Tahoe Valley area plan gets TRPA blessing | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe Valley area plan gets TRPA blessing

Imagine a new town core at South Lake Tahoe's west end, set with a verdant open greenbelt in its center for visitors and residents, with a mix of restaurants, retail and entertainment venues within walking distance. That's the vision the recently approved Tahoe Valley Area Plan paints for the future of the "Y" and something City Planning Manger John Hitchcock told the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board when it approved the plan on Wednesday. One overall goal for the community includes turning the area into a revitalized town center catering to the locals while still encouraging tourists to visit. According to the area plan, the "Y" intersection would include a mixed-used commercial and event core to "create a hub for community gathering and special events." It also opens up opportunity for affordable housing development. A lot of the tourist population tends to gravitate toward the shopping centers at Heavenly Village and Ski Run Boulevard as well as Stateline, Nev. Hitchcock said it promotes sustainability, transit parking, shared parking, promotes a mountain town identity, and environmental development. Tahoe Valley remains one of South Lake Tahoe's retail hubs bordered on three sides by residential neighborhoods. It includes 337 acres around the "Y" intersection, bounded by 10th Street to the north, E Street to the South, Truckee Drive to the east, and Julie Lane to the west. Affordable housing and healthcare hub Affordable housing would be promoted by allowing secondary units on smaller parcels and possible development of a multi-residential unit on an empty parcel. Betty "B" Gorman, executive director of Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, called the affordable housing component a valuable element. "We are looking at concept of encouraging a new type workforce and affordable housing will be an issue," Gorman said at the TRPA meeting. "The idea of really revitalizing the west end of town is really badly needed." The plan also encourages consolidation of the Barton Health facilities into a master campus, development of work/live units in Tahoe Valley's industrial area and allowance for secondary residential units on properties under one acre. "We created a healthcare district to encourage Barton to consolidate into one campus and allow for more bikeable, walkable access," Hitchcock said. The plan also plays into TRPA goals of handing the city more delegation for permit approvals. Environmental redevelopment has a large focus on the Tahoe Valley Greenbelt along with restoration of stream environment zones, important elements in the Tahoe-Truckee watershed. Hitchcock said the city will offer incentives to businesses, including making 15,000 square feet of commercial floor area community pool to help with redevelopment. The Tahoe Valley Greenbelt, the plan's environmental crown jewel transforms a hard-to-walk area into an accessible, almost urban-like pedestrian-bicycle link connecting neighborhoods to the commercial core while retaining a rustic, scenic view. TRPA Executive Director Joanne Marchetta called an important step forward. "We look forward to seeing this comprehensive vision for one of our most visible gateways at Tahoe carried out for the benefit of our community, environment, and economy," Marchetta stated in a news release. The area plan has been 18 months in the making, hammered out of the bones of an abandoned plan the city conducted in the mid-1990s and refined. South Lake Tahoe Mayor Hal Cole, who sits on the TRPA governing board, said the initial plan developed back in the 1990s cost nearly $1 million but never got anywhere. "I'm pleased in some respect that it took some time because it's much better than what was originally prepared," Cole said.

First workshop set for Tahoe Valley Area Plan

People are being asked to come and share their ideas for the Tahoe Valley Area Plan at a meeting next Thursday. "We consider this workshop the kickoff meeting for the Tahoe Valley Area Plan," said John Hitchcock, project planning manager for South Lake Tahoe. The Tahoe Valley Area Plan will be created as part of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's Regional Plan Update. It would be South Lake Tahoe's second area plan, following adoption last fall of the Tourist Core Area Plan. The 335-acre planning boundary for the Tahoe Valley Area Plan centers around the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and State Route 89. "This end of town has been sitting on the sidelines for a while and now we're putting some resources into a plan for the area," Hitchcock said. He added that planners already have been reaching out to property owners and other stakeholders in the area. "We're hoping to have a draft plan ready for public circulation beginning in summer." People are asked to help craft a vision statement for the Tahoe Valley Area Plan, provide feedback on land use, transportation, recreation and conservation issues and share ideas on how to make the area more pedestrian friendly. Discussions also will touch on the Tahoe Valley Community Plan that was prepared but never adopted. "Are those visions still valid or are there other things the city should be considering for this side of town?" Hitchcock said. "We're really interested in hearing what people have to say about what this end of town should look like." The Feb. 27 workshop is in the South Lake Tahoe City Council Chambers at 1901 Airport Road. It starts at 6 p.m.

