The Road Ahead: Redevelopment, collaboration, community and climate
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to several hundred Tahoe City residents on a warm summer evening in August. I was there for a celebration that has been a long time coming.
Residents gathered in the parking lot of the blighted Henrikson Building to take a ceremonial swing of the hammer — to say goodbye to an eyesore of a building whose useful life came to an end years ago. They were also there to celebrate what will soon take shape as Tahoe City’s first new hotel in more than 60 years.
The new Tahoe City Lodge should emerge from the ground sometime in 2020. The project team’s passion and perseverance resulted in strong community support for a redevelopment project that stands to benefit the lake, the economy, and the community’s quality of life.
The Lake Tahoe Regional Plan of 2012 focused on what we call environmental redevelopment—projects that replace blighted buildings with environmentally sensitive infrastructure and deliver other environmental benefits as well. These projects employ the latest green building technology and focus development in town centers which are walkable and bikeable. These types of projects work for the local economy and the community. And their environmental benefits play a part in protecting Lake Tahoe as a whole.
This project checked all the boxes, winning the unanimous approval of TRPA’s Governing Board, support from the League to Save Lake Tahoe, as well as widespread community praise. From an eyesore will come a $60 million boutique hotel with 118 new lodging units in the heart of Tahoe City. The building will be constructed to meet stringent sustainability and green hotel standards and will lessen the need to drive, encouraging visitors to explore the charms of Tahoe City on foot. The benefits go beyond the building, allowing for more open spaces and the restoration of a sensitive stream environment zone.
So, congratulations to the residents of Tahoe City for sticking with this project. Replacing legacy development that is harming the environment with this new hotel is an excellent example that through collaboration and commitment, positive redevelopment can happen in our communities.
We are not alone in the challenges we are facing in our resort communities, especially as it relates to revitalization, housing, and transportation.
In a few weeks, TRPA will host the Mountain and Resort Town Planners Summit. Planners from around the nation and Canada will converge on Tahoe to gain insight and share ideas on how mountain communities like ours can find solutions to the distinct challenges we face. This year’s summit will focus on four key topics: transportation, growth management, community well-being, and the housing-environment connection.
These topics are front and center in our Tahoe communities. The number of visitors to Tahoe sometimes strains our resources and infrastructure. We need new solutions to help manage peak tourism and the impacts on not just the environment, but on the quality of life for year-round residents.
Transportation solutions must consider emerging trends like ridesharing and mirco-transit, as well as reliable traditional solutions like buses that run on schedule and have reasonable wait times.
Lake Tahoe manages growth by encouraging development in town centers and tourist cores, while disincentivizing sprawl into outlying areas. Transit oriented development allows locals and visitors to get where they want to go without everyone driving solo.
Affordable, achievable, and available housing continues to be one of the largest obstacles we face as a mountain community. We have a genuine need for housing stock that meets the needs of our workforce. In many cases, if housing is available, it’s unaffordable on working-class wages. If it’s affordable, it may be old and in poor condition. That leaves what’s achievable often lying outside the borders of the Lake Tahoe Basin, forcing long commutes and putting more stress on area roadways.
We must engage on all these fronts, working in collaboration with our partners, if we’re to protect the characteristics of what has made Lake Tahoe special. Our ability to come up with viable solutions to these challenges can also help us play a role in the greater challenge of reducing the impacts of climate change.
Here in Tahoe we are already starting to see how a changing climate affects our environment. As an agency and as a community, we need to seek new strategies to adapt, and our states are leading the way.
Both California and Nevada, along with 23 other states, have joined the United States Climate Alliance. The alliance is a bipartisan coalition of governors dedicated to the deployment of climate solutions like reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other climate solutions, helping to achieve climate goals.
Climate change threatens the progress we’ve made on lake clarity and other measures to protect our sensitive environment over the last 20 years. There is no simple fix in our fight against climate change. We must continue meaningful collaboration as we seek solutions to the problems facing our communities. To meet these new challenges, the only place for us to start is for all of us to re-commit to collaborative conservation.
Joanne S. Marchetta is the executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.