Placer County approves Tahoe Basin Area Plan

Published on December 06, 2016

A key county plan to help with Lake Tahoe environmental restoration and guide land-use regulations in the county’s portion of the Lake Tahoe Basin was unanimously approved today by the Placer County Board of Supervisors. The board, meeting in Kings Beach in its last 2016 meeting, OK’d the Tahoe Basin Area Plan following a recommendation from the county planning commission last month. (View the area plan)

The board also approved the 118-unit Tahoe City Lodge project, which will be the first development using the regulatory provisions outlined in the area plan.

The Tahoe Basin Area Plan has been in development for nearly five years. The process has included numerous public meetings that enabled broad public input that helped the plan. The final draft area plan, which encompasses 72 square miles of the Lake Tahoe Basin in Placer County, was publicly released last month. The plan seeks to improve the fragile ecosystem of Lake Tahoe by encouraging environmentally-beneficial redevelopment in existing town centers, away from outlying and environmentally-sensitive areas.

"Not everyone got everything they wanted,” said District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, “but what we did get, and I think this is critically important, is something that is consistent with the TRPA regional plan, something that is an improvement over our existing plan, that is better for the lake, better for the economy, and better for the environment and our social fabric."

The county and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency have spent the last several years coordinating the preparation of the plan to ensure it conforms to the TRPA Regional Plan, which encompasses the entire Tahoe Basin. The plan contains specific policies that concentrate development and enhance mobility in the town centers and ensure transit is a viable alternative to automobile travel.

Many Tahoe-area residents, business organizations and environmental groups expressed support for the plan and the Tahoe City Lodge project. The League to Save Lake Tahoe expressed their support for both the area plan and the lodge, and made a point of the fact that this is the first time in more than 10 years that they have supported a redevelopment project.

"We spent the last three years working closely with the community and stakeholders to develop our vision, and we believe it's one that truly reflects the community's vision," said Samir Tuma, Tahoe City Lodge project applicant.

The plan includes key elements designed to create walkable communities, increase alternative transportation options, restore the environment and help achieve sustainability of existing communities. The plan also outlines ways to clean up blight, restore environmentally sensitive lands, enhance recreation opportunities and improve transportation options.

Another element of the area plan that received significant attention is its secondary dwelling allowance. The plan currently allows for secondary dwellings, as long as there is a deed restriction ensuring it is set aside for affordable housing. District 4 Supervisor Kirk Uhler expressed concern about the affordable housing limitations, suggesting that the return on investment for property owners would possibly keep that well-intentioned concept from actually improving the affordable housing crisis in the Tahoe Basin.

“I think it would be great if we could look for more creative ideas that are less limiting with regards to the affordable housing deed restriction,” said Uhler. “What if instead of focusing so much on rental rates, we simply require that the units have to be used for long-term rentals. And then, we can get creative with incentives for those who are willing to put an affordable housing deed restriction on the building.” Uhler suggested the board consider offering financial assistance via developer-paid affordable housing fees to draw down the costs and make it more likely to result in additional affordable housing. Staff plans to consider that possibility and bring it back to the board for further consideration along with a series of other affordable housing options in January.

In another action, the board approved the purchase of 15 tourist accommodation units, each of which are the equivalent of an overnight lodging unit in the Lake Tahoe Basin. TAUs are needed for redevelopment in the basin and are a commodity that the county can purchase and make available to lodging projects.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Governing Board is scheduled to take up the plan at its Jan. 25 and 26, 2017 meeting. Placer County and the TRPA are jointly proposing to adopt the area plan.

The area plan is available for review online at Tahoe Basin Area Plan.