Draft Tahoe Valley Area Plan released

South Lake Tahoe is releasing its draft Tahoe Valley Area Plan. The 100-page document is a land use and zoning plan for the Tahoe Valley area, a 335-acre area centered around the "Y" intersection of U.S. 50 and Highway 89. The city and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency have determined the plan needs a detailed environmental impact analysis and are preparing a joint environment impact review and statement to inform agencies about its potential environmental affects. Several scoping meetings are scheduled: • June 11, 9:30 a.m., TRPA Advisory Planning Commission, 128 Market Street, Stateline. • June 19, 6 p.m., South Lake Tahoe City Council Chambers, 1901 Airport Road, South Lake Tahoe. • July 1, 9 a.m., South Lake Tahoe City Council Chambers, 1901 Airport Road, South Lake Tahoe. • July 10, 3 p.m., South Lake Tahoe Planning Commission, City Council Chambers, 1901 Airport Road, South Lake Tahoe. The plan is available online: http://www.cityofslt.us/TahoeValley

Revised Tahoe Valley plan unveiled

Imagine South Tahoe Refuse relocated and buildings standing 75 feet high. It will likely take work and agreement from citizens to the government, but South Lake Tahoe’s gateway to the community may look a lot different in the coming years. That’s the crux of an ambitious plan to revitalize the west end of town where Highways 50 and 89 intersect. The city’s consultant, Mintier & Associates of Sacramento, introduced the revised plan Monday to the council subcommittee of Mike Weber and Ted Long and stakeholders on the community plan team who dedicated two years to get the plan going. The 11 citizens came up with a visionary plan Community Development Director Teri Jamin said needed “some teeth” to get through the environmental review process. Larry Mintier told the group of 20 people gathered in the council chambers that his firm retained by the city for $50,000 made a diligent effort to maintain much of the policies and core work of the plan team. They came up with ideas to have more attractions, recreational venues, industry-segmented areas in the 335-acre region that spans from 10th Street on the north, E Street on the south, Truckee Drive on the east and Julie Lane on the west. The area is grand central for tourists coming into town as well as residents. It’s also part of a survey area the city is eyeing for redevelopment, but that use of land is long coming and expensive – including an upcoming blight study to justify the legal government process. The revised plan, which the team had not seen for a year, made a few changes that didn’t go unnoticed by the stakeholders. Some didn’t like being told they only had 15,000 square feet of allocations in commercial space to work with. The frustration was high, when Mintier made it clear 386,000 square feet is needed to make any kind of dent in the loss of retail sales. A study has indicated it loses $219 million in retail sales when residents and tourists shop elsewhere. Many people admit to shopping off the hill to get bargains or even selection. A few plan team members didn’t like the possibility of six-story buildings that are perceived as taking away from the character and charm of the town’s gateway. Former Grass Roots worker Stacy Ballard questioned blocking the views with buildings that could rise to 75 feet. Physical therapist Jenny Cooper took issue with a health care district favoring the hospital on land uses. But for the most part, the group agreed in spirit things would have to change. And the city’s economics may call for it, with buildings left vacant or in disrepair. The most specific alteration of the area is what Mintier called “a problematic issue.” The city may call for South Tahoe Refuse located on Eloise Avenue to move out of the area, an idea General Manager Jeff Tillman thought was completely off the table when it came up a year ago. The refuse company the city has a franchise with for trash pick-up looked into a site over the Douglas County line, but its sewer district decided against the concept. Meanwhile, South Tahoe Refuse has made plans to expand. “At some point, we’ll have to go forward,” Resources Manager Jeanne Lear said. South Lake Tahoe City Council 9 today Council Chambers Lake Tahoe Airport 1901 Lake Tahoe Airport Road

Flood warning for greater Tahoe area, Carson Valley

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the greater Tahoe area, including Carson Valley. Heavy rain with some rates of more than 1/4 of an inch per hour will continue to fall along the Sierra front until snow levels drop to the Valley floors this evening. Expect flooding of small streams and low lying areas especially in the steeper terrain of the foothills. Excessive runoff will cause elevated levels of water in small creeks and streams and will cause pooling of water on highways, streets and underpasses, as well as other poor drainage areas and low lying spots. Officials are advising not to drive vehicles into areas where water is covering the road, as water depth may be too great. High, gusty winds are exacerbating the problem, and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has advised using extreme caution while driving, including keeping headlights on during the storm.

