More home building likely to be allowed |

More home building likely to be allowed

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily TribuneCarl Hasty, left, and Paul Nielsen of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency discuss the amount of building to occur in 2003.

The amount of building allowed in the South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County this year is expected to increase over last year.

The three other jurisdictions at Lake Tahoe Basin will likely see less building.

Planners are expected to recommend next week that 241 homes can be built basinwide: 41 in South Lake Tahoe, 104 in El Dorado County.

Historically, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency releases 300 allocations of development each year. On average, only 225 homes are built with those allocations. So why the change?

The TRPA says not enough work is being done to address the environmental sins of the past and protect lake clarity. And watchdog groups, like the League to Save Lake Tahoe, threatened legal action. They warned the TRPA that development should not be allowed to continue to outpace work for the environment.

In July, the TRPA Governing Board decided to pursue a strategy that would cut the number of allocations from 300 to 150 a year.

That jolted people into action and TRPA staff began negotiating with the public to come up with a compromise that didn’t just cut the amount of allowed building in half.

In December, the Governing Board adopted a program that linked development to the environment. It cut the base number of allocations to 150 but created incentives that allowed allocations to be earned for environmental work.

“We do support the finding of 241 allocations,” said Jon-Paul Harries, program director at the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “We understand that exceeds what’s been used in the past, however we do support the (system) the TRPA adopted.”

The system links the amount of building each year to work in four distinct areas, which include: level of transit service, permit compliance, erosion control installation (BMPs) on private properties, and completion of air and water quality projects.

Up to 294 allocations could be released under the system, but only if the counties and the city show the TRPA they have committed planning, resources and money to environmental projects.

For example, if El Dorado County is able to commit 10 percent more funding for transit than it did last year, which it may still be able to do, the county will receive 111 allocations this year, the maximum allowed.

But in future years, the number of allocations might decrease dramatically as it becomes more difficult to provide resources for environmental projects.

A slight advantage is built into the system for South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County. The TRPA has made more allocations available to those jurisdictions than in years past because they contain the greatest number of vacant lots.

But things could change. TRPA staff told its Governing Board they will deliver a report at the end of March to evaluate how the allocation system functioned. If the links in the system do not seem realistic, or a jurisdiction suggests an “equal or superior” link, staff may ask its board to alter the system.

“We’re not interested in being unrealistic,” said Carl Hasty, deputy director at the TRPA. “Ambitious, yes, unrealistic, no.”

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

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