma’s company, for the lodge include:

1) New TAU program enabling developers to purchase TAUs from Placer County’s newly acquired bank of TAUs through purchases of hotels in the Tahoe Basin, with $879,000 worth of units awarded to Tahoe City Lodge to be paid back through Transit Occupancy Tax fees from the lodge (not the developer).

2) Shared parking with the Tahoe City Golf Course through a memorandum of understanding. Not having to purchase or pay for parking spaces or parking mitigation fees amounting to a gift of millions of dollars. Also, the shared parking allowed the lodge acreage credit for density calculation of 40 units per acre.

3) Pilot program to convert CFA to TAUs.

4) Most recently, the TOT rebate program allowed Tuma to obtain monthly rebate payment not annually as the program intended.

5) Mitigation fees for only a handful of employees using calculations that were based on the existing employees in the derelict Henrikson building. Now Tuma states (in Sept.-Oct. issue of Moonshine Ink) that 75 ongoing jobs will be created by the lodge when built. What should his affordable housing mitigation fee amount to?

This begs the question: Does every developer in the queue receive the same entitlements?

~ Ellie Waller has lived at Lake Tahoe for 20 years. She takes a proactive approach to researching local government and regional codes for compliance, and participated with state and local representatives to produce a 20-year regional plan update for Lake Tahoe. Ellie is a member of the Placer County Citizen Advisory Team set to produce a new area plan for the county. She is interested in agricultural land protection and conservation of the area’s rich agricultural history.

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