Tahoe Conservancy plans to acquire Motel 6; memorializes 1st executive officer with trail rename

Staff Report

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — At its meeting Monday, the California Tahoe Conservancy Board authorized spending up to $10 million to acquire approximately 31 acres of floodplain along the Upper Truckee River, upstream of the Conservancy’s Upper Truckee Marsh property in South Lake Tahoe.

The acquisition includes two parcels at 2375 Lake Tahoe Boulevard and 940 Sunset Drive which includes the Motel 6. After the acquisition, the Conservancy will demolish the existing motel and restaurant structures on Lake Tahoe Boulevard and stabilize the environmentally sensitive land. The Conservancy will preserve the mountain meadow and wetlands on the Sunset Drive property.

Board member Tamara Wallace recommended that the motel possibly be converted into one-bedroom apartments instead but restoration of the area hinges on demolition of the property.

The deal still needs to go through escrow then be approved by the public works board which would likely happen in Fall 2022. Demolition will either begin in Summer 2023 or 2024, depending on the date escrow closes and weather.

A couple residents in surrounding neighborhoods spoke in favor of the acquisition. One member of the public raised concerns about the job loss that will follow closure of the Motel 6.

During the meeting, the board also adopted new forestry guidelines that will help increase the pace and scale of the Conservancy’s work to reduce wildfire risk to Tahoe communities and improve forest resilience. The board also authorized a program budget of up to $50 million for the Conservancy to begin implementing work under the new guidelines.

“The Caldor Fire showed us the scale of the threat to Tahoe from wildfire, but also the value of protecting our communities and natural resources by accelerating forest restoration in the basin,” said Conservancy Board Chair and El Dorado County Supervisor Sue Novasel in a press release. “Investing in forest management will reduce risk to our neighborhoods and help protect Lake Tahoe in the years ahead.”

The new forestry guidelines and funding will help the Conservancy expand work that reduces hazardous fuels in the wildland-urban interface and advance landscape-scale forest restoration. The forestry guidelines are consistent with the Tahoe Program Timberland Environmental Impact Report, which Cal Fire certified in April.

The Tahoe PTEIR is an environmental document that addresses a long-term program of forest management treatments to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire and improve forest ecosystem conditions on 17,480 acres of wildland-urban Interface on the California side of the basin, including Conservancy lands. Cal Fire, assisted by North Tahoe Fire Protection District, Lake Valley Fire Protection District, and the Conservancy, prepared the Tahoe PTEIR to evaluate the effects of forest management and improve the approval process for later activities covered by the document. The Conservancy will use its forestry guidelines to develop and implement forest management projects that are consistent with the Tahoe PTEIR.

The Conservancy coordinates its forestry efforts with Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team partners. The Lake Tahoe Basin Forest Action Plan ― developed by the TFFT’s 21 federal, tribal, state, and local conservation, land management, and fire agencies ― charts a path for collaboration across property boundaries to accelerate landscape restoration and community wildfire protection at Tahoe.

At the same meeting, the board renamed the South Tahoe Greenway Shared Use Trail to the Dennis T. Machida Memorial Greenway. After playing a key role in creating the Conservancy, Machida served as its first executive officer. During his 20-year tenure, the Conservancy acquired more than 6,400 acres of land, and secured over $290 million in public funds for nearly 600 restoration and public access projects throughout the California side of the basin.

People enjoying the Dennis T. Machida Memorial Greenway.

Machida worked with Caltrans to transfer unused right of way land to the Conservancy that ultimately became the alignment for the Greenway trail. Under his leadership, Conservancy staff began planning the trail in 2002. Machida passed away in 2005. His legacy is the inspiration for the Greenway. Basin partners have constructed four sections of the Greenway, with El Dorado County completing the most recent two phases earlier this year.

Also at the meeting, the board adopted new program guidelines that allow the Conservancy to sell land coverage and restoration credits for access to new and existing piers, existing watercraft moorings, and other structures within the shorezone of Lake Tahoe.

The guidelines enable the Conservancy to support implementation of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s 2018 Lake Tahoe Shoreline Plan, which requires additional coverage or restoration credits for the construction of such structures.

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