South Lake Tahoe officials are asking people to weigh in on the environmental review and final draft phases of a Tahoe Valley Area Plan being created to guide future revitalization efforts in a 337-acre area centered around the “Y” intersection.
“We’re looking for comments to help us develop the alternatives for (environmental) review,” said John Hitchcock, planning manager for South Lake Tahoe. “And now that the draft plan is on the streets, we also want people to read it and comment on it. Do they agree with what we’re proposing in terms of zoning and design standards? Did we hit the mark on this, did we deliver a plan that reflects your vision?”
The 100-page plan is a comprehensive land use and zoning document that lays out a vision for improvements and revitalization efforts in an area around the U.S. 50 and Highway 89 intersection. Developed primarily in the 1950s as a commercial strip for highway motorists, the area covered by the plan has remained stagnant and seen relatively little private reinvestment.
Prior efforts to develop a community plan for the Tahoe Valley continued from 2003 through 2008 but never resulted in the adoption of a formal plan.
This plan envisions the transformation of Tahoe Valley into a recreation and commercial gateway for the city with bike path, pedestrian and transit connecting the area to adjacent neighborhoods and recreation sites, as well as the creation of several mixed-use commercial districts and a healthcare services district around Barton Memorial Hospital.
“Not much has happened in this area for quite some time and we think the plan really sets the stage to create those incentives for redevelopment to occur, while also getting those environmental improvements we need,” Hitchcock said.
One of the plan’s largest proposed projects is a Tahoe Valley Greenbelt. It would extend bike and pedestrian paths through a series of undeveloped, publicly-owned parcels of land behind commercial areas along the southeast corner of the “Y.” The corridor also would function as a stormwater infiltration basin, so property owners could contribute to its development and maintenance and achieve compliance with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s best manage practices program.
“It’s an existing stormwater system and has been nothing else, so why not turn it into a multi-use facility that not only treats stormwater but also provides open space and stream environment zone restoration and use it as an amenity for retail, commercial and residential uses that could develop facilities inward toward the greenbelt with things like outdoor dining that faces onto the park-like area,” Hitchcock said.
The project could be challenging. Some needed parcels are owned by the California Tahoe Conservancy and were purchased using funding sources that could restrict their usage for things such as bike paths.
“We have been in discussion with them and are aware that there are some limitations on their usage,” Hitchcock said about the CTC parcels. “I think the concept itself is solid. That will be a conversation we will have to have through this whole planning process, but it does require the use of some of their parcels.”
The Tahoe Valley Area Plan proposes maximum building heights of 45 feet in a commercial town center core in the immediate “Y” intersection area and maximum heights of 42 feet in other outlying areas.
The city proposes an array of incentives to try to encourage redevelopment in Tahoe Valley. That includes additional coverage allowances and mechanisms to offset mitigation fees for over-covered properties as well as offering additional commercial floor area space the city of South Lake Tahoe has access to for projects that meet green building standards, incorporate new housing units, participate in the Tahoe Valley Greenbelt or develop public facilities such as neighborhood parks.
Tahoe Valley has about 1.1 million square feet of existing CFA. Only about 15,000 square feet of additional CFA will be made available through TRPA with the area plan’s adoption, meaning other CFA would have to come from the city, be reallocated from other sites or be transferred into the area.
Hitchcock said the Tahoe Valley Area Plan has seen strong public interest and support. “There’s been interest in it because there’s a pent-up demand for something to happen in Tahoe Valley. People want to see something happen and be part of making that vision and we want to deliver a plan that reflects the community’s desires,” Hitchcock said. “We’re excited. This plan has been many years in the making and a long-time coming.”