Sugar Pine Village will provide affordable housing in South Tahoe (Opinion)
Among the countless ways COVID-19 has affected the Lake Tahoe Basin, from the local economy to the volume of weekend traffic, there are few aspects of our lives that remain untouched by the pandemic. Chief among these unexpected changes is the pandemic’s acceleration of Tahoe’s existing housing crisis.
Already a formidable issue before the emergence of COVID-19, Tahoe experienced a surge of real estate pressure spurred by a work-from-home economy and desire among newly mobile professionals to exit cities in favor of the natural beauty and amenities of the Tahoe region.
Thankfully, Tahoe’s housing crisis was well documented before COVID-19 focused attention on the lack of workforce housing options available to Tahoe residents amidst new pandemic housing pressures.
Due to the leadership of the Housing Tahoe Partnership and the Tahoe Prosperity Center, the 2019 South Shore Housing Needs Assessment and South Shore Resident Housing Action Plan carefully provided a framework for local governments and stakeholders to address housing solutions to strengthen the workforce and provide opportunities for Tahoe workers and their families to afford to live where they work.
Moreover, California Gov. Gavin Newsom identified South Lake Tahoe as one of the first competitively awarded locations in which to focus his Executive Order to build affordable housing on state owned surplus lands.
A planned 248-unit project will provide residents with new high quality, sustainable housing designed to support active transportation, encourage biking and walking, have access to transit, and connection with nearby trails.
The project’s rapid approval, granted by the city of South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in under six months, is a testament to the power of a collaborative coalition of local stakeholders and community members working together to address critical issues.
As part of Newsom’s order, California selected Related California, the state’s largest developer of mixed income housing, and Saint Joseph Community Land Trust, one of South Tahoe’s most trusted and highly capable affordable housing nonprofits, to design and construct affordable workforce housing on lands owned by the California Tahoe Conservancy after a competitive selection process in the summer of 2020.
Upon selection, the project team began working with agencies, including the California Department of General Services, California Department of Housing and Community Development, the Conservancy, the city of South Lake Tahoe, TRPA and El Dorado County to receive the necessary approvals to break ground within two years of the team’s selection, which is a central goal of Newsom’s order.
After an extensive community engagement process and stakeholder focus groups, the Sugar Pine Village project team submitted its entitlement plans to TRPA and the city of South Lake Tahoe in November 2020. The project received unprecedented support from local organizations such as The Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Barton Health, Tahoe Prosperity Center, El Dorado Early Child Care and Education Planning Council and other key stakeholders. With vocal support from nearby neighbors and the local nonprofit community, Sugar Pine Village was granted full approval in January 2021.
While there is still significant work to be done, the project is currently pursuing state financing and hopes to break ground in 2022 in line with the ambitious timeline outlined by Newsom.
However, it is undeniable that the project’s success and support from the Tahoe community to-date is an example of what is possible when people, organizations and government bodies work together to solve challenging issues facing their community.
By investing in the necessary housing and social services to support the local workforce, Sugar Pine Village is sure to be a significant contributor to the vitality and resiliency of the South Lake Tahoe community and economy in our post-pandemic world.
This is part of a monthly housing series organized by the Tahoe Prosperity Center. To stay up to date on how you can help support housing efforts on the South Shore, sign up for the center’s newsletter at https://tahoeprosperity.org/.
Meea Kang is senior vice president for Related California.
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