Candidates weigh in on ‘triple bottom line’ |

Candidates weigh in on ‘triple bottom line’

Editor’s note: This story is one in a series highlighting critical issues in the upcoming election for the El Dorado County District 5 Supervisor’s race on June 6. The supervisor also serves on the 15-member board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which regulates development here.

The latest catch phrase for improving Tahoe is the “triple bottom line,” which touts balancing the environment, economy and community in all decisions.

South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Ted Long is running against incumbent Supervisor Norma Santiago in next month’s supervisor’s race.

Both candidates say they support the triple bottom line, but differ on the details.

Long said all three bottom lines will not always deserve equal weight.

“The environmental, social and economic needs have got to all be considered, and not as opposite of one another, but you have to assign values to all of them,” he said. “If you’ve got a 20 percent environmental problem, but an 80 percent housing problem, then you’ve got to give additional weight to the housing issues.”

Santiago said she’s a perpetual optimist, and she believes a solution can always be found to all three if the community can stop the polarization of the past.

“It’s a difficult thing to get to. You have to check your egos at the door. You have to be visionary, and be willing to compromise,” she said. “If you get to the real triple bottom line, you don’t sacrifice anything. If you have one of the parties feeling like they got the short end of the stick, you haven’t reached the triple bottom line.”

She said she did not believe people have misused the idea so far, and said to go forward with the concept, all parties need to establish trust.

Long said it’s made for nice public relations.

“I’ve got people wanting to build affordable houses, and the triple bottom line is not helping them,” Long said. He is advocating for several projects that cannot be profitable within the existing rule structure, he said.

TRPA says it’s made dozens of changes in its code to accommodate affordable housing.

Santiago chose the upcoming decisions on shorezone rules as an example where a triple bottom line test could be applied.

“Public piers make more sense in my mind than private ones,” she said. Public piers have clear benefits to the community by increasing accessibility and encouraging businesses, and could benefit the environment through cross-lake water taxis. She did not see any of those benefits arising from private piers.

Long saw applications for affordable housing, citing redeveloping blight at Stateline as meeting all three bottom lines.

“Let’s balance it out to where the need is and where the most bang for the buck is,” he said. “Restoration of the Upper Truckee meadow is really important, but the net benefit to the environment is going to be much greater in Stateline.”

The two agreed that there is an overriding bottom line: Lake Tahoe.

“When people talk about where their heart is, it’s always the lake. They all understand it’s important to protect it,” Santiago said. “We have the common concept: keep the lake blue. How do we get there is where the discussion goes.”

Long had the same sentiment.

“The quality of the lake is the ultimate bottom line. It’s a question of priorities and how we are going to address the issue,” he said.

– To read other articles in this series, go to, and search for “supervisor.”

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