It’s been nearly 60 years since Tahoe City has seen a new hotel constructed. Residents have been waiting anxiously as time and again plans to tear down the old Henrikson Building were delayed. Late this summer, I was there as several hundred Tahoe City residents gathered on a warm evening — to take a ceremonial swing of the hammer — and to say farewell to a blighted building whose useful lifespan came to an end years ago.
Soon to take center stage will be the new Tahoe City Lodge, which is slated to begin construction sometime in 2020. The project team’s passion and perseverance resulted in strong community support for a redevelopment project that stands to benefit the lake, our local economy, and the community’s quality of life.
It’s what we call environmental redevelopment — removing blighted buildings and replacing them with infrastructure that’s sensitive to environmental concerns. Projects like these take advantage of green building technologies and benefits that align with our regional plan, focusing redevelopment in town centers that are walkable and bikeable. These types of projects work for the local economy and play a part in protecting Lake Tahoe as a whole.
Winning the unanimous approval of TRPA’s governing board, support from the League to Save Lake Tahoe, as well as widespread community praise, this project checked all the boxes. From a building that was an eyesore will come a $60 million boutique hotel with 118 new lodging units in the heart of Tahoe City. A building constructed to meet stringent sustainability and green hotel standards that will lessen the need to drive, encouraging visitors to explore the charms of Tahoe City on foot. This project is an excellent example of collaboration and commitment leading to positive redevelopment that can be a model for our communities.
We are not alone in the challenges we are facing in our resort communities, especially as it relates to revitalization, housing, and transportation. This month TRPA will host the Mountain and Resort Town Planners Summit. This year’s event will focus on four key topics: transportation, growth management, community well-being, and the housing/environment connection.
These topics are front and center in our Tahoe communities. The number of visitors to the region sometimes strains our resources and infrastructure. We need new solutions to help manage peak tourism and its impacts on both the environment and the quality of life for year-round residents. Transportation solutions must consider trends like ridesharing and micro-transit, as well as reliable traditional solutions like buses that run on schedule and have reasonable wait times.
Affordable, achievable, and available housing continues to be one of the largest obstacles we face as a mountain community. We have a genuine need for housing stock that meets the needs of our workforce. In many cases, if housing is available, it’s not affordable on working-class wages. If it is affordable, it may be old and in poor condition. In many cases, that leaves what’s achievable outside the borders of the Lake Tahoe Basin, and forces long commutes, putting more stress on area roadways.
Our ability to come up with viable solutions to these challenges can also help us play a role in the more significant challenge of reducing the impacts of climate change. California and Nevada are joining 23 other states in the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors dedicated to the deployment of climate solutions like reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change threatens the progress we’ve made on lake clarity and other measures to protect our sensitive environment over the last 20 years. We must continue meaningful collaboration as we seek solutions to the problems facing our communities. To meet these new challenges, the only place for us to start is for all of us to recommit to collaborative conservation.
~ Joanne Marchetta has been the executive director of the TRPA since 2009 after serving as the agency’s general counsel.