Carbon Monoxide Emergencies, Gas Leaks on the Rise
North Tahoe Fire reports an alarming increase in gas leaks, carbon monoxide-related emergencies, and other hazard-related emergencies resulting from the repeated storms and heavy snow. Compared to this time last year, hazard calls (gas leaks, CO calls, downed power lines) have increased nearly four times, and currently make up 24% of our non-EMS call volume (compared to less than 10% at this time last year).
North Tahoe firefighters are responding to a significant increase in CO emergencies throughout the region, many of which result in positive CO readings upon arrival, with occupants/patients showing symptoms of varied severity. CO is called the “silent killer” because it is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and non-irritating. If the early signs of CO poisoning are ignored, a person may lose consciousness and be unable to escape the danger, which can lead to death. CO symptoms are often described as flu-like, with the most common symptoms of CO poisoning reported as headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.
Many of these incidents are the result of heavy snow build-up on combustion-appliance venting, buried foundation vents, and improper or snow-obstructed home generator ventilation systems. Gas leaks are also on the rise due to deeply buried propane tanks, above-ground propane plumbing, and buried natural gas meters impacted by the snow. The repetitive freeze-and-thaw cycles following winter storms combined with the weight of the snowpack places glacial-like torsional stress on tanks and propane plumbing systems, causing dangerous leaks.
Roof snow shedding is also a danger to gas meters, propane tanks, and above-ground gas plumbing, and another common cause of leaks.
Propane tanks/cylinders, gas lines, and regulators and appliance vents need to be continuously maintained throughout the winter by keeping them cleared of snow and ice buildup.
The district recommends the following:
- Take caution when clearing snow from roofs and protect propane tanks or cylinders, propane lines, regulators, and vents from falling snow.
- When plowing, snow blowing, or shoveling, do not push or pile snow around a tank, meter, regulator, or piping.
- Use caution when removing snow from the tanks and cylinders, gas piping, and regulators; don’t use sharp tools or force. Carefully clear heavy snow until the tank and equipment are visible, complete final clearing with soft tools such as brooms or brushes to prevent damage to equipment and components.
- Tanks should not be allowed to run dry; doing so may require an inspection of all gas appliances before the tank can be refilled. Be sure to place refill orders before the tank reaches 30% to 40% and keep tanks clear of snow with a path accessible to gas suppliers.
- Propane smells like rotten eggs, and propane leaking into snow may release more of a musty odor.
- Anytime there is an odor of propane or natural gas, call 911 immediately.
- Watch this Propane Snow Safety PSA , courtesy of Placer County Sheriff and North Tahoe Fire.
~ North Tahoe Fire Protection District press release
Serial ADA Lawsuit Filer Scott Johnson to Face Tax Fraud Sentencing
Scott Johnson, a disabled Sacramento attorney who filed thousands of disability discrimination lawsuits, pleaded guilty on Nov. 29, 2022, to filing false tax returns on which he underreported the income he earned from many lawsuits.
Johnson was originally scheduled to be sentenced on March 7 by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez, but sentencing has been rescheduled to April 11. He faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties.
According to the Department of Justice, Johnson filed more than 4,000 lawsuits in California, some of which were in the Truckee/Tahoe area. The lawsuits were filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and related California statutes. Johnson named himself as the plaintiff.
In a press release regarding Johnson’s tax fraud, the Department of Justice stated, “Under the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996, payments related to lawsuit settlements or awards are taxable unless paid on account of personal physical injury or physical sickness. Johnson, who worked as an attorney at the IRS earlier in his career, was required to report the taxable portion of the lawsuit settlements and awards he received. He nonetheless intentionally underreported this income on his 2012, 2013, and 2014 tax returns. By understating the lawsuit settlements and awards, Johnson and DAPI [Jonson’s law corporation titled, Disabled Access Prevents Injury] paid little to no income tax for tax years 2012, 2013, and 2014. Johnson caused a loss to the IRS of more than $250,000.”
In 2014, Moonshine Ink reported on local businesses that were affected by Johnson’s ADA lawsuits, including Spindleshanks, Tahoe Mountain Sports, and Donner Lake Kitchen.
Short-Term Rental Workforce Housing Token Pilot Program
The Truckee/Tahoe region is experiencing a significant shortage of rental and for-sale housing affordable to people with jobs in Truckee and surrounding communities. The Town of Truckee is proactively working to address this shortage on numerous fronts. Currently, just under 6% of Truckee housing units are deed restricted, meaning there are long-term limitations on use of the property, including requiring full-time occupancy and establishing resident workforce requirements and/or an income cap. The town has adopted a goal that 10% of Truckee’s housing units are deed restricted as workforce housing by 2032. Truckee’s newest housing program, the Short-Term Rental Workforce Housing Token Pilot Program, approved by Truckee Town Council on March 2, is an innovative pilot program to leverage the short-term rental market to incentivize new deed restrictions.
