Advisory board disagrees with TRPA
When the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency considers an affordable housing issue later this month, it is going to have conflicting recommendations from its staff and board of advisors.
TRPA staff wants the governing board to find that Douglas and Washoe counties have not done their “fair share” to provide low- and very low-income housing inside the Lake Tahoe Basin, an action which would lead to a moratorium on building housing subdivisions in certain parts of the counties.
However, the TRPA Advisory Planning Commission, which makes recommendations to the decision-making board, disagreed with staff Wednesday. By a split vote at its meeting, the planning commission said all of the basin’s jurisdictions – Douglas, Washoe, Placer and El Dorado counties along with the city of South Lake Tahoe – have made adequate strides to provide income-restricted affordable housing for ski resort and casino employees as well as other low-wage earners.
The reason for the disagreement came because TRPA has no objective standards for what creates the pass-fail line between doing a fair share and not doing enough. It’s a subjective decision opponents said TRPA shouldn’t be making.
“We’re being challenged to succeed and being judged when we don’t know what the rules are,” said Bob Sellman, TRPA planning commission board member.
For five years, TRPA has annually addressed the issue of whether the basin’s communities have done their fair share to help create affordable housing.
The board previously made the fair-share finding for each county and the city. Each year, however, “the bar has been raised,” as TRPA Acting Executive Director Jerry Wells said.
For whatever jurisdiction the fair-share finding is not made, housing subdivisions would be prohibited from being built in areas which are considered good for affordable housing, essentially keeping higher-priced subdivisions from taking limited building space away from possible future low-income housing sites.
The action’s impact likely would be limited in Douglas County; however, the moratorium would affect three communities in Washoe County.
APC’s Sellman, also community development director of Washoe County, led the fight against TRPA staff’s recommendation.
He argued that the reason Washoe County hasn’t been as successful as possible is because of the impediments created by TRPA’s rules, a claim Douglas County leaders have often made.
Gabby Barrett, TRPA chief of long-range planning, disagreed, citing affordable housing projects the bistate agency approved but didn’t go forward because of Washoe County’s board.
“I think it’s completely unfair to say in Washoe County it’s because of us,” Barrett said.
TRPA has started a series of workshops to look at ways it might improve opportunities for affordable housing in the basin.
In December 1998 TRPA’s governing board put a one-year limit on its finding that all the jurisdictions had done their fair share. Last month, however, because several counties wanted more time to make their case to TRPA, the December 1999 decision was put off until this January. Therefore, as of Dec. 31, the building moratorium that is related to the fair-share finding is in place now in all the counties and in South Lake Tahoe.
TRPA’s decision-making board is scheduled to hear the issue Jan. 26.
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