South Tahoe moving forward with Tahoe Valley plan

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."

A block party of the conservation kind

Burning coals and burning houses are two parts of a barbecue designed to raise awareness of fire safety measures in the Lake Tahoe Basin this weekend. The “Conservation Block Party” will conclude with demonstration fires on parts of a model home. “We need to have people understand what will actually burn down your house,” said John Pickett. “That is what this demonstration will show. It’s going to be great.” Details of a home, such as screens over attic vents, are often the barriers that will prevent it from burning during a forest fire, according to Pickett. In addition to a guided walking tour highlighting the defensible space and best management practices utilized by nearby homes, information on a streamlined permitting process for California residents will also be available. “It’s easy; it’s painless; we’re not going to clear cut your property,” said Pickett. Three fire protection districts on the California side of the basin have been recently granted memoranda of understanding from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. These memorandums allow the districts to issue tree removal permits for defensible space projects, making the process more efficient and cost effective, according to Pickett. “We really encourage people to come out and find out how easy it is to get this work done now,” Pickett said. A free barbecue will take place between the walking tour and burn demonstration. Parking will be limited, and the event’s sponsors urge carpooling. Conservation Block Party When: Saturday, June 2 Guided Walking Tour: 10:30 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. Free barbecue lunch: 11:40 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. Live Burn Demo: 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Where: Boulder Mountain Drive, across from Lake Valley Fire Station No. 5 Registration is encouraged for the event. Call the Tahoe Resource Conservation District at (530) 543-1501 ext. 113 to RSVP.

On the Hill: Backcountry touring on Carson Pass (Video)

On the Hill is brought to you by the Tahoe Center for Orthopedics Breakdown: On the Hill host and Tahoe Daily Tribune reporter Sebastian Foltz gets in the backcountry on Carson Pass. BACKCOUNTRY AVALANCHE DANGER A CONCERN FOLLOWING STORM FULL STORY: http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/news/20694429-113/winter-storm-brings-avalanche-concerns-to-tahoe-basin Weekend Weather: Sunny skies and warmer temperatures are expected through the weekend. Area resorts have reported receiving up to two feet from storms this week. More information is available at http://www.sierraavalanchecenter.org.

TRPA board approves first Tahoe area plan

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board unanimously passed Lake Tahoe's first area plan at its Wednesday meeting. The Douglas County South Shore Area Plan is one of many plans under construction in the region that outlines goals for a specific area at Lake Tahoe. The plan specifically assesses the area of the casino corridor, Edgewood Tahoe and nearby businesses and gives developers, government officials and business owners a consistent economic goal. The newly amended TRPA Regional Plan specifies three priorities, also mentioned in the area plan, which are to accelerate water quality improvements as well as other ecological aspects, transfer permitting processes to local governments — in this case, Douglas County — and create more access routes for pedestrians and cyclists. The board approved the Douglas County South Shore Area Plan and associated documents, such as code amendments of the plan, the area plan memorandum of understanding and county residential activities within the plan. "It's important that people know there are no specific projects proposed and there are no specific mandates," Douglas County Manager Steve Mokrohisky said, adding the area plan does not change the regulations set by the TRPA Regional Plan Update, which was adopted by the board in December. Although the TRPA Regional Plan is the main law for development in the Lake Tahoe Basin, it has been challenged by a lawsuit from the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, and a federal judge has yet to make a ruling. Policies targeted throughout the plan are to continue regional growth where possible, but it is geared more toward promoting redevelopment. The plan also aims to have property owners with development rights transfer rights out of environmentally sensitive areas into main town areas. The incentive for this is that developers would acquire property that has been "retired," or inactive, for development and increase those development rights two- or threefold when they are moved to high-urban areas. "The intention of the Regional Plan Update laid the foundation for area plans to consolidate developed urban nodes," Lake Tahoe area attorney Lew Feldman said. Feldman said one of the most intense economic planning areas is the South Shore Planning Area, as it hosts some of the biggest businesses and most hotel and accommodation units in the Lake Tahoe basin. Additionally, the plan aims at not just using those rights in high-urban areas, but rather to create redevelopment on existing structures and businesses. According to the area plan, the South Shore district has a total of 36,000 square feet of commercial area left for available development, which Mokrohisky said is "basically the size of a large drug store." "No one's arguing that we should be allowed more commercial space," he said. "Let us take the existing product and let (developers) make investments and improve the built environment." Public and private entity collaboration in projects is something that the plan mentions often. "We have to create incentives to allow businesses to have additional benefits provided and in the process of that," Mokrohisky said. With planning for water quality improvements and erosion control, the way in which private-public projects come together is by having have a consistent plan, according to president of Midkiff & Associates Inc. Gary Midkiff, a principal planner and private consultant for planning projects. He said the area plan is just that. Midkiff said the storm water project in the South Shore Area Plan was constructed 13 years ago with private and public funding in order to help reduce the amount of sediment flowing into the lake. "On several levels the clear direction of TRPA and the (Douglas) County always helps because uncertainty is a No. 1 obstacle to redevelopment," Midkiff said, adding the current 20-year-old plan near the Kingsbury and Stateline areas did not address contemporary objectives of private-public projects. According to TRPA documents, the area plan includes ideas for storm water treatment funding mechanisms. Mokrohisky said $20 million has been allocated for water quality improvements in the South Shore Area Plan, which could be expended in conjunction with public-private partnerships in improvements. Despite these assessments, Laurel Ames of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club protested the sediment level claims made by Douglas County as well as assessments of shoreline projects that have recently been completed or approved for completion by TRPA Governing Board members. Areas of community gathering, commercial areas and other plans to create foot more traffic are all part of the plan as well, but they are still in the wish-list phase. No official plans have been proposed at this time. "The idea … is to try and consolidate area that is walkable and bikeable, reduce vehicle miles traveled to create a more seamless resort experience for visitors, which also improves air quality and reduces traffic," Feldman said. Most of the hypothetical planning is near the Stateline area by Heavenly Village and the nearby contiguous stretch of commerce.