In 2022, the town updated its short-term rental ordinance, including placing a cap
on the number of short-term rentals. The token program provides an opportunity for an applicant to receive expedited access to a specified number of transient occupancy (short-term rental) registration certificates in exchange for deed restricting workforce housing. Participating workforce housing units will be deed restricted as rental workforce housing for a 15-year term, requiring limitations on use including tenant income, local employment, and rent affordability.
Each “token” will be redeemable for one Transient Occupancy Registration Certificate and will be valid for the 15-year term of the corresponding deed restriction. A token holder can use their token to access a certificate for a property they own or manage, and they can sell, trade, or transfer that token to a new holder or property. The token can only be used on a property that is eligible to be short-term rented and must follow all requirements of the short-term rental program.
The Town of Truckee will be issuing a Request for Proposal soon. To be notified of the RFP release, please email email@example.com.
~ Talk From the Town: Town of Truckee newsletter
Know Overdose Campaign to Increase Community Awareness, Prevent Deaths
A multi-sector, broad-based coalition of more than 20 local organizations, businesses and institutions has launched the Know Overdose Nevada County campaign to increase knowledge and awareness about drug overdose risks and harm reduction strategies to prevent overdoses and deaths.
Like many other communities across the state and country, Nevada County has seen an increase in overdose deaths in the past few years. This has largely been a result of synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl, entering the local drug supply.
The diversity of Know Overdose Nevada County’s coalition members, which includes local businesses, education institutions, healthcare providers, and nonprofits, reflects the urgent need for a community-based harm reduction approach to increase community awareness and prevent overdose deaths.
Know Overdose Nevada County’s goals are to:
- Prevent deaths from drug overdoses
- Keep people safer when using drugs
- Connect people who use drugs and their support networks to resources and information
Know Overdose Nevada County works to achieve these goals through education and training on overdose prevention and harm reduction strategies, connecting people to resources, and increasing access to harm reduction tools like naloxone (brand name Narcan) and fentanyl test strips.
Since the summer of 2020, many organizations have started including naloxone in their first aid kits, training staff and community members on how to use it, and becoming distributors of naloxone through the state’s Naloxone Distribution Project to ensure clients and community members can access the life-saving medication.
With fentanyl now widespread in the street drug supply, it is important for everyone in the community to be aware of overdose prevention strategies, where to get naloxone and how to use it, and where they can get more information about harm reduction.
For more information about the Know Overdose Nevada County campaign, overdose prevention and harm reduction strategies, or to learn where to access free naloxone visit knowoverdosenc.com.
~ Nevada County Health press release
Newly Available Housing Master Plans
PLACER COUNTY/NEVADA COUNTY/SIERRA COUNTY
Housing units are in high demand across California, including the Sierra Nevada region. To expedite the permitting process and reduce building costs, Nevada County, the Town of Truckee, the City of Grass Valley, the City of Nevada City, Placer County, and Sierra County are offering new affordable Housing Master Plans for single-family homes or granny units (also known as an ADU, granny flat, an in-law unit, or a backyard cottage). Three designs options are available to choose from:
- One-bedroom, 661-square-foot unit with a garage
- Two-bedroom, 746-square-foot unit with or without a garage
- Three-bedroom, 1,194-square-foot unit with or without a garage
“These resources were created through a collaboration with our regional partners,” said Nicholas McBurney, Nevada County Building Department’s plans examiner. “We recognize the need for more efficient, affordable housing, making this a unique project to address the high demand and increasing costs to build.”
The plans are designed to be used by first-time owner-builders or experienced contractors. They allow the owner to select the heating, roofing, and siding with several floor plans, elevations, foundations, snow load engineering, and orientation, providing a total of 96 different possible combinations of options.
The plans are pre-approved, reducing or eliminating plan check fees and review delays. Each plan set is available to purchase from the architect for $1,200 per plan, customized for each lot at a low cost compared to typical plans that run around $15,000 or more. Residents can review the plans online before purchasing.
In the fall of 2020, Nevada County championed this cross-jurisdictional effort in collaboration with Sierra County, Placer County, the Town of Truckee, the City of Grass Valley, and the City of Nevada City. Each jurisdiction partnered with Jackson & Sands Engineering and Russell Davidson Architect to develop, review, and approve the plan sets.
