South Lake Tahoe Warm Room consequences (opinion) |

South Lake Tahoe Warm Room consequences (opinion)

I would like to preface this by saying these are my personal observations only and do not represent the views of any institution or organization. I have worked as an emergency physician at Barton since 1979. Every year I have witnessed the seasonal ebb and flow of homeless people in South Lake Tahoe. They drift into town when the weather gets nice, live in the woods and by the river, become distressed when the snow falls, and leave in the winter. The total number of homeless with their attendant alcohol, drug, mental health, and other social issues have gradually increased, but generally police, fire / ambulance, and the hospital were able to provide the needed services without adversely affecting care of rest of the community.

In the last year, this changed. Police, Fire, and Emergency Department staff noticed it. It is visible on the street. There is a marked increase in the number of the homeless, because a substantial number wintered over. Now, rooms are tied up in the Emergency Department by these people being treated acutely and being held for psychiatric placement. Because of this, waiting times for everyone else are increasing. Ambulance and police are running numerous calls on these folks, placing subsequent calls on hold. We can expect this trend to continue.

I am asked on a frequent basis by providers and members of the community to say something about the Warm Room. No one wants to be the first person to speak up and get hammered in the paper and elsewhere for being an uncaring redneck. I am a liberal Democrat. I am happy to provide any needed services to anyone who presents without regard to ability to pay or whether or not they are a productive member of society. And I am quite aware that there will be splatter from making this statement. But I care very much about our town, and I am not quite sure I like the direction it has turned.

I have no intention of being a spokesperson for this issue. But I have seen numerous examples this year including assaults on a teen-aged girl, grab and run theft from the Hospital cafeteria, and arson by some of our well-known homeless this year that are really unprecedented. So I will take the hit and be the first one to at least bring the issue up for discussion as to whether or not South Lake Tahoe is becoming a magnet for the homeless. These people with their drug, alcohol, mental health, and criminal justice issues are beginning to overwhelm the limited local resources.

Citizens of South Lake Tahoe need to make informed choices, need to know that there are consequences of their actions, and accept those consequences. If the Warm Room is to be continued, then there also needs to concomitant increases in mental health, police, and fire department services. And we will need more space in the Emergency Department at Barton.

Steven D. Leman, M.D., works for Barton Health and lives in South Lake Tahoe.

Letter: Goodbye, old friend

We’ve been friends for over 60 years, yet we’ve never met

You were my friend who introduced and explained the game and joys of baseball. Yes, I played, my children played and now, my grandkids. A great gift in life is to pass down joy from generation to generation. You helped. Thank you!

On hot summer nights back in the 1960s, you would talk baseball and tell me stories about the history of our national pastime between pitches of the Dodger game as I would drift off to sleep.

A great memory for me was when you called Willie Davis hitting an inside the park homerun with a close play at the plate. My dad said, “Did you see that?” Yes, you had such a beautiful way to use words to allow us to “see” the game without a TV! Thank you.

You were always inviting, starting off each game with, “It’s time for Dodger Baseball!” “Hi everybody and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be, please, pull up a chair and spend part of your evening with me.” I would, and loved every time I did. Thank you.

It is very sad you are leaving yet I am very happy for our time together.

You made calls that will live in baseball history. You memorialized Henry Aaron’s 715th home run to pass Babe Ruth, Bo Jackson’s All Star game home run and who will ever forget Kirk Gibson’s walk off home run to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. “In a year that has been so improbable the impossible has happened.”

Thank you, again, Vin Scully for the happiness and joy you have given me and my family.

Your friends, Rob and Steph Evans

Zephyr Cove, Nev.

Experts: Tahoe tourism shows room for growth

It’s not a secret that tourism and real estate are the bread and butter of the Tahoe-Truckee economy. Anyone who’s spent a holiday weekend in the region has seen how busy it can get, and those who have stayed have seen just how much traffic dies down during the week.

The real challenge facing the local economy, according to those in the tourism industry, is figuring out how to get visitors to stay more than just the weekend.

The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association hosted the annual North Lake Tahoe Tourism Summit last week in Kings Beach for industry pros to network and gain insight into the state of the local economy.

Marily Mora, president of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority; Caroline Beteta, CEO of Visit California; and Ralf Garrison, director of the Colorado-based firm Destimetrics, were among presenters at the North Tahoe Event Center.

“This last year, tourism recovered for the first time since the recession,” Garrison said.

Destimetrics only provides data to subscribers, and the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association wasn’t able to provide long-term data before publication of this article.

