East shore traffic plan topic of Monday meeting | TahoeDailyTribune.com

East shore traffic plan topic of Monday meeting

INCLINE VILLAGE – Monday’s citizen advisory board meeting will likely shed light on a controversial proposed East Shore traffic plan that officials say is needed to address a growing and dangerous summer safety concern. According to a proposal by the Tahoe Transportation District, the idea is to operate a pilot shuttle program – dubbed the East Shore Express – the next two summers from mid-June until Labor Day. The shuttle service would run every 20 minutes between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days a week, and the parking area for those riding would be at lots near Diamond Peak Ski Resort. According to TTD literature on the proposal, the shuttle program is needed to mitigate the major amount of traffic and parking issues – and subsequent dangers to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists – between Incline Village and Sand Harbor during the peak summer season. The plan is opposed by local Realtors and representatives of various homeowner associations residing in the area of the ski resort and Country Club Drive. According to statements submitted to the Bonanza, as well as public entities, many argue the plan will have a negative impact on those neighborhoods due to noise from the shuttle buses and exhaust fumes emanating from them, among other concerns, and that home values will decline because of the plan. The pilot program and the plan to park at Diamond Peak promises to be temporary for the next two summers, according to TTD, while various agencies work on a permanent park-and-ride program at still-to-be-determined venues on Lake Tahoe’s North and South shores.

Daily Download: Big changes in store at Cal-Neva

On the heels of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s approval Thursday of the $60-plus million renovation of the Cal-Neva Resort, Spa & Casino, officials from the resort said they’re ready to break ground this summer on the Nevada side of the project. Approval earlier this month from Washoe County should make that ground breaking possible by mid-summer, officials said. “We need to get our plans completed, finalized and then satisfy the conditions of approval with the TRPA and Washoe County and start construction June or July,” said planning consultant Kristina Hill of Incline-based Hill Planning. Reno-based Lundahl & Associates, the architecture firm founded in Incline 30 years ago by Jeff Lundahl, is the principal design firm on the project. Lundahl & Associates designed the renovated Hyatt, including its 30,000-square-foot spa facility. The firm may also receive the LEED platinum rating, the highest awarded by the US Green Building Council for eco-friendly design, for the design of the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences at Sierra Nevada College which opened last October. While the main lodge of the Cal Neva will undergo a facelift as well as a complete conversion of the hotel rooms into 1,2 and 3-bedroom condominium units to be sold to individual owners, the resort’s footprint will undergo the biggest physical changes where some 31 lakeside bungalow units currently reside. All existing units will be razed to make room for large lodge-type homes. While the project overall will reduce the total coverage on-site from 311,318 square feet to 292,989 square feet, there will be an additional 70,000 square feet of floorspace with the new lodge units. “We’ve taken into consideration parking, noise and the neighborhood’s CC&Rs,” said Namwest CEO Mike McBride. Namwest purchased the resort in February 2005 from long-time owner Glenbrook resident Chuck Bluth. “Where there are now Motel 6-type rooms there will be homes,” Hill said. As for the expeditious BaNeva does hold a special place in people’s hearts,” she said. “It’s a historic, old piece of Lake Tahoe people don’t want to see crumble into ground.” Indeed, even TRPA governing board members who had questions of the Cal Neva ownership and the timeframe for the project, endorsed the overall plan. “I think we’ve gotten adequate feedback from the community,” said TRPA governing board member Steve Merrill after querying whether Crystal Bay residents were adequately noticed of the changes at the resort-casino. “I think (it) can go forward.” If ground-breaking on the Nevada side does occur this summer, contractors will begin the process of putting utilities underground, grading and pouring foundations before the TRPA’s Oct. 15 grading deadline. Placer County review is anticipated to take several more months, TRPA officials said. The master plan also calls for preservation of the bungalows once occupied by Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe – both on the California side, which are slated to be relocated near the front of the resort. “Those are to be preserved and used for display, not occupancy,” Hill said. The project is slated for completion in 2009.

