Successes, challenges discussed at State of the City address

Ashleigh Goodwin /

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. —  Successes, accomplishments and strategies for future challenges were discussed Thursday, Oct. 20, at the State of the City address.

City Manager Joe Irvin kicked off the event at The Beach Retreat & Lodge by welcoming the audience and providing introductions of agency officials in attendance, including the city council. 

Irvin thanked the residents of South Lake Tahoe and said, “It is your desire and attention to local government that gives us the drive everyday to come to work to continuously improve to provide the services to you.”

Mayor Devin Middlebrook was welcomed to the stage for the address and discussed the accomplishments of the last four years, “how the community has risen to the challenges it has faced,” the challenges the city still faces, and the strategies for the future. 

To begin, Middlebrook turned attention momentarily to the indigenous people of lake Tahoe, the Washoe Tribe. He noted they had a hand in inspiration lent to the design of the new recreation center. 

The strategic plan Middlebrook reviewed showed areas of concentration are focused on each of the focal points of the city’s mission statement.

“The City was established to provide essential, outstanding and cost-effective services that enhance environmental sustainability, economic vitality and the quality of life for our residents, businesses and guests.” 

Built environment and its revitalization, new affordable housing, roadways and maintenance were the first of the accomplishments and challenges addressed by the mayor.

“Maintaining our roads is no small task, if you took our roads and laid them straight it would go from here to Santa Cruz,” Middlebrook said. “Even still more roads were paved in the last four years than in the last decade.“

One of the most pressing challenges faced, according to Middlebrook, as a city is the strained housing market. 

In the last nine years Middlebrook said the median home price has increased by triple with only a 1% increase in housing units. He went further to express the severity of the housing crisis by stating there are currently no houses that are priced within the affordable range for the average family earning the median income of $53,000 per year.

The vision of the city states, “Elevating South Lake Tahoe by providing service excellence for an inspired future that values the natural and built environments, civic engagement for all and economic prosperity.” 

Regarding the natural environment Middlebrook discussed climate change, infrastructure inadequacies for traffic, alternate modes of transit, and trail infrastructure. 

Middlebrook provided visual support of the accomplishments surrounding sustainability by showing a map with statistics which showed 32,000 rides have been provided since July, many originating or ending at the middle school. Additionally, Lime has recorded 201,800 rides since 2017, getting more people out of their cars. 

Middlebrook said, “We need to create a built environment that reflects the beauty of our environment and the culture of our community.”

He called for the city to create zoning that encourages new housing development, electrify transit to fight climate change. 

Recreation and equitable access is about not only large public facilities but also small community parks, which Middlebrook says every community deserves. Along with expanding the parks and recreation facilities the city has added employment opportunities for proactive education of the visitors by having park stewards/rangers educate and assist everyone in becoming a better steward of our area. 

The city has also expanded the partnership with Clean Tahoe to maintain the cleanliness of the basin introducing garbage compactors that have the ability to alert when it is full which allows waste receptacles to be more effectively managed. 

Middlebrook also discussed the importance of the diversity and inclusivity stating firmly, “There’s no room for hate in our community, period.”

Signs of this inclusivity are shown outwardly in displays throughout the city with the rainbow painted crosswalk, multicultural celebrations, and the sister city Ameca in Jalisco, Mexico.

While the city is not an economic development or housing development agency Middlebrook said it is the city’s responsibility to provide the underlying infrastructure to encourage growth in all areas including but not limited to housing, business, diversity and inclusion. 

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