~ Nevada County press release
Electric Buses Coming to Tahoe
Placer County will order four electric buses to add to the Tahoe Truckee Area Transit (TART) system as part of the county’s larger effort to convert to a zero emissions fleet by 2040.
The board of supervisors took action to approve a Zero Emissions Bus Rollout Plan by the Department of Public Works. The plan is designed to meet the California Air Resource Board’s Innovative Clean Transit regulation, which was introduced in 2018 and requires transit systems to convert to zero emission buses by 2040.
The first all-electric buses will be ordered by the county in 2023, with an expected delivery to TART in 2025. In the coming years, new zero-emissions buses will be added throughout the county.
“By 2029, every bus we buy has to be zero emission,” said Deputy Director of Public Works Will Garner. “We can have conventional buses in our fleet at the same time, but each of those will need to be replaced by zero emission buses by 2040.”
Along with buses, the county will roll out plans for charging stations at bus yards in Auburn and Truckee.
The first buses being ordered now will be partially funded through a unique partnership with Placer County. Developers of the Meadow View workforce housing project in Martis Valley pledged to help reduce vehicle emissions by providing housing for Tahoe workers and helping the county offer zero emission public transit.
~ Placer County press release
TTUSD Needs More Teachers
On March 29, North Tahoe High School posted to Facebook: “Seeking highly skilled, inspirational, and collaborative teachers! We are hiring a math teacher and a SS/English teacher for 23/24! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.”
Alder Creek Middle School is seeking a technology teacher. The school district is also looking to hire special education teachers throughout the district.
Several other open positions in the district include cooks, substitute teachers, coaches, bus drivers, custodians, and administrators. Click here for a full list of open positions.
Homeless Count Results
PLACER COUNTY/NEVADA COUNTY
The annual Point-in-Time survey of people experiencing homelessness in Placer and Nevada counties was conducted Jan. 25 through Feb. 3 by 150 volunteers, nonprofit, and city and county staff, asking people where they stayed on the night of Jan. 25. The 2023 count of sheltered and unsheltered individuals surveyed a minimum of 709 individuals experiencing homelessness in Placer County, and a minimum of 496 individuals experiencing homelessness in Nevada County. By comparison, the 2022 count surveyed a minimum of 750 individuals experiencing homelessness in Placer County and 527 people experiencing homelessness in Nevada County. The count surveyed 407 unsheltered individuals in Placer County and 227 unsheltered individuals in Nevada County.
This effort was led by the Homeless Resource Council of the Sierras, the lead organization in the region’s Continuum of Care for homelessness. HRCS is a nonprofit collaborative composed of members representing nonprofit and government agencies who coordinate resources and develop strategies to end homelessness in Placer and Nevada counties. A point-in-time count is a one-night estimate of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations. The count provides the number and demographic characteristics of persons who are homeless on the night of the count, both sheltered in emergency shelter or transitional housing; or unsheltered, on the street, or in some other place unfit for human habitation, on the night of the count. The PIT count was made possible in part by generous financial support from Anthem, Kaiser Permanente, and California Health and Wellness.
“Behind these numbers are the human experiences of people living through the trauma of homelessness,” said Samuel Holmes, Executive Director of the Homeless Resource Council of the Sierras. “For example, surveyors connected with an 81-year-old veteran living in his vehicle and over 20 families with children under the age of 3. It’s also important to remember that this data represents the minimum count of individuals experiencing homelessness on a single night in January.”
Homeless individuals wishing to access basic shelter and housing services in Placer and Nevada counties should call 2-1-1 to be connected to services.
~ Homeless Resource Council of the Sierras press release
How You Can Help Improve Mail Service
The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing a significant staffing shortage in Truckee. The town is aware of the challenges the community has been experiencing with inconsistent mail delivery and is actively working with USPS and Congressman Kevin Kiley’s office to elevate these concerns and to address these issues. In the meantime, these are some requests from USPS on how our community can help.
- Clear enough snow from curbside boxes to allow mail trucks to approach the box, deliver the mail, and to drive away from the box without danger or the need for backing. Walkways should be cleared of snow and ice to allow enough traction to avoid slips, trips, or falls. Steps should also be clear of ice and snow and in good repair. Overhangs should be clear of snow and ice. Leave a light on if possible to illuminate walkways and porches.
- Add your street address to your mailbox so that it’s easier for your carrier to find. This is particularly important in winter, when snow may obscure the number on the front of your house.
- Pick up parcels promptly. Whether your package is delivered to a parcel locker or behind the counter at the post office, picking it up promptly helps to free up space which keeps post office operations more efficient.