Incline community has own ski resort

For some great views and open bowl terrain, many skiers automatically assume the large resorts like Squaw Valley U.S.A. or Heavenly Ski Resort, would be the best place to go. But in Incline Village, there is a secret stash located right in its backyard. Since 1966, Diamond Peak Ski Resort has been the cornerstone of the Incline community. Owned and operated by the Incline Village General Improvement District, it has remained a stable amenity for both locals and tourists alike to enjoy. “We are certainly a smaller operation that does not appeal to the extreme crowd,” said Ed Youmans, ski resort manager. “The majority of our visitors are destination skiers who are piggybacked off the other resorts Tahoe has to offer.” Originally owned by Crystal Bay Development Company, construction of the resort was spearheaded by Luggi Foeger, who was instrumental in designing other ski resorts in the area. “Luggi was an industry pioneer in the Sierra and recognized, given Diamond Peak’s location, it would need snowmaking which was unheard of in those days,” Youmans said. He explained that due to the mountains surrounding the resort and with prevailing winds to the West, clouds typically lose a lot of precipitation by the time they reach the area, thereby reducing the amount of snowfall. Initially providing water and sewer to the Incline community, IVGID increased its responsibilities, purchasing local properties in 1976 which included Diamond Peak, two golf courses and beaches to name a few. “Our capital backing makes it possible for us to cover expenditures,” Youmans said. “The decisions made here are meant to be representative of the desires of the community. We’re small enough also that we can adapt to changes our customers would like to see too.” With approximately 20 percent of Diamond Peak skiers representing the local population and 80 percent consisting of tourists, the resort ensures all of its amenities are up-to-date and running smoothly. Last summer, a $1.2 million snowmaking system was installed and future plans include a $6 million lodge that will connect to the existing base facility. The bulk of the capital budget however, is used replacing snowcats, snowmobiles and other equipment. Diamond Peak accommodates 4,500 skiers with six lifts that all center around the base of the mountain. “Diamond Peak has the best views in Tahoe and is the most pleasant place to ski,” Youmans said. “The whole operation is very user-friendly. It’s a good place for people who are trying to get away from the mob scene in skiing.”

Tahoe Music Festival celebrates 25 years

Tickets to the Lake Tahoe Music Festival, one of the longest running summer traditions at Lake Tahoe, are now available online at http://www.TahoeMusic.org. Celebrating its 25th anniversary season, the Festival has assembled a lineup of top-name performers to fill its summer program including American music icon Kenny Loggins, jazz great David Benoit, award-winning saxophonist David Sanborn, multi-platinum-selling instrumental guitarist Craig Chaquico, Broadway luminary Franc D’Ambrosio and world famous opera star Federica von Stade. The Festival’s “Season of Classics” presents nine concerts at five venues throughout North Lake Tahoe from July 14 through Aug. 4. Lake Tahoe Music Festival individual ticket levels include: General admission: $25; preferred seating: $50; Lawn seating at Homewood Mountain Resort: $15; Youth tickets: No cost for youth under the age of 16 thanks in part to a grant from the Rotary Club of Tahoe City. July 24 performance an additional $5 Season passes are available, providing a convenient and affordable option for those planning on attending several performances. Passes are numbered and may not be used for more than one admittance per event. No refunds will be given on unused portions of the pass. Season pass levels include: Lawn Passes: $75 per person includes tickets to any of the five concerts at Homewood Mountain Resort; General Passes: $165 per person includes tickets to all seven concerts with the exception of the Festival Gala; Preferred Pass: $225 per person includes tickets to five concerts with the exception of the Festival Gala and July 21 and 24 performances. Tickets online at: tahoemusic.org; TahoeMusic.org or at the Music Festival office, located at 425 North Lake Boulevard, Suite 6 in Tahoe City. Tickets are also available at the Incline Village Visitors Bureau in Incline Village, Nev., the Tahoe City Chamber of Commerce in Tahoe City or the Truckee Chambers of Commerce in Truckee, Calif. Information: (530) 581-1184.

