Building rumor only half right |

Building rumor only half right

A rumor going around town has building being cut in half at South Lake Tahoe.

“I don’t really know what’s going on,” said Theresa Valdez, 44, of South Lake Tahoe, a supervisor at a Stateline casino.

Valdez wants to build a home on Connestoga Street. The waiting list will make her eligible to apply for a building permit from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in 2004.

“I heard they are going to cut them from 22 to 11,” Valdez said. “That kind of concerned me because we’re starting all the footwork, paying the fees — and we’re concerned about not being able to build and wasting money.”

The rumor isn’t true, but it’s on the right track.

A system expected to be voted on by the TRPA Governing Board on Wednesday would cut the base amount of building allowed each year at the basin from 300 allocations of development to 150.

Additions or subtractions to that base number would be linked to how much environmental protection work the counties and city in the Lake Tahoe Basin accomplish each year.

The reduction in the base number of allocations came as a recommendation in the 2001 Threshold Evaluation, a report approved in July. It stated that more environmental work must get done because the basin is no where close to meeting its environmental goals.

But if the system is adopted, what it would change is not completely clear. The amount of building allowed in South Lake Tahoe would likely remain at the same level it has been, about 38 allocations a year, for the next two years, said Teri Jamin, community development director for South Lake Tahoe.

What about 2005?

“It’s very hard to predict that far ahead,” Jamin said. “We could receive more or less. I feel fairly comfortable this year and next year, but two or four years from now would be very hard predict.”

Depending on how much work jurisdictions accomplish, the system could end allowing the release of up to 294 allocations a year, or release as few as 78.

If South Lake Tahoe got the highest possible performance rating for its environmental, its allocations would increase from 38 a year to 47 year.

“The worst case would be people not being serious about transportation, air and water quality and making substantial progress there,” said Carl Hasty, TRPA deputy director. “We’re committed to working with the local governments.

“We’re not out to put the kabash on local economy. We want to articulate the importance of the relationship between these things. If there’s a better way local government would like to suggest that’s equal or superior, we’re willing to take a look at that.”

TRPA and environmental groups like the League to Save Lake Tahoe point to the 2001 Threshold Evaluation as evidence that people are not doing enough to protect the lake. The evaluation, done every five years, shows that nearly all environmental standards set for the basin have not been met.

“If you look at the schedule to implement BMPs set in 1987, we’re far behind schedule,” said Rochelle Nason, executive director at the League. “Our transit situation throughout the Tahoe basin is terrible. There’s a lot that needs to be done by local jurisdictions and by the TRPA.”

The League supports the allocations system being proposed, according to Nason. She said it represents a compromise reached by a number of interested parties.

“We support the package and we hope to see it passed,” Nason said. “From our perspective, we would prefer that new development always be a form of redevelopment … but we think the compromises represented by the package are reasonable. They accommodate economic interests and hopefully assure some environmental progress.”

Jim Galloway, Washoe County commissioner and a member of the TRPA Governing Board, does not support the proposal. It would decrease the number of baseline allocations released to Washoe County from 59 to 25 a year.

“It’s basically trying to impact local governments for things beyond the control of local governments,” Galloway said. “To me it isn’t realistic. I don’t think the links are realistic.”

Galloway said he thinks people have not had sufficient time to digest the proposal because everyone has been so involved in the scenic ordinance. It was passed by the Governing Board, with three amendments, last month.

If the Governing Board rejects the allocation system next week, the TRPA would not issue any allocations until a new system is approved. Then the only allocations available would come from a reserve pool. It contains more than 200 allocations that can be purchased for about $30,000. That money is used to buy and retire environmentally sensitive pieces of land at the basin.

As it stands, TRPA will not likely issue allocations until February, which will likely create a lot more work for planners and landowners.

“That makes it tough,” said Bill Carey, El Dorado County building official. “It kind of compresses the building season and can be tough on folks. We had that happen a few year back and it caused a lot of work.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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