City Council discusses housing, road rehab

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — After taking a month off from meetings, the South Lake Tahoe City Council tackled a lengthy agenda Tuesday, discussing topics pertaining to housing, road construction and sustainability goals. 

The meeting began with a swearing in ceremony for the city’s new fire chief, Jim Drennan, followed by employee recognitions. 

Council then received a presentation from Zoe Kusnick, who has completed her Civic Sparks fellowship with the City. 

Her presentation highlighted some of the programs the city has put in place to help move the city towards their Climate Action Plan goals such as the hiring of a sustainability coordinator, solar installations on city buildings, and transportation electrification. 

She then gave several recommendations to the council. The first includes hiring more staff in the sustainability department, as well as establishing a sustainability budget. Prior to hiring Sara Letton as the sustainability coordinator, much of the sustainability work was done by Civic Sparks fellows, including the drafting of the Climate Action Plan. 

During her time as fellow, Kusnick worked closely with Letton. However, the city will not be replacing Kusnick with another fellow, leaving Letton to do the work. 

A second recommendation was to continue exploring options for local energy control, as well as continuing to collaborate with the Town of Truckee, a relationship that could be leveraged to push Liberty Utilities to offer more renewable energy options. 

The final recommendation was to create a public CAP and greenhouse gas emissions tracking website. While 2021 GHG emissions numbers are not available yet, based on the 2018 numbers, the city has a long way to go to reach their GHG reduction goals. A public tracking website would help keep the city accountable and allow the public to stay informed with progress the city is making or not making. 

During the meeting, council renewed their agreement with Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Sierra Nevada Alliance and Lake Tahoe Community College for another year of the student ambassador park ranger program. 

The program hires students to patrol local parks and beaches to inform visitors of best practices in hopes of keeping the areas clean. The agreement states that the city will be responsible for hiring, training and managing the park ranger program for the next two summers. 

Council also approved moving the remaining American Rescue Plan Act balance into the General Fund. There is $2.6 million in funding remaining which will be used for Bijou Area Plan improvements and the Fire Station 3 remodel. The scope of those projects will be brought to council at a later date. 

Council heard an update on the Road Rehabilitation Program during Tuesday’s meeting. Work began on Monday, Aug. 8, to repave much of Tahoe Keys Boulevard. The $2.3 million project will repave 3.59 lane miles. 

Of the city’s 257 lane miles of roadways, 10% have completely failed and 37% are in poor condition. The city lags behind other road networks in the region, such as El Dorado County and the Town of Truckee in terms of road quality. 

However, the overall road quality has improved steadily since 2018, as the city continues to replace and repair failing roadways. Outside funding from Measure S, the California Gas Tax and contributions from Southwest Gas and South Tahoe Public Utility District has allowed the city to fund more repair projects. In addition, new technology has increased the longevity of new roads. 

The five-year plan will be updated again in 2023 to determine project priorities. 

During the meeting the council also approved changes to the Lease to Locals program which is run through a partnership with Landing Locals. 

The goal of the program is to open up under-utilized housing stock for long-term leases using financial incentives. The pilot program launched in December 2021 and the city feels there has already been success. 

The program has already housed 23 residents and has another 31 residents in the process of completing applications, leases and income verification. The city originally budgeted for 100 residents so they are over half way there.

The pilot program will be extended into 2023, with some minor changes to the program. The first change requires that 50% of the adults in a household work within the city limits. This would prevent people taking advantage of the program to move into the city but continue to work remotely. 

While the council did acknowledge that even if full-time residents work remotely, they still contribute to the local economy. However, the goal of this program was to open up housing stock for local service workers who are struggling to find housing options in their budget. 

In addition, homeowners are not allowed to rent to immediate family members and homeowners who are already renting long-term can’t take advantage of the program. 

Landing Locals recently expanded into Lake Tahoe’s North Shore, as well as in other resort communities, and is excited to be able to gather more data and hone in on what rules and incentives work best for this program. 

Finally, the council voted to remove the Fire Station No. 1 and the police station from the 2016 Lease Revenue Bonds, which opened up the bonds to be used for the new recreation center. 

Councilmembers John Friedrich and Cristi Creegan were recused from those items. Councilmember Cody Bass was absent from the meeting but appeared for just those two items. He said he’d been feeling under the weather but didn’t want to come to the meeting until he’d received a negative COVID-19 test, which he was able to do. He still wore a mask during his time at the meeting. 

The next council meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 23.

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