Tahoe market home sale prices jump 12%

The Lake Tahoe real estate market experienced increases in both average and median home prices during the first quarter of 2014. For Tahoe as a whole, which combines the East Shore, South Shore, Tahoe City and Incline Village/Crystal Bay markets, the volume of sales was down nine percent. Yet the median home price in Tahoe increased 12 percent and the average price climbed 11 percent to $876,611. The entire region has had record lows in inventory contributing to the decrease in units sold and volume sold. The one sector at Tahoe where the volume of sales increased, was at the ski resort communities of Northstar, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, by 39 percent. These figures are part of a quarterly report released by Lake Tahoe-based real estate company Chase International. Tahoe City saw sales volume jumped 48 percent over last year at this time, with $53,884,250 in volume sales recorded in 2014's first quarter. Tahoe City's average price increased a whopping 113 percent to $1,314,250, and the median price climbed 51%, from $417,000 last year to $630,000 during this year's first quarter. Incline Village showed an increase in average price of 23 percent, to $1,703,476. The number of units sold in South Shore over $1 million jumped by 100 percent. And the average price in South Shore increased by 20 percent, to $436,884. The East Shore market was down, due to several large sales that transpired in 2013 and a continued lack of inventory. "There continues to be an uptick of interest and sales in the market's upper end offerings," said Sue Lowe, corporate vice president for Chase International. "And in the under $1 million market, prices are continuing to climb." Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors notes that NAR's forecast for home sales is to be lower by five percent in the first half of this year versus the same period a year ago. However, Yun predicts that sales are projected to be two to three percent higher in the second half of the year, and home prices, because of a nationwide inventory shortage, will keep marching higher. The Truckee market posted some impressive gains with a sharp jump in median price of homes sold—up 29 percent to $635,000 and an average home price increase of 24 percent, to $858,304. However, Truckee sales volume over this time last year was down six percent. Chase International has 10 offices in the region. For more information about Chase International, visit http://www.chaseinternational.com.

Path would link Incline Village to Sand Harbor

With two bike path segments built on the South Shore, Tahoe Transportation District is turning its focus north and asking for public input on three miles of path proposed to be built along Lake Tahoe's east shore from Incline Village to Sand Harbor. A 300-page environmental assessment prepared for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and U.S. Federal Highway Administration is out for comment through mid-April. "This is a pretty major milestone for us," said Alfred Knotts, Tahoe Transportation District's project manager. The proposed path is one more part in a larger effort to build a continuous bike path from the Nevada state line on the North Shore to the casino corridor in Stateline on the South Shore. If this proposed segment is built, about 22 miles of path would remain to be completed. The path would start near Tunnel Creek in Incline Village with a trailhead parking area in highway right-of-way, beginning near the end of an existing 2.5-mile path that runs along Lakeshore Boulevard. From there the path would run south along the east side of State Route 28 to Tunnel Creek. The environmental assessment lays out options to continue the bike path south from Tunnel Creek, routing it either along the lake-side or the mountain-side of State Route 28 to Sand Harbor, the southernmost beach in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. The path would be completely separated from the road. "Each (option) kind of has its own pros or cons as it relates to potential environmental impacts and also to user experiences," Knotts said. "We haven't proposed an alignment in the EA. We're looking to the public to see what people favor, what concerns they have, then develop a recommendation of a preferred alternative." Sand Harbor is a heavily used recreation area that sees about 700,000 to 900,000 visitors each year, according to the environmental assessment. It hosts the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival in July and August and a Monday and Friday evening concert series throughout the summer. Heavy use taxes the area's limited parking and often leads to parked vehicles and people walking on the side of the highway. "We're looking to address a lot of safety and access issues that exist in that corridor and provide non-motorized access to high-value recreation areas and public lands," Knotts said. Chipping away at the ambitious Stateline-to-Stateline bike path, Tahoe Transportation District recently built two segments of path on the South Shore. One segment runs from Kahle Drive to Elks Point Road. It was completed in October 2012 and saw as many as 11,000 people per month using it during last summer's peak tourist season. The other segment runs from Elks Point Road to Round Hill Pines Resort. It was finished last October. The proposed path is fully funded from Incline Village to Tunnel Creek and Tahoe Transportation District has preliminary approvals from the FHWA to fund the rest, Knotts said. The plan is to finalize a route and project designs this year. The earliest construction could start is summer 2015. "The preliminary engineering estimate looking at the worst-case scenario for the full three miles is about $12 million, depending on which alignment is selected," Knotts said. Tahoe Transportation District also is exploring a chance to build a bike path in conjunction with an export sewer line project Incline Village General Improvement District plans to undertake in the next five to seven years. "We're exploring our ability to kind of link those two projects together to really reduce costs and environmental impacts," Knotts said. If feasible, that could deliver up to eight miles of bike path extending south from Sand Harbor.