But according to the most recent Destimetrics Mountain Market Briefing on Sept. 16, industry-wide data from participating resorts (which include dozens from six states including Colorado, Nevada and California) shows bookings for the upcoming winter season are already up 10.9 percent compared to last year.

Meanwhile Placer County’s Transient Occupancy Tax for the North Tahoe region on the California side, which is levied on visitors via hotel rooms and other lodging options, also shows tourism has been on the rise.

The county reported in August that last year’s TOT revenue was up to more than $15 million, an 18 percent increase from the previous year, and data obtained by the Sierra Sun shows consistent increases in TOT revenue since the 2011-12 season.

While local tourism is up, there’s always room for improvement. The Destimetrics data revealed two key areas for the local industry to grow: occupancy and non-peak periods.

“Our challenge is to create demand during other times of the year,” Garrison said.

In a later interview with the Sun, he said Lake Tahoe’s geographic location is what makes it such a popular weekend destination.

“All the things you’d ever need are right there on the West Coast,” he said.

That means visitors can get to Tahoe on short notice, but it also means they’re not staying as long.

“Other destinations, people have to travel longer distances to get to, so people have things like three and four night stays,” Garrison said. “Mostly resorts like those longer-stay guests.”

Another point he mentioned is that while Tahoe is a popular destination for West Coast residents, people in other parts of the country actually have to fly over other ski resorts like those in Colorado to get here.

These challenges, paired with concerns about snowfall, provide a lot of insight into how local resorts are working to maintain visitation.

“Our collective thinking is not how to grow more during the busy times but to grow during slower times … it’s a smarter business decision,” he said.

Garrison explained that since resorts have improved snowmaking efforts, beginner and intermediate skiers (and snowboarders) are still able to have fun even when the weather isn’t as favorable for winter sports.

Plus, there are other things to do. While lift ticket sales might decline during a bad snowfall record, he said retail sales actually go up — and that’s important, since it also increases county tax revenue.

Foxworthy headlines Reno’s Silver Legacy Casino

Renowned comedian and television personality Jeff Foxworthy brings his stand-up comedy tour to Reno’s Silver Legacy Casino for a two-performance night on Saturday, Oct. 1.

“Jeff Foxworthy is one of the most respected and successful comedians in the country. He is the largest-selling comedy recording artist in history, a multiple Grammy Award nominee and best-selling author of 11 books.

“Widely known for his redneck jokes, his act goes well beyond that to explore the humor in everyday family interactions and human nature, a style that has been compared to Mark Twain’s,” states Foxworthy’s online biography.

Marked by his “You might be a redneck if …,” jokes, Foxworthy was a member of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, which included comedians Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy. The stand-up comedian is also known for his stints on “The Jeff Foxworthy Show” and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”

“Never in a million years would I ever have expected myself up on stage with people actually wanting to hear my jokes and what I have to say… I mean, all that ever got me growing up was a D- in conduct!

“I consider myself a regular guy and I do my best to live my life through the guidance of God, keeping my friends and family close, and treating people the right way,” states Foxworthy’s Facebook biography.

Saturday’s first performance begins at 6:30 p.m., with the second following at 9:30 p.m. Silver Legacy Resort & Casino is located at 407 N Virginia Street in Reno.

Tickets start at $52.75, plus tax and fees. For more information, visit

— Lake Tahoe Action

Three South Shore projects named in TRPA’s Best in Basin Awards

Three projects on the South Shore were recognized by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in its annual Best in Basin program.

The Best in Basin program, now in its 26th year, showcases projects that are in line with Lake Tahoe’s environment and communities.

Of the nine projects recognized this year, three were in South Lake Tahoe: Bijou Bike Park, Sawmill 2B Bike Path and Erosion Control Project, and Angora Burn Area Restoration Phase III.

“These projects illustrate the progress our partners are making to restore and conserve our environment, improve our communities, and make our region more sustainable,” said Joanne S. Marchetta, executive director of TRPA.

The Bijou Bike Park was created by the City of South Lake Tahoe and volunteers from the Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA). The bike park includes a world-class BMX track, two pump tracks, three slopestyle jump lines, and a loop trail within the five acres of forest land in Bijou Community Park.

South Lake Tahoe Mayor Pro Tem Austin Sass recognized Assistant Public Works Director Jim Marino and Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association President Ben Fish as the driving forces behind the Bijou Bike Park.

The Sawmill 2B Bike Path and Erosion Control Project was spearheaded by El Dorado County and partners. Together they built 1.2 miles of Class 1 bikeway, connecting South Lake Tahoe and Meyers.