Martis Valley plan on track

TRUCKEE – The Martis Valley may no longer be a wide-open, rustic area. Despite requests from most people who commented to lower the number of allowable residences and a long debate between Placer County supervisors, an intent to approve the Martis Valley Community Plan was approved Tuesday. While the issue will come back to the Placer County Board of Supervisors, it will only be to approve minor changes, like spelling or grammatical errors. What the approval does do is allow for as many as 6,000 more residences in the area – there are currently 2,000 there – making for a maximum of 8,600. It seemed like residents and even environmental groups had given up hopes of stopping the plan, so they opted to lobby for fewer homes and people in the area. And just because it was approved doesn’t mean some environmental groups will let it live. Throughout the approval process, Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch, had said his group planned to sue the county if the update was approved. “We will continue to seek a compromise with landowners and developers, whether in discussions over the coming months or, if need be, in court-mandated settlement negotiations,” Mooers wrote in a statement Tuesday after the hearing. The Board of Supervisors seemed unfazed by the threat of litigation. Supervisor Robert Weygandt said he knew of the threat of litigation. “We’ve done pretty well defending ourselves.” The total number of residences to be allowed in the Martis Valley proved to be the biggest point of contention at the hearing. While the original 1975 Martis Valley Community Plan allowed for 12,000 residences, there was great opposition to this early on and the county decided to decrease the maximum allowed. Still, many people – including supervisors’ Chairman Rex Bloomfield – argued that 8,600 was still too much for the area. The other four supervisors and county staff argued the opposite and said this was a reasonable amount for the 25,000 acres of the Martis Valley. Babette Haueisen, a long-time resident of the Truckee and Tahoe areas, vehemently disagreed with the supervisors. “If you folks go through with this, it’s going to cause a hell of a traffic jam,” she said. She added that she came to the area for the open space in the Martis Valley and has enjoyed biking, hiking and fishing in it for more than 50 years. When she asked how many of the supervisors had been to the Martis Valley to hike, bike, fish or participate in some other sort of recreation, no hands went up. “That’s not too good,” she said. After a moving speech in the last hearing from Washoe tribe chairman Brian Wallace, the Board of Supervisors agreed to make concessions to save some of the Washoe land. In a unanimous decision following another statement from Wallace, who praised the supervisors for working with the tribe, the board approved changes to the cultural resources section of the environmental impact report. The new language of the EIR states that the county will work with the Washoe whenever the threat of disturbance is imminent. The ultimate approval of the plan and its EIR will be heard most likely as a consent item at the meeting Dec. 16. If the issue is listed as a consent item, there will be no public comment.