‘Mr. Tahoe’ Darin Talbot moving to Costa Rica for winter months

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Mr. Tahoe knows he will miss Tahoe. Citing health issues, Darin “Mr. Tahoe” Talbot plans to spend winters away from his lifelong home. “This decision comes with such a heavy heart as I couldn’t love Lake Tahoe anymore then I do,” Talbot said. The singer-songwriter will work at Costa Rica at a hotel called The Springs. Talbot plans to spend summers at Tahoe. “Apparently, 35 years of living here, and my performing over 750 shows in the outside winter cold, dry environment of Tahoe over has taken its toll on my breathing and a carpal tunnel problem with my wrist,” he said. “My doctor advised me to spend time in a warmer place with more oxygen and lower altitude.” He is a longtime performer aboard the MS Dixie II and at Northstar-at-Tahoe and the Resort at Squaw Creek. Talbot grew up in Incline Village, riding Mount Rose’s “secret powder stashes” before snowboarding was allowed at resorts. His alter ego is a character named “Tweaker Shred Master.” He’s recorded a handful of Jimmy Buffett-style albums, romantically describing Tahoe’s winter and summer lifestyle. His summer audio guide “Around Tahoe” describes in real time landmarks and stories as motorists circle the lake. In its first two years more than 13,000 copies were sold. The wintertime answer to “Around Tahoe” is an extremely comprehensive guide to all of Tahoe’s resorts, stories about how the runs were named, history of the 1960 Winter Olympics, Snowshoe Thompson, snowboarding, backcountry, Nordic and the ski movie “Hot Dog.” The guide is two CDs and a DVD and an informative, entertaining companion to motorists heading to Tahoe. It’s available at all of Tahoe’s Raley’s stores and visitor centers and on iTunes, CDBaby and the website http://www.aroundtahoe.com. “My commitment to Tahoe is always there and I have enjoyed it all,” Talbot said. “I treasure being ‘Mr. Tahoe.’ It is a huge honor. “Let me be perfectly clear, I am not leaving Lake Tahoe. I will always be here mid-May to mid-September every year as I have contracts here and the Around Tahoe tour guide to take care of. I am just simply giving my body a rest for this winter and doing what I must.”