- Sign up for Informed Delivery. Informed Delivery is a free service that sends you daily digest emails that preview your mail and packages scheduled to arrive soon. This can help you track and manage your packages in one convenient place.
~ Talk From the Town: Town of Truckee newsletter
New Grant Program Offering Millions to State Artists
The state of California is making an unprecedented investment in the arts. The “California Creative Corps” program will award $60 million in grants statewide to implement media, outreach, and engagement campaigns. The goal is to increase awareness related to issues such as public health, water and energy conservation, climate mitigation, and emergency preparedness, relief, and recovery.
The Nevada County Arts Council is the administering organization for the upstate region, which covers 19 counties in the northern part of the state. It will award more than $3 million in grants for artists, as well as for arts and social service organizations that will employ artists between spring 2023 and spring 2024. Supporting local outreach with local knowledge, as well as technical assistance for artists, and program development and evaluation, are multiple county arts agencies serving what amounts to the largest, most diverse, geographic area in California.
“We are identifying issues that are specific to communities across our service region, and inviting artists to position themselves to create awareness around them and get paid for it,” says Eliza Tudor, executive director at Nevada County Arts Council. “We want our process to be as inclusive and accessible as possible and to draw upon creative processes that spur conversation around how to create lasting change that our diverse populations can take pride in.”
The launch of a statewide Creative Corps pilot program is the result of a recommendation from the governor’s economic and jobs recovery task force and is the first of its kind in the nation. Grant applications are now open and will run until April 28. There are multiple mechanisms in place for support in the grant application process, both regionally through Upstate Creative Corps, and locally, through county arts partners. These include informational webinars, grant writing workshops, training and panel discussions. To learn more visit: upstatecreativecorps.org.
~ Upstate Creative Corps press release
Tahoe National Forest Extends Seasonal Road and Trail Closures
Due to heavy snowpack and near record wet weather conditions this winter, Tahoe National Forest has extended the seasonal closure period of its roads and trails to motorized use. Motorized vehicle use on forest roads during wet weather conditions causes degradation to soil and water resources. These actions will protect trails and roadbeds from damage during overly wet conditions, reduce maintenance costs, and protect the quality of water, with much of the forest’s area serving a municipal watershed.
The use of motorized vehicles are prohibited as outlined below unless conditions allow for termination of the order on an earlier date:
- April 1 through April 30, for roads and trails listed on the 2020 Tahoe National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps with seasonal designation dates of April 1 to Dec. 31 (generally the west side of the forest).
- April 24 through May 23, for roads and trails listed on the 2020 Tahoe National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps with seasonal designation dates of April 24 to Dec. 31 (generally the east side of the forest).
A minimum three-month closure period from Jan. 1 through March 31 was designated for the core part of the wet season in the Tahoe National Forest Travel Management Plan. This plan also allows the seasonal road closure to start earlier or be extended based on conditions in a given year.
Violation of the closure order is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both. View the forest order here.
~ Tahoe National Forest press release
Rosie Dunsford Celebration of Life
Susan “Rosie” Dunsford, founder of Rosie’s Cafe located in Tahoe City, passed away on Jan. 1 of pancreatic cancer. A celebration of life will be held in Rosie’s honor on April 23, at 4 p.m at the Calistoga Inn & Brewery. For more information and to RSVP visit eventbrite.com.
Moving In, Moving On, Moving Up
A Message From Superintendent Ghysels
It has been an honor to serve as the superintendent of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District over the past three years and to be a part of this incredibly resilient and connected community.
I wanted to let you know that I have been offered an opportunity to return to the Bay Area, where I will be closer to family, and I have decided to accept it. At the close of the 2022/23 school year, I will be leaving TTUSD and have accepted a position as the superintendent of the San Rafael City Schools.
I will always hold a special place in my heart for the Tahoe/Truckee community and the incredible students — we’ve been through a lot together. Between the Covid-19 pandemic and a record winter, there hasn’t been a dull moment! The staff, students, and community have shown compassion, resiliency, and grit during these extremely challenging times, and I’m privileged to have been a partner throughout. Most importantly, I continue to be inspired by our students, who have exemplified incredible strength and flexibility in the face of unprecedented challenges, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to education and personal growth.
I will continue as the TTUSD superintendent through the remainder of the 2022/23 school year, ensuring no interruptions to operations and a smooth transition. The board of trustees will immediately begin to thoughtfully select a replacement that I’m confident will fulfill the needs of all district stakeholders and, most importantly, our students.
I want to express my gratitude for placing your trust in me as the superintendent and for providing support and empathy throughout the last few years. It means a lot to me.