The project included water quality improvements to reduce erosion and stormwater pollution. Thick forested areas long the bikeway were also thinned to help reduce wildfire risk.

Lastly, the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit was recognized for the work accomplished over the last nine years in the 3,100-acre burn area from the Angora Fire.

Since 2007, the Forest Service, in conjunction with community and government partners, has reforested 672 acres, restored 44 acres of aspen and meadow, and completed 1,400 acres of fuels reduction and forest thinning to reduce the risk of wildfires.

They have also relocated roads and trails out of stream zones, installed new signage, and restored 2,000 feet of stream channel.

Winners of the Best in Basin were announced at the TRPA Governing Board meeting on Sept. 28 in Kings Beach.

Tahoe Chamber calling for Blue Ribbon Awards nominations

The South Shore Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce is calling on the public for 2016 Blue Ribbon Awards nominations.

The Blue Ribbon Awards recognize businesses and employees in seven categories: Geotourism, Tourism, Experience, Entrepreneur, Customer Service (Business), Customer Service (Public Agency) and Wendall Award — for a green business or program.

“Is the product or service unique? Did creative ingenuity overcome challenges? Has the business achieved sustainable success in the community?”— these are the type of questions to ask yourself when considering nominating a business or employee, according to the Tahoe Chamber.

Nominations can be submitted online through the Tahoe Chamber’s website,, until noon on Oct. 17.

“The concept was started as a result of some of the negative views that are out there in regards to the Tahoe Business community. We wanted a way to show the community that there are great businesses here that provide exceptional service and experiences,” said Emily Abernathy, events director for the Tahoe Chamber.

Nominees will be announced in late October, and finalists will then be evaluated by a Blue Ribbon Awards Committee of Tahoe Chamber board members and staff, past winners, and community members.

The winners will be announced at the 9th annual Blue Ribbon Awards ceremony and dinner, held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Nov. 10.

“Winners receive a glass award as well as one year of chamber membership, a blue ribbon award banner for their business, a produced vignette about their business and why they won the award along with opportunities to be featured in chamber publications regarding why they were selected,” said Abernathy.

The individual who wins the customer service award gets treated to a “perfect Tahoe day,” added Abernathy, which could include activities like golf, a massage or a fishing trip.

The Chateau at the Village in South Lake Tahoe sells for $42.5M

Tahoe Stateline Venture, LLC, has entered into a purchase agreement with Jianping Pan, Kawana Holdings LLC to sell part of The Chateau at the Village for $42.5 million, according to Owens Realty Mortgage.

Formerly known as “the Hole,” the property was untouched for many years after a developer tore down existing structures before running out of money during the recession. Owens Financial purchased the property, located on Lake Tahoe Blvd. near the casino corridor, and began creating residential and commercial units.

Tahoe Stateline Venture is a subsidiary of Walnut Creek-based Owens Realty Mortgage, which is managed and advised by Owens Financial.

The first phase of the project was completely in October 2014 and consisted of 31,000 gross square feet of retail space at a cost of $21.5 million. This space now houses retail stores and restaurants like McP’s Taphouse Grill.

The next phase of the project, estimated at $48 million, kicked off September 2015 and includes an additional 20,000 gross square feet of retail, 30 high-end condominiums and a common area of more than 44,000 gross square feet. The area is known as Zalanta, and Chase International is handling the condo sales, which range from $895,000 to over $2 million.

Subterranean parking for 535 stalls has also been developed.

Eleven and a half acres of the retail and residential development site were put up for sale with no listing price towards the end of 2015 through real estate firm Kidder Mathews.

Kawana Holdings has agreed to purchase approximately 8 acres of land and entitlements, including related parking and garage structures. This does not include existing retail buildings and improvements.

In order for the sale to move forward, a number of conditions must be met, including satisfactory due diligence by Tahoe Stateline Venture and approval by the City of South Lake Tahoe of a tentative map.

The transaction is expected to close around March 31, 2017 or within seven business days following approval of the map.

“There is no assurance if or when the sale of the TSV Property will be consummated,” stated Owens Realty Mortgage.

Kawana Holdings has paid an initial deposit into escrow of $500,000, and an additional $12.5 million will be added before Nov. 18. Tahoe Stateline Venture will credit the buyer $3 million for expenses. The remaining $32.5 million will be paid at closing.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care releases golden eagle

On Sunday, Sept. 25, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care released a male golden eagle that had been living at the rehabilitation center for shortly over a month.

