Watchdogs roll out critiques of TRPA policy
July 5, 2010
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Representatives from local environmental watchdog groups expressed displeasure with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s new direction while offering critiques of the agency’s Regional Plan Update process.
Carl Young, Program Director with the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said the recent lay-offs of five employees represent a disturbing shift from the TRPA acting primarily as an environmental oversight agency toward the organization focusing on planning matters.
Most of those laid off were scientists and the agency has a disproportionate amount of planners on staff, which alters the internal system of checks and balances within the organization, he said.
Charles Emmet, Scott Frazier, Eileen Cary were all scientists specializing in air, soil, and vegetation. Brenda Hunt was a planner and Melissa Shaw manager recreation.
Young was critical of the agency’s new focus on redevelopment as a means of effecting regional environmental benefits and a reduced reliance on the private automobile as a primary mode of transportation.
“One of the mandates of the TRPA Compact is to reduce vehicle miles traveled within the basin,” he said. “Increasing urbanization and allowing for more tourist capacity is not the cure, but the problem.”
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Increased vehicular traffic is not only a matter of air quality, according to Young, but also presents a detrimental impact to water quality, as cars grind down asphalt, the particles of which can leak into the lake.
“Regarding cars, it’s not just what comes out of the tailpipe,” he said. “Particles of asphalt, sand, rubber represent a large component of the forces currently responsible for compromising lake clarity.”
Tourists come to Lake Tahoe to escape traffic congestion, said Young, and the agency’s proposals regarding increased access to bicycle lanes and pedestrian trails is not enough to discourage residents and visitors to leave their cars at home.
Ann Nichols of the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance agrees an emphasis on bicycles and walking is not enough.
“You can’t ride a bike six months out of the year and some spots such as Crystal Bay are really dangerous for bikes,” she said. “What we really need is a comprehensive public transit system.”
Nichols said the new shift to Transect Zoning as part of the TRPA staff-proposed changes to the 1987 Regional Plan will increase height and density in certain neighborhoods around Tahoe and make the setting of certain communities more urban.
“Transect zoning doesn’t work with Lake Tahoe geography,” she said. “Linear development doesn’t work in communities like Tahoe Vista, Carnelian Bay, Homewood and Lake Forest.”
Young said there were too many loopholes in the Land Use plan.
“The TRPA says this plan will take care of blight, but the plan does not mean developers need to remove blight, but instead developers can just add onto things in designated places,” he said.
A more worthy plan would provide incentives for developers to retire development currently located on the fringes of communities and bring that retired development into already urbanized cores, said Young.
“This is a huge plan which covers the entire Lake Tahoe Basin and will affect development for the next 20 years,” he said. “The agency should use this opportunity to accomplish environmental objectives.”