Economic update: ‘Year of the dig-out’

There may still be snow on the ground, but summer is around the corner – and local resorts and trip planning agencies think their reservations might be turning a corner too. Data from the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP) for the Tahoe region indicates an 18 percent increase in bookings for July and a 7 percent in August increase over last year’s bookings for those months at this time, said Andy Chapman, tourism director for the North Tahoe Resort Association. MTRiP tracks mountain travel industry statistics in 15 different markets and provides location-specific data to individuals like Chapman. “We’re showing some good improvement. We certainly hope that would sustain,” Chapman said. Chris Minnes, the president of the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association and general manager of the 968 Park Hotel, said his hotel’s summer numbers look to be up, but 50 to 60 percent of the bookings he’s receiving are coming only three to four days before the stay. “Summer is strong, it’s looking strong,” Minnes said. For the broader hotel community, Minnes said those who are operating just as they did years ago aren’t doing as well as operators with more creative packages and offers for customers. “The people who are doing that, they’re doing well,” Minnes said. The Village at Squaw Valley is seeing a 5 percent increase over last year at this time, with wedding-related reservations “definitely leading the charge,” general manager Christy Beck said. “We’re ahead of pace from last year,” she said. “(And) we haven’t really begun marketing for summer.” MontBleu Casino, Resort and Spa in Stateline, Nev. is seeing flat booking numbers year-over-year for summer 2010, marketing director Mike Donovan said. But Donovan said last summer was successful for the resort and casino, so he’s pleased to see the steady numbers continue. “We should be looking good,” he said. Don Cauley, general manager of Vacation Station in Incline Village, said he’s seeing a 10 percent increase over this time last year in summer bookings. That number isn’t as high as he saw in pre-recession 2008 and before, he said, but it could be a sign that improvements are coming this year. “That’s not recovery, but it is a hopeful sign and it seems we might have turned a corner,” Cauley said. In its first summer, the Ritz Carlton Highlands at Lake Tahoe hopes to bring a new kind of guest to Tahoe, said director of public relations Steven Holt – the luxury guest. “We’ve seen a lot of interest with the Ritz Carlton being new,” Holt said. Since snow is still falling in the Basin, Holt said many summer visitors haven’t made their plans yet, but he expects the Ritz to be successful this summer. “We’re where we intended to be,” he said. Cauley said those calling don’t seem quite as concerned with finding bargain prices for trips, an indication for him that money is more easy to come by and things might be looking up. “There’s less of a sense that they need a great bargain,” he said. The resorts’ booking numbers mirror the national trends, said MTRiP director Ralf Garrison. Leisure travel is performing better than business travel, Garrison said, so ski resorts aren’t doing as badly as some other industries. “Occupancy is remaining relatively flat, growing ever so slightly, usually at the expense of rate,” Garrison said. “We expect to see the summer season continue in a slow upward trend.” Chapman said North Tahoe resorts are seeing increases in revenue-per-room as well, a figure that improved 17 percent for July bookings and 9 percent for August bookings as of Feb. 28., a positive sign. “There’s definitely some positive numbers there,” he said. Nationally, Garrison said that demand for lodging in mountain areas hasn’t changed since last year, meaning resorts are fighting over a relatively fixed number of guests. He said those with brand names and customer loyalty would have more success than lesser-known or newer resorts. “They’re going to win at the expense of others,” he said. Garrison said Tahoe’s advantage in this economy is that it is close to the Bay Area population center, so visitors can drive to Tahoe easily and more cheaply. Either way, though, he said it’s going to be a lengthy recovery from the recession. “The increases are going to be barely discernable month-to-month,” Garrison said. “This is going to be a several-year dig-out.”

Hyatt hosting summer job fair Monday and Tuesday

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort is hosting a summer job fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Regency Ballroom, 111 Country Club Drive, Incline Village. The resort is seeking service-oriented, professional and engaging individuals interested in hospitality and an upscale work environment for seasonal summer positions. Positions include casino dealer, cook (all levels), on-call massage therapist, on-call banquet servers, on-call Camp Hyatt attendant, convention services house person, beach/pool concierge, PBX/hotel operator, valet attendant, female/male spa attendant and various food and beverage positions. Apply directly in advance on the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe website at http://www.laketahoe.hyatt.com. For information, visit http://www.laketahoe.hyatt.com or call (775) 832-1234.