South Shore seeks to clarify design identity; city to hold two more public workshops |

South Shore seeks to clarify design identity; city to hold two more public workshops

Caitlin Row
Attendees of last week's design standards workshop voted on a variety of mountain-style architecture, like this image.
Courtesy photo |


Vote on South Lake Tahoe’s mountain design standards by visiting

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — A mix of architects, designers, business owners and interested community members gathered last Thursday, Jan. 21, to discuss South Lake Tahoe’s visual character and appearance. It was the first of three meetings scheduled to guide the city’s design standards regarding its mountain identity.

Stephanie Grigsby and Alison Cotey of Design Workshop led the majority of the fact-finding meeting, with opportunities for attendees to vote on preferred looks for building, landscape and sign design. The city hired Design Workshop — a firm with a Stateline office focused on tourism planning, master planning, strategic services and more — to help clarify design standards within the community. The city’s suggested look leans toward mountain-style architecture, which has evolved over the years from traditional to more modern.

Grigsby asked questions like, “Should [design] be traditional or contemporary?

“Rustic or refined?

“Informal or formal?

“Mountain or city?

“Youthful or mature?

“Are we a resort or a community?

“We’re just trying to make you think,” she added. “It will mean something different to everybody; it’s how it resonates with you.”

Audience members voted on a variety of looks last week; members of the public are also encouraged to vote on preferred design standards online: at The survey is available until Thursday, Jan. 28, at midnight.

“We’re looking at patterns, what people liked versus not, and we’ll use it to select imagery for design guidelines,” Grigsby said. “We’re not trying to specify specific style to maintain design creativity, but we’ll provide a range for mountain architecture.”

Minimum design standards have already been adopted by the city, and the Design Review Guidelines are meant to compliment current strategies to maintain and improve the look of Tahoe’s South Shore.

According to city planning staff in an email, expanded design explanations “will provide guidance for all-new development projects and any redeveloped projects requiring major exterior changes. These projects will be aided with a handbook of the Design Review Guidelines outlining design and site planning methods that reflects the desired mountain environment.

“The design guidelines are important,” the email continued, “because it will provide clarity to existing design standards and provide guidance to developers and designers.”

Having visual illustrations of suggested design standards is seen as “an additional tool,” city planners explained, that is meant to guide developers rather than stifle them.

Design Workshop staffers will gather information from last Thursday’s meeting, along with online voting, for a second public workshop on Wednesday, Feb. 17, from 5-7 p.m. at South Lake Tahoe City Hall (1901 Airport Rd.); there a draft of the city’s design guidelines will be presented to the public. A final workshop is scheduled for March 2.

“The guidelines are anticipated to improve the visual quality of the built environment and help Tahoe Regional Planning Agency achieve its scenic resource thresholds,” city planners said by email. “The guidelines will shape the design of future projects and create a community that locals and visitors will find visually appealing and reflective of Tahoe’s alpine environment.”

At Thursday’s meeting John Hitchcock, the city’s associate planner, said design documents must be finalized by March, with final adoption in April.

“The schedule is short due to funding deadlines,” he explained.

For more information about the second public workshop, email Cotey of Design Workshop at

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