“He was ready to go. When he came in, he was extremely thin and wasn’t flying very well,” LTWC founder Tom Millham said.

Two weeks ago, volunteers and staff began taking the eagle out for exercise time in which the bird would practice flying. He grew better each day.

Millham began eyeing Sunday, Sept. 25, as a release date approximately one week ago. On the 19th, the golden eagle continued flight improvement during practice and exercise time.

“It confirmed my thought he was ready to go. The last flight and exercise training was on Friday [the 23rd]. He flew about 15 times and didn’t really get winded. I was confident he would do well,” Millham said.

On Sunday, LTWC released the eagle at Carson Pass, and the release went exactly as Millham expected.

“On several instances at that location when we let birds go, they just soar down, down, down towards the lake before catching a thermal and coming back up. This one, I don’t think he went down at all. That doesn’t happen very often,” Millham explained.

For more information on Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, visit or find the organization on Facebook.

Collin still committed to South Lake Tahoe council candidacy after fatal wreck

A head-on collision on Kingsbury Grade resulted in the death of one driver and serious injuries for several others, including South Lake Tahoe City Council candidate Jason Collin.

Collin, his wife Natalie and several others were in an RV headed to Mammoth on Friday, Sept. 23 when they were struck by a Nissan Pathfinder headed in the opposite direction. The collision was reported at 1:21 p.m.

The group was headed to test a running route for an upcoming event by Epic Tahoe Adventures, of which Collin is “Chief Officer of Awesomeness.” He also works as Barton Health’s Director of Home Health and Hospice.

The driver of the Pathfinder, 47-year-old Carrie Hilderbrand of Wellington, Nevada, died from her injuries at the hospital. She was the only occupant in the car.

Collin and Hilderbrand were transported by air ambulance, while three of the RV passengers were taken away by ground ambulance. At least two people had to be cut from the wreckage, reported the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The Nevada Highway Patrol’s preliminary investigation indicated that Hilderbrand allowed her car to drift over the double yellow lines, and ultimately strike the left front of the motorhome, driven by Collin.

At this time, it is not known if drug or alcohol impairment factored into the accident, but the investigation by the highway patrol is ongoing. Both drivers were wearing their seatbelts.


“Jason sustained serious injuries in the crash yesterday resulting in both legs being broken and shattered in various places from the knee down. He has had 2 successful surgeries so far and has one more scheduled for Monday. He is in excellent spirits and is recovering well and will hopefully be released next week,” according to a Facebook post by Epic Tahoe Adventures on Sept. 24.

“His wife Natalie also broke a finger in the accident but was treated and released yesterday, and is by Jason’s side. The Collin family appreciates the outpouring of support and love the community has shown.”

On Sept. 25 Collin posted on Facebook himself thanking everyone for the support.

“I am doing pretty well considering everything that’s happened. I had surgery to straighten out my right leg today. And I will have surgery Monday to straighten out my left ankle,” he wrote.

Collin still is committed to running for city council, said his wife Natalie on Sept. 26.

“The accident might slow down his campaign a bit, but his spirits are high and he continues to be optimistic about running for city council. He is still committed to being part of positive change in Tahoe,” said Natalie.

“We are completely focused on his recovery. Fingers crossed he gets home by the end of the week.”

Autumn Fish Fest returns to South Lake Tahoe this weekend

As the seasons begin to change, Kokanee salmon start their fall migration. This weekend, the U.S. Forest Service celebrates the annual event with its Fall Fish Fest, held at Taylor Creek Visitor Center on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1-2.

“The Fall Fish Festival focuses on a variety of fish species that live in Lake Tahoe and its rivers. In addition to the Kokanee, these species include the federally threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout and little-known smaller fish, such as speckled dace,” states the U.S. Forest Service website.

Over the years, festival activities have included a treasure hunt, fish painting, ice cream truck and visits from mascots such as Lulu the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout and Sandy and Rocky Salmon.

The giant inflatable fish returns this year, and Smokey Bear might even pay a visit.

“From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, visitors can learn about the natural wonders of Taylor Creek from Forest Service biologists as they stroll along the accessible half-mile loop Rainbow Trail.

“This peaceful walk meanders through forests, meadows and marsh lands to the creek where the Kokanee salmon spawn within a few feet of your own feet. A close-up view of this natural event is available in the underground Stream Profile Chamber located along the Rainbow Trail path,” according to the site.

The two-day event is free to attend. Taylor Creek Visitor Center is located at Visitor Center Road in South Lake Tahoe.

— Lake Tahoe Action