State of the City Address: Smoother roads, affordable housing, investing in the next generation

Katelyn Welsh /

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif.— Applause was not in short supply Tuesday night, Oct. 10, in Lake Tahoe Community College’s Duke Theatre. Mayor Cristi Creegan highlighted the community’s accomplishments, on-going projects, and an update on the city’s five year Strategic Plan.

Mayor Creegan greeted guests before the address in the bustling foyer and theatre. The crowd spilled out the doors at times. It was a sign to those looking for the event that they were in the right place.

“I didn’t expect this many people and I walked around and talked to as many people as I could beforehand, so I could let them know that even though I’m the person standing up here, that this is the community and I’m so glad they are here,” said Mayor Creegan.

Mayor Cristi Creegan greets guests before providing South Lake Tahoe’s State of the City Address on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Lake Tahoe Community College’s Duke Theatre. Katelyn Welsh / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Before diving into business, the evening started with a video recognizing South Lake Tahoe’s dispatchers.

The emergency service takes an average of 10,000 emergency calls and 65,000 non-emergency calls every year, according to the their website. In the video, they say their staff don’t just take calls. They also dispatch them and at times give life-saving directions for CPR over the phone. They say this is a huge undertaking for each member since these tasks are typically separated at most dispatch centers.

They announced a new system capable of reaching out to other dispatchers to help during large crises — ones like the Caldor fire.

The video ended with each dispatcher poised at their station, ready to take a call with their headsets on. Each turned around in their chair and smiled at the audience, but the last dispatcher had a familiar face and greeted the auditorium, “Hi I’m Cristi Creegan. I’m your mayor, and welcome to the 2023 State of the City.”

The first thing Creegan did after her cameo was walk to the spotlighted microphone and acknowledge the Wa She Shu people. She recognized this as their land and a duty to take care of it.

Mayor Cristi Creegan gives South Lake Tahoe’s State of the City address on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at Lake Tahoe Community College’s Duke Theatre. Katelyn Welsh / Tahoe Daily Tribune.

This Year’s Wins

The people of South Lake Tahoe can now enjoy a smoother commute. The city reports almost 400 potholes identified and repaired. Road crews have resurfaced around 300 miles of roads, including work on Pioneer Trail, and Johnson Boulevard.

For South Lake Tahoe’s Resident Engineer Mark Frisina, the work isn’t just asphalt and tar, for him he says, “this is like having Tonkas.”

As far as getting places, Creegan says their new micro-transit shuttle is hitting its two goals. Lake Link is getting residents to work and visitors to their tourist destinations. The mayor reports in the first year, the service has moved 179,000 passengers with a 4.9 out of five star rating. The app-based ride is meant to alleviate congestion on the roads from Stateline to the Al Tahoe neighborhood.

South Lake Tahoe implemented an app-based micro-transit shuttle last year that services residents’ and tourists’ transportation needs from Stateline, Nev. to the the Al Tahoe neighborhood. Provided / Lake Link.

The city has also attacked flooding on the roadways and in neighborhoods. The Barton Avenue and 2nd Street Drainage Project, as well as the Tahoe Valley Greenbelt Stormwater Improvement Project, corrects longtime drainage issues.

Mayor Creegan says it’s “life changing for residents who’ve faced that kind of flooding.”

Complete Streets Program Manager Jason Burke says these projects include improvements that remove runoff sediment as well — a win for Tahoe’s clarity.

The city also plans on taking a load off property owners’ backs this winter. They’ve approved clearing snow on all sidewalks along U.S. Highway 50. This was previously the responsibility of each property owner.

Clearing snow has gotten easier at the airport too this year. Airport personnel attribute new snow removal equipment to reducing the number of closures to ten days. It was closed 30 days the year before.

Over at South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue, defensible space inspectors now have an award winning tool to work with. The department has done away with pen and paper. They’ve upgraded to an electronic system that streamlines the process. It’s sped up inspections as much as five times, the average inspection taking five minutes. This new system won the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association’s Exemplary System in Government Award for 2023.

Fire Marshal Kim George says this makes for a much more aggressive approach to defensible space after recent fires. It also reduces the workload for field workers.

Mayor Creegan touched on their Park Ranger Program that started last year. The work-based learning program hires participants ages 16 and up who learn land management and conservation skills. There are currently 12 enrolled in program at parks throughout the city.

She also announced a win for the community with multiple proclamations this year. The screen behind her was filled with bullet points of awareness weeks, months, and special days, listed below:

  • Miss Marcia Day
  • Child Abuse Prevention Month
  • Mental Health Awareness Week
  • Lake Tahoe Bike Month
  • El Dorado County Fair Week
  • 30th Anniversary of the Intensive Spanish Summer Institute Program
  • National Suicide Prevention and Action Month
  • National Constitution Week
  • Honorary Mayor for the Day
  • Education and Sharing Day
  • Pride Month
  • STMS Club Day
  • Fire Prevention Week
  • Domestic Violence Awareness Month

What’s Ahead

A more affordable housing future awaits South Lake residents. Creegan says around 60 units will be available at the Sugar Pine Village affordable housing project this time next year. Another 188 units are planned in phases in the coming years.

It also hits on their environmental goal with heaters that use a third of the energy basic heaters do.

The complex will house 800 residents when complete. Associate Housing Planner Jessica Wackenhut Lomeli says it’s the largest project of its kind in the Tahoe Basin.

It’s a project that takes her back to growing up in the area, “I want to provide opportunities to the people that I think about that I grew up with,” she says, “that maybe wouldn’t have the opportunity to move back and impact their community as well.”

Mayor Creegan also touched on the new Recreation and Aquatics Center in the works. The city moved forward with next steps in contractual paperwork in August, including approval of a lease revenue bond and construction agreement.

She says they plan having the center open by 2026. That’s ten years after the city approved the funding.

Renderings of the new Recreation and Aquatics Center set to open in 2026 in South Lake Tahoe. Provided / City of South Lake Tahoe

South Lake’s youth can look forward to leadership opportunities in the future. Creegan says the city has added a government leadership program for the next generation to the Strategic Plan. It won’t be fully implemented until 2026 at the latest.

They did get a taste of it with a couple youth events this year. One involved Creegan visiting a fifth grade class to hear their thoughts on using compostable dog waste bags at public facilities. The other, one essay contest winner got to be “mayor for the day.”

The City’s Five Year Plan

When it comes to South Lake Tahoe’s to do list for their Strategic Plan, it’s “check check check,” says Mayor Creegan, “it’s great.”

The five year plan spanning 2023-2028 is already making marks on the town. It’s set goals and direction for the community with actions plans in progress. Much of the updates from Creegan and city staff — from the proclamations to the aquatics center — were in reference to the five priorities laid out in the plan:

  • Strategic Priority 1: Built Environment
  • Strategic Priority 2: Recreation & Equitable Access
  • Strategic Priority 3: Community for All
  • Strategic Priority 4: Economic Development
  • Strategic Priority 5: Core Services & High-Performing Government

The mayor says the city will assess the plan annually.

Anyone can view the State of the City Address here.

Mayor Cristi Creegan ended South Lake Tahoe’s State of the City address on Tuesday, Oct. 10 with a picture taken near Trout Creek and quote by Peter Kageyama. Katelyn Welsh / Tahoe Daily Tribune.

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