South Lake Tahoe planners approve rec center plans, use permit for Tahoe Wellness

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The South Lake Tahoe Planning Commission on Thursday approved plans for the South Lake Tahoe Recreation & Aquatics Center.

The new recreation center will feature a lap pool, a recreation pool, a second floor, indoor track, a state of the art kitchen for senior meal preparation and much more.

The commission was asked to declare that the plans met Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan, the city of South Lake Tahoe General Plan, the city-wide design, and the Bijou/Al Tahoe Community Plan standards, which the commission unanimously approved.

They were also asked to award a special use permit to allow for a reduction in the parking ratio.

According to city codes, recreation centers are required to provide one parking place for every 300-square-feet of general floor area, which would mean this project should provide about 300 spaces.

The lot currently has 78 spots and they are proposing to add 36 more for a total of 114 spots, which would be shared with the library. A parking study conducted by LSC Transportation Consultants showed 114 spots to plenty since the recreation center and library’s peak hours don’t overlap.

In addition, the project incorporates pedestrian pathways, allowing non-motor vehicle access to the center.

Commissioner Doug Williams didn’t think this was a great idea since public transportation in South Lake Tahoe is not yet a strength. Commissioner Natalia Wieczorek added that people will find additional parking no matter what, meaning they will be parking in the dirt, causing further erosion.

On the other hand, Commissioner Gavin Feiger said he was excited to see the reduction in the parking ratio and hoped to see reductions in parking elsewhere in the city.

Less parking in the city, could give the region that push it needs to provide more public transportation options. During the commissioner reports at the end of the meeting, Feiger said an agreement with the new events center requires transit options and they are moving towards a micro transit line, similar to the one in the North Shore which has seen success.

City Planning Manager John Hitchcock also pointed out that this project is just one piece of the whole 56-Acres plan and as more pieces are developed, more parking will become available.

Despite the concerns, the commission unanimously approved the permit. The project will now go to the City Council for approval.

Also during the meeting, the commission also approved a cannabis use permit application for Tahoe Wellness Center.

TWC is currently operating under a medical marijuana license that is set to expire soon. This will allow the business to continue operation, as well as add some additional elements to the business.

Because TWC is owned by City Councilman Cody Bass, he is not allowed to work directly with the city, so he was represented by Madison Dederick, assistant planner, and Nick Exline and Molly Armanino from Exline and Company.

Exline said the only thing that will change in the way the company operates will be an added educational element.

The goals of the education will be to enhance community and tourist experience through education and interaction, inform the public on sustainability measures and benefits to local production and set standards for future commercial businesses to follow suit.

The education will be two-fold. The first will be interpersonal, all staff will be able to education customers on the sustainability practices and they are also looking to bring in a medical marijuana expert available to answer questions. Per city codes, they are not allowed to have a doctor on site to prescribe marijuana so this person will need to be a certified professional and not a doctor.

The second piece will be interactive. There will be signs and videos in the store to educate customers on topics such as organic cultivation, regenerative soil practices, and zero waste watering projects. Because cultivation is done in-house, the company has already saved about 102,480 vehicle miles traveled per year and they are hoping to provide incentives to customers who don’t drive to the store, for example people who ride their bike or use public transportation.

They have also made a 1% to the planet pledge, to give back to environmental causes.

Commissioner Williams didn’t think the application provided enough hard data to show the environmental impact the company will have. This was a criticism Exline was excited to hear, saying that he’s glad sustainability is part of the city’s conversation.

Armanino also said TWC has repeatedly shown a willingness and excitement to be more sustainable and as financial opportunities arise, they will continue to make improvements to the location.

The permit was unanimously approved and the commission will review the permit in a year to decide if more changes or regulations need to be made.

The commission also approved a tentative subdivision map for a multi-family housing project at 3708 Lake Tahoe Blvd and 3709 Osgood Avenue.

The commission approved the project at their Feb. 22 meeting but California law requires them to approve maps for any subdivision with five or more units. This project is slated to have three buildings split into 14 units.

The City Council will also need to approve the project.

Finally, the commission approved the city of South Lake Tahoe General Plan Annual Report for 2021 which is required by the State of California.

One piece that the commission focused on was the Housing Element. The city has regional housing needs allocation targets to meet. In 2021, they approved permits for 341 above moderate income units, while RHNA only required 181. The city fell short for affordable units (only 48 were permitted which was 44 below the target) and moderate income units (19 were permitted and the goal was 63.)

Feiger expressed frustration at the lack of affordable housing units approved and the over abundance of above moderate income units approved.

The commissioner approved the report which will now be sent to City Council for final approval.

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