Home building squeezed in favor of environment
Unless local governments devote more energy, time and money to restoring the environment, land-use regulators are going to allow fewer and fewer new homes to be built each year in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Because less work was done to protect Tahoe’s environment this year, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is planning to reduce the number of homes that can be built next year in the basin to 208, 17 less than were allowed in 2004.
“There was a very involved public outreach effort a couple of years ago when we changed the system – it was very clear cut,” said Julie Regan, TRPA communications director. “The TRPA isn’t randomly picking a number, there is a quantifiable method … solely based on environmental benefits for Lake Tahoe.”
The number of homes South Lake Tahoe can build each year has hovered around the same mark over the last three years, said Teri Jamin, the city’s community development director.
Last year the city received 32 allocations of development, which basically means the city can give the go ahead to 32 property owners to request a building permit for a single or multifamily home. This year it is in line to receive 29 allocations.
“It’s not been a huge change, but it would be more desirable to have the number be more consistent from year to year,” said Jamin, who added that the system may be changed again as part of Pathway 2007, an effort that will create a new 20-year plan for the basin.
El Dorado County received 90 allocations last year. This year it is on track to obtain 83; while Douglas County would get 12; Placer County would receive 50; and Washoe County would get 34.
If the TRPA Governing Board approves the release of 208 allocations when it meets next week, it will be the third straight year that number has decreased. The TRPA released 299 allocations in the 2002; 248 in 2003; and 225 in 2004.
Outside of the TRPA’s general allocation system there are two other ways to obtain an allocation, Regan said. Someone can buy and retire an environmentally sensitive piece of property or deed restrict a project as affordable housing.
“We had a lot of other homes built as a result of stream environment zone retirement within the city and development rights being transferred,” Jamin said. “That helped counteract the (allocation) reduction.”
To build a home in the basin, you need an allocation of development, a development right and a building permit. To kick off the building process you first must get an allocation.
In South Lake Tahoe, the wait for an allocation for a single family or multiresidential home is eight years, according to Judy Finn, senior planning permit technician for the city.