I know the students of TTUSD will continue to thrive, as they have proven over and over!
~ Carmen Ghysels, TTUSD Superintendent, district enews
Cal Neva Resort Acquired by Investment Development Company
McWhinney, a leading real estate investment, development, and management firm, has acquired the Cal Neva Resort. The Lake Tahoe resort, originally built in 1926, was later redeveloped by Frank Sinatra in 1960. During its glitzy heyday, the Cal Neva played host to hundreds of major U.S. figures, including John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. The property has been in need of renovation for the past several decades and closed for business altogether in 2013.
The recent purchase by McWhinney signals an exciting new beginning for Cal Neva, with planning underway to reimagine the resort as a modern leisure/travel destination while nodding to its storied past.
“We are thrilled for the opportunity to craft the next iteration of this one-of-a-kind resort. The acquisition of Cal Neva is a perfect complement to our existing award-winning hospitality lifestyle portfolio,” said Chad McWhinney, co-founder, chairman, and CEO at McWhinney. “Our vision is to reimagine and revitalize this iconic resort with deep historic roots into an exceptional experience for guests and the local community to enjoy for years to come.”
Hayes Barnard, a pioneer in the solar and sustainability business, will be the lead investor in the project. “We’ve enjoyed being a leading investor in multiple McWhinney hospitality projects, including the Austin Proper Hotel, and believe strongly in their expertise and ability to transform the Cal Neva back to the iconic property it was in the 1920s,” said Barnard. This project has special meaning to Barnard, who owns a home in Crystal Bay. “Our family has created lasting memories at Lake Tahoe for over 20 years and we are excited to play a meaningful role in restoring the Cal Neva Resort,” he added.
McWhinney’s project team, in partnership with The Kor Group, plans to reposition Cal Neva as a Proper-branded hotel as they begin the initial visioning and design for the 13-acre site. They look forward to engaging with the local community and meeting with regulatory officials as the redevelopment plan takes shape. “We believe the approach Proper Hospitality takes with each of our distinctive projects is the perfect fit for such a rare property,” said Brad Korzen, CEO at Proper Hospitality. “We strive to create an experience that is anchored to its location and creates long-term lasting value that supports the local community.”
For the latest project updates, visit revitalizecalneva.com.
~ McWhinney press release
Happy Tier’s Bakery and Coffeebar now in Incline
Happy Tier’s Bakery, a beloved commercial bakery specializing in wedding and custom cakes, has opened its first retail store in Incline Village, and has chosen to partner with Coffeebar.
You can show your support at their grand opening on April 6, where they will be serving Coffeebar’s staple drip coffee with Happy Tier’s famous cinnamon rolls.
~ Coffeebar newsletter
First Artificial Intelligence-Enabled Fitness Studio in Nevada
Known since 2011 as a “smart fitness studio” franchise due to its bio-adaptive, robotic exercise equipment providing a customized, efficient workout, The Exercise Coach is now considered a “smart” fitness studio for yet another reason: its safe, private atmosphere. Reno resident Jeff Heinemann opened his first Exercise Coach location on Feb. 15 in Reno. He plans to launch two more locations in the Reno/Sparks area in the next two years. This is the first AI-enabled fitness studio in the entire state of Nevada.
Outfitted with high-tech computerized machines instead of traditional equipment, The Exercise Coach’s personalized programs are optimized for efficiency, resulting in only two 20-minute workouts per week that can’t be matched in effectiveness with even seven days a week of traditional activity-based exercise. The Exercise Coach’s robotic exercise technology is combined with the guidance of certified coaches to provide a unique, comprehensive approach to fitness designed to be a perfect fit for anyone, regardless of current fitness levels. The studio creates a dynamic exercise experience that blends personalized strength and interval cardio training in each session.
Heinemann has been a practicing anesthesiologist since 2000. Two years ago, he transitioned to part-time to take care of his children every other week. He plans to continue to work part-time for approximately one additional year, then retire from medicine. The 52-year-old is leaving medicine partially due to burn out and mainly for a desire to pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity as well as to spend more time with family.
The Exercise Coach uses its technology to capture the more reluctant exercise consumer — people who are either too busy to spend a great deal of time at the gym, dislike the gym scene, and/or are afraid of injuring themselves. Rather than use their proprietary technology competing with other gyms to court the most athletic people, The Exercise Coach offers privacy, convenience, personalization, efficiency, and guidance to change the quality of life for people who are less familiar with fitness successes. For more information, visit exercisecoach.com/south-reno.
~ The Exercise Coach press release