Focus groups: Traffic is biggest problem | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Focus groups: Traffic is biggest problem

Gregory Crofton

What do people think about Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s work to protect it?

Because of Pathway 2007, a multiagency planning effort to chart the future of the Lake Tahoe Basin, there is more than $100,000 to come up with answers to those questions.

The work began last summer with a series of focus groups inside and outside the Lake Tahoe Basin. It will continue in January with workshops and telephone surveys to homeowners.

“The No. 1 concern of everyone going to the groups has been transportation,” said Julie Regan, communications director at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, an agency that’s part of Pathway 2007. “They are saying Tahoe is too congested and that it didn’t used to be so congested.”

Focus groups were conducted in on the North and South shores, Sacramento, Reno and Las Vegas. The groups consisted of 10 to 12 people led through a two-hour roundtable discussion by a professional market researcher.

“Another perception is that the TRPA isn’t consistent with its rules,” Regan said. “We need to change that if that’s what people believe. Our staff is trying its best to be fair. We need to look at the system as a whole to improve that.”

Those in the focus groups pointed to the redevelopment project at Park Avenue as an example of how big business gets to do what it wants in the basin while the average homeowner cannot.

“‘How can they build redevelopment but I can’t put a shed in my back yard?'” said Regan, recalling comments she heard from focus groups. “The rules are the same for everybody. For redevelopment they had to take down one-and-a-half rooms for every one room and had giant water quality requirements. People don’t necessarily understand the process.”

Expect that Pathway 2007 will change how TRPA does things, Regan said. Limiting the amount of land in the basin that can be built on is a core principal that guides how the agency regulates development in the basin.

If someone buys a vacant parcel in the basin, the owner is allowed to build on 30 percent of the land. That means 70 percent must remain open space to help filter rain and snow before it ends up in Lake Tahoe.

The fundamental purpose of coverage has been shown scientifically to be good for water quality, Regan said.

“But how can we encourage people to do the right thing and not make it an economic disincentive? It’s going to take a lot of creativity and a lot of work. We don’t want to be heavy-handed but we still want to achieve our environmental goals. Maybe there can be some different type of applications.”

The third prominent issue raised by the focus groups: Everyone feels like Tahoe is their own. They want to see its water remain clear and be able to breathe clean air.

“Everybody believed it is very important for the TRPA to exist, but they all had issues and critiques,” Regan said. “One builder from North Shore said that if it weren’t for the TRPA there would be condos from shore to shore. People want the total Tahoe experience. The beauty of the area as a whole is super important to people.”

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com


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