More building than expected allowed |

More building than expected allowed

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

KINGS BEACH — El Dorado County will be allowed to build more homes this season because it provided a last-minute infusion of cash for public transit.

The change illustrates how a system, which links home building to environmental protections, is meant to prod county and city governments at the basin to become more involved and active in environmental work that experts say is needed to protect the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

Staff at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency announced that it plans to release 111 allocations of development to the county at a meeting on Wednesday at Kings Beach. That’s seven more allocations than it was expected to receive.

Level of funding is the criteria the agency uses to determine if a county or the city are committed to transit. This year the TRPA asked for a 10 percent increase in the amount of money that each jurisdiction devotes to transit. If it shows a 10 percent increase, it is allowed to build more homes.

But that may change.

When the TRPA Governing Board adopted the system late last year the board asked its staff to return in March with a report recommending any needed adjustments.

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Bill Combs is one person hoping for change. Combs, a planner for Placer County, was the only member of the TRPA Advisory Planning Commission on Wednesday to vote against the system as it stands.

Combs said the system is philosophically flawed because it has penalized Placer County for building fewer homes than it is allowed to each year.

He said he is also opposed to the system because it doesn’t reward the county for its well-established transit system.

“It’s not that Placer wants to see new development really,” Combs said. “It’s just a question of fairness, where all the jurisdictions are treated equally.”

Gary Marchio, a commission member and a principal planner for South Lake Tahoe, said he agreed with Combs, because the city also has a quality public transit system but was not rewarded for it under the new system. Marchio added that the city is working with the TRPA to add criteria, other than the level of funding, that could measure transit improvements.

Kevin Cole, a real estate broker and commission member, expressed his concerns about how the system could dramatically reduce the amount of building at the basin over the next few years.

“This year is working out very well, but as we go down the road we’ll see a situation where we have diminishing returns,” Cole said. “Frankly, I think it’s predetermined these allocations will be diminished. I think we have to be aware of that.”

Also Wednesday, commission members voted unanimously to recommend a change that will make it easier to build a home in El Dorado and Douglas counties. A system called IPES, or Individual Parcel Evaluation System, grades the environmental sensitivity of a vacant lot. If experts don’t assign it a certain number of points, the land cannot be built on.

The change, if adopted by the TRPA Governing Board when it meets Feb. 26, would lower the IPES line in Douglas from 408 to 106 and in El Dorado from 725 to 693. It would be the first time the IPES line has dropped on the California side of the basin.

Pat Snyder of Meyers told commissioners during a public hearing that the change would be hypocritical.

“I think the TRPA is throwing environmental protections out the window,” Snyder, a roofing contractor, said. “It just doesn’t add up to me.

“I’m working on a house that’s not allowed to have a metal roof because it’s in a scenic corridor. What does that have to do with the clarity of the lake and environmental protection?

“I think the TRPA is becoming more of a CC&R (Conveyance, Conditions and Restrictions). I think they’ve kind of stepped out of what their assignment is.”

After Snyder spoke, Cole and John Faulk, who represents Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors, said they supported the proposed IPES decreases.

“This is about time,” Cole said. “We’ve been waiting for a long time.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at