By FRANK ROSMAN  |  Tahoe City

There are development plans now in the review process that will open the door to extraordinary building height and density in North Lake Tahoe. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s regional plan update allows redevelopment within town centers to create opportunities for environmental redevelopment and economic revitalization. Placer County’s Tahoe Basin Area Plan, which was released last summer, disclosed the county’s intention to prepare an environmental impact report focusing on development within town centers. This includes the first pilot building project — the Tahoe City Lodge.

This proposed building project is going through environment review concurrently with the area plan. The Tahoe City Lodge project is located on the site of the blighted Henrikson Building that sold to Kila Tahoe LLC in June 2014. The development proposal consists of a four-story 120 unit condo/hotel. The Henrikson parcel is currently too small for such height and density. The Tahoe City Public Utility District, the managing owner/partner of the Tahoe City Golf Course, and Kila Tahoe LLC created a memorandum of understanding that provides an easement to a portion of public golf course land in which certain development density entitlements can be transferred to the private Tahoe City Lodge project. In return, Kila Tahoe LLC proposes to provide the golf course with a new or renovated clubhouse, access upgrades, and signage.

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The condo/hotel will generate tax dollars and Tahoe City merchants hope to have increased patronage. Once approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors, the proposed area plan will allow unprecedented exceptions, starting with the Tahoe City Lodge, to town center building height and density that no one has ever received before. Is this an economic windfall or a deal with the devil?      

While we all should support renovating blighted properties, it should not be done excessively and at the expense of the quality of the North Tahoe experience and character. Tahoe City already has infamous peak season traffic and parking congestion issues. This creates horrendous town center highway clogging that backs up traffic from all directions and pushes dangerous unruly vehicles into a number of residential neighborhoods. The density of a 120 unit condo/hotel will most likely exacerbate these issues. Local merchants desire economic revitalization with more people walking the streets and spending money. Will additional traffic and parking congestion actually make the area increasingly inconvenient and undesirable to visit and reside?

With regard to height, is it possible that four stories is too high and will be inconsistent with the scope and character of Tahoe City? Will neighbor buildings be dwarfed by such mass? Such height will block Lake Tahoe views from affected residences and portions of the golf course. Views of mountains from North Lake Boulevard will be obscured, the massive buildings will be seen from the lake, and will add to nighttime light pollution.  The area plan will open the door to height, density, and mass. Isn’t that what we moved to North Tahoe to escape?

A shared parking arrangement has been proposed between the condo/hotel and the Tahoe City Golf Course. How does that work when the Tahoe City Lodge and the golf course are at peak season capacity? Kila Tahoe LLC said that shared parking works because the lodge uses parking mostly at night while the golf course uses parking during the day. Conflictingly, it was also stated that traffic congestion will not be an issue because people will leave cars parked and be walking the streets, bicycling, or using public transportation.

Should we be concerned about the symbiotic relationship between the Tahoe City Public Utility District and Kila Tahoe LLC? Does that create a precedent for future town center developments? The area plan proposes extraordinary changes that grossly exceed the mass and density of existing buildings. There are potential negative impacts that could be counterproductive to the quality and revitalization of the community. Should there be consideration of fixing infrastructure issues before cramming more than existing density into already dense town centers?

~ Frank Rosman is a long-time Tahoe City homeowner, community association specialist, and real estate professional affiliated with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

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