Placer County planners are moving a package of Tahoe Basin Area Plan Amendments through a review process that involves both the county and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
Over the course of recent public hearings conducted by the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council and the Placer County Planning Commission, the amendments have generated a mix of support, concern, fear of change, misunderstanding, and opposition. They have also spawned a great deal of misinformation on social media. To be fair, I believe the county needs to do a better job explaining the reasons the amendments are essential and timely.
The Tahoe Basin Area Plan covers the entire portion of Placer County within TRPA’s jurisdiction. The plan was originally adopted by the county in December 2016 and the following month by TRPA. The Area Plan replaced all previous community plans, general plans, land use regulations, development standards and guidelines, and Plan Area Statements within the county’s area of the Tahoe Basin. Area Plans are a central element of the 2012 TRPA Regional Plan and a key strategy to accelerate the attainment of TRPA environmental thresholds.
There are three primary purposes for the amendments: 1. To make regulatory modifications designed to accelerate the production of housing that is affordable for those who work at Lake Tahoe; 2. To bring the Area Plan into compliance with recent State of California laws designed to reduce barriers to the construction of affordable housing; and 3. to stimulate private investment in new lodging in the town centers of Tahoe City and Kings Beach so that more short-term rentals can be shifted out of residential neighborhoods. More overnight stays within town centers will help support our local downtown businesses, including retail and restaurants. There has not been a new hotel property built on the North Shore for nearly 60 years (Tahoe City Inn — 1964).
The amendments are not, as one chronic TRPA and local government critic claims, to make “developers’ dreams come true.”
Serious, focused work is necessary to ensure the ability of our communities to survive and prosper. Without deliberate actions, including the proposed Area Plan amendments, the future viability of our communities, in particular Tahoe City and Kings Beach, is not assured. The disparity between housing cost and affordability for locals is one of the largest risks to the people who are the lifeblood of our communities, including, but not limited to, teachers, first responders, nurses, skilled building and maintenance trades, resort workers, retail clerks, and restaurant staff.
Data support the need for change. Permanent population in the Tahoe region continues to decline, down by more than 7,000 over the 10-year period from 2010 to 2020.
According to a report published in the fall of 2021 by the Tahoe Prosperity Center, the number of Tahoe residents under the age of 24 has steadily declined since 2010, while those aged 65 and older increased from 13% to 20% of the population.
The number of prime working adults aged 25-65 has declined by 4% over the past decade, a workforce reduction of 1,379 in absolute numbers. The lack of affordable workforce housing is one of the primary reasons for the declines. More people now travel to and from Tahoe for their jobs, adding to congestion and vehicle miles traveled. The proposed Tahoe Basin Area Plan Amendments have been crafted to stimulate the production of local workforce housing. The amendments are consistent with the efforts of the TRPA Tahoe Living: Housing and Community Revitalization Working Group.
Established in August of 2020, this group has commissioned studies and closely examined what updates are needed to TRPA and local codes with the goal of reducing barriers to creating a variety of affordable housing types. Not one type fits all needs. The group comprises representatives of local government, public land managers, builders, real estate agents, environmentalists, employers, Tahoe Prosperity Center, Mountain Housing Council, and TRPA Governing Board members. All meetings are open to the public.
I encourage you to learn more here. Another great source of contemporary data that underscores the importance of solutions for housing, transportation, and economic diversification can be found at tahoeprosperity.org/envision-tahoe.
~ Steve Teshara has been an active community advocate in the Tahoe-Truckee region for more than four decades. He is the owner and principal of Sustainable Community Advocates. He regularly attends the key meetings and public hearings of local governments and TRPA.