‘Java John’ faces the music: Agency chief hears complaints about illegal buoys, cost of housing
August 1, 2005
TAHOE CITY – Buoys, piers and affordable housing were topics of conversation at a “Java with John” meeting here last week in which Tahoe Regional Planning Agency director John Singlaub fielded questions from the public.
TRPA is seeking public input on its Alternative 6 proposal for shorezone regulations. The plan calls for a maximum of 220 new private piers and 10 new public piers over the next 20 years, two buoys per lakefront parcel, a boat sticker program and the possibility of limiting motorboat access one day a weekend in July and August to Emerald Bay. The public comment period ends Sept. 2, and TRPA hopes to have the new regulations implemented by the fall.
Residents who attended the meeting at Sunnyside Resort said they were frustrated with the lack of enforcement by TRPA over illegal buoys. One lakefront homeowner said there were illegal buoys on her property and that she could not remove them. A representative of a lakefront homeowners association said their buoy has been there 40 to 50 years and private companies were renting out buoys in their field. Singlaub said TRPA is developing a tag system where illegal buoys can be tagged and a watercraft team would remove them.
“Buoys have got to be the most confusing thing for lakefront homeowners because there are so many permitting agencies,” Singlaub said. “We are trying to streamline the process.”
Some of the 26 people who attended told Singlaub that TRPA has a reputation of letting those with a lot of money do whatever they want, noting the approval of Tonopalo in Tahoe Vista.
“I have heard that if you have enough money, you can get what you want,” Singlaub admitted. “I have also heard wealthy people on the lake say we only pick on them. A lot of people complain about Tonopalo. It was approved under existing rules. Our rules may not be working.”
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One contractor said TRPA was running him out of town and that he could no longer afford to live in Tahoe. Cindy Gustafson, assistant general manager of the Tahoe City Public Utility District, said local contractors don’t bid on TCPUD projects because they have no local workers due to rising housing costs in the area.
“Housing is an extremely complicated issue,” Singlaub said. “Every resort community is having problems with affordable housing and low income housing. …This has hit us suddenly. Our (housing prices) were low here and it has accelerated over the past five years. We all need to be working on this one and it is a struggle.”
Singlaub noted that the number of people buying second homes will double in the next few years because there are 75 million Baby Boomers. He said TRPA will work with local jurisdictions on affordable housing issues and on avoiding “hollow neighborhoods.”
“Everyone would benefit if we had a diversified economy,” he said.
Singlaub said TRPA is looking at having a solar-powered ferry to provide waterborne transportation rather than having a rail line around the lake. He said transportation is a huge issue in the area.
“When I hear people talking about having the Olympics here in 2014 – We can’t even handle President’s Day,” he said. “We need to get real. We need better transportation.”