As spring beckons and the snow melts, we all tend to gaze about and notice the changes in the shifting landscape around us. This month in You Asked. They Answered. (affectionately known as YATA by Ink staff), we dive into two questions addressing what readers have been seeing.
First, many have puzzled for a while about what’s going to happen with the old California Highway Patrol building on the corner of Donner Pass Road and Highway 89 (otherwise known as “grocery-store corner”). The quest for an answer took me through numerous state agencies over a period of several months. And then, finally, at the Department of General Services, the question was “run up the chain” to authorize release of information. I won’t spoil the response, but I will note that a press release was published recently and picked up by other local news outlets. That says to me, dear readers, that you should keep asking your YATA questions, so the powers that be know you’re paying attention.
The second question this month focuses on the more organic landscape but through the lens of the digital world. The ever-elusive bobcat seemed to bound through social media aplenty this winter and we asked resident nature whiz, Will Richardson, “What gives?” His reply speaks more to human nature and our altered ways this past year.
~ Mayumi Elegado, Moonshine Ink
What’s going to happen in the old CHP building in Truckee?
The old site of California Highway Patrol in Truckee will provide new housing units for locals based on Executive Order N-06-19 signed by Governor Newsom in 2019 to address the housing affordability crisis facing the state. The Department of General Services and Department of Housing and Community Development was ordered to identify and prioritize excess state-owned property and aggressively pursue the goals of affordable, sustainable, innovative, feasible, and cost-effective housing projects. DGS identified the CHP site as one such site and issued a Request for Qualification followed by a Request for Proposals in late October of 2020.
The state was focused on maximizing the number of apartments while creating housing that meets local needs for low-income individuals, including families with children and other hard-to-house populations.
In February, The Pacific Companies, based in Idaho, was selected as the project developer. TPC has extensive experience in this and other mountain towns. In Truckee, TPC is currently constructing Frishman Hollow Phase II at 11026 Rue Ivy; it built and continues to own Frishman Hollow Phase I and another multifamily development called Henness Flats, at 11929 Waters Way. All three are apartment communities, with playgrounds and community rooms, providing high-quality housing for families. TPC has also built affordable housing in South Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes.
TPC is particularly excited about this 1.72 acres of state-owned land as an affordable housing site because of proximity to services, the visibility of the property, and its position as a gateway to North Lake Tahoe in Placer County.
The housing will be income-restricted for individuals and families earning no more than 80% of the area median income. As an example, for a family of two, the maximum annual income limit is $55,000 based on 2020 Nevada County numbers.
The state intends to enter into an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement with TPC later this spring and upon successful negotiations execute a long-term ground lease and regulatory agreement with TPC.
~ Shellan Rodriguez, project manager with The Pacific Companies
We’ve been seeing a huge number of social media posts about bobcats and foxes as of late. Do you think there has been more activity? And if so, why?
An increase in bobcat reports is typical for the winter in the Tahoe area. People (and dogs) use their yards far less during winter, and the hardships of the season cause bobcats to become bolder, hunting more openly during the day, and spending more time in residential neighborhoods in search of bird feeders and suburban rabbits. This year, however, I’d expect an even bigger spike for three reasons:
Reason #1. Covid has resulted in a massive influx of people living full-time in the area. Homes that were previously empty most of the time now have people in them. It’s hard to say how much of an effect this has had, but it certainly relates to the reason #2.
Reason #2. Social media networks in the area have grown tremendously, making it easier for these posts to make the rounds. For example, the Truckee Tahoe People Facebook group is up to 27,700 members and the Incline Village group is over 16,000. That is a lot of potential bobcat observers, all connected! The fact that everybody now has a camera on their phone also helps capturing the felines in action.
Reason #3. Due to Covid, more people are spending time at home, watching bird feeders, and generally observing nature out their windows. Laura Read of Tahoe City is a great example. Although she has lived in the region for 28 years, she just had her first good look at a bobcat last winter. Due to Covid she hasn’t been traveling, so she’s been spending far more time at home and connecting with nature right around her. Laura also set up her workstation to face the big windows that look out over her backyard. As a result, she got a front-row view of a bobcat that happened to be sauntering through.
Reasons for increases in fox reports are a bit more complicated, but unlike the bobcats, I suspect gray foxes actually are on the rise around Tahoe/Truckee. The species is certainly increasing within the Lake Tahoe Basin, where there were zero documented records prior to 2005. Over the subsequent 10 years, gray fox reports at Lake Tahoe slowly increased, and now they are reported annually, and from all around the Lake Tahoe Basin. Interestingly, the phenomenon of gray foxes arriving at Tahoe coincides with the cottontail rabbit explosion of the 2000s. Between roughly 2000 and 2016, Nuttall’s cottontail went from being restricted to the high sagebrush habitats of the Carson Range to being common in neighborhoods through the Lake Tahoe region. We don’t have good historical data for gray foxes around Truckee, but the fact that reports of sightings didn’t occur in the Tahoe Basin suggests that they probably were never common around Truckee, either.
Sierra Nevada red foxes, unfortunately, were extirpated from Tahoe decades ago. Folks should keep a sharp eye out for possible red foxes, and thanks to social media and lots of folks looking out their back windows, I’m hopeful that we will hear about it if one shows up here!
~ Will Richardson, executive director of Tahoe Institute for Natural Science