Review could mean more building in city |

Review could mean more building in city

Gregory Crofton

Just over 200 new homes can be built in the Lake Tahoe Basin in 2005. But that number could change.

At the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency meeting last week, Hal Cole, a South Lake Tahoe city councilman and member of the TRPA Governing Board, raised a fairness issue regarding new home building and its tie to the city’s level of transit service.

“I know the rules are written … but let’s step back and look at the issue,” Cole said. “I’m saying the format for judging this isn’t fair.”

South Lake Tahoe is in line to receive 29 allocations of residential development in 2005, three less than it received this year. The reason: a formula used by the TRPA to rate transit improvements showed the city had not maintained or increased its funding for transit operations.

“The city got dinged and we’re doing the more for transportation than any other jurisdiction in the basin,” Cole said. “It’s tough going to three families and tell them they can’t build a home.”

TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub told Cole he understood his concern and that he would have his staff re-examine the scoring criteria and report the results to the Governing Board meeting in January.

When the Governing Board met last week, it approved the release of 208 allocations for the basin in 2005, 17 less than it released this year.

The number of homes built around the lake decreased over the last three years since the TRPA, an organization established to protect the lake environment, adopted a program that links construction of single and multifamily homes to transit improvements and other environmental work.

The program is designed to match the amount of restoration work with the rate of development in the basin. The ratcheting down of the number of new homes built annually is also an indicator that the basin’s supply of land that can be developed is finite and that each year the number of buildable vacant lots decreases.

The number of allocations available each year ranges between 78 and 294. The number released depends on how much work is accomplished by each jurisdiction in the basin, of which there are five: the city and four counties.

“It’s a quantitative, objective process,” said Paul Nielsen, a senior planner at the TRPA. “In my opinion, the local jurisdictions have been doing a good job trying to achieve lofty but important (environmental) goals.”

If jurisdictions show progress in four categories – transit, permit compliance, environmental improvement project work, and the retrofit of older buildings with erosion controls – they receive more allocations.

The 208 allocations to be released next year will be distributed to local governments as follows: 83 to El Dorado County, 50 to Placer County, 34 to Washoe County, 29 to South Lake Tahoe and 12 to Douglas County.

People who own a vacant lot must have an allocation in hand before they apply for a TRPA building permit. Right now there is an 8-year wait to receive an allocation in South Lake Tahoe and a 3-to 5-year wait in El Dorado County.

There is, however, a way you can avoid the wait. This year, according to Nielsen, the TRPA released 38 allocations to people who bought a parcel of sensitive land in El Dorado County or in South Lake Tahoe and retired it as open space.

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

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