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The Politics of Land Use: South Lake Tahoe, CA

The Politics of Land Use: South Lake Tahoe, CA

Since 2005, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) has been actively working to develop a Regional Plan Update that supports the continued restoration of Lake Tahoe’s clarity and fosters land-use policies that promote sustainable growth. Facing pressure from the passage of Nevada Senate Bill 271, TRPA passed an update to it’s 1987 Regional Plan by

South Lake Tahoe Land Use

Since 2005, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) has been actively working to develop a Regional Plan Update that supports the continued restoration of Lake Tahoe’s clarity and fosters land-use policies that promote sustainable growth. Facing pressure from the passage of Nevada Senate Bill 271, TRPA passed an update to it’s 1987 Regional Plan by a twelve to one vote in December 2013. However, some conservationists feel the scope of this update is limited, and new environmental regulations regarding development are too lax.

In the updated Regional Plan, TRPA identified priorities that they felt would best encourage growth and prosperity in an environmentally sensitive manner. Their overall goal is to make Tahoe a more sustainable and vibrant community, and to restore Lake Tahoe’s clarity. A few of the priority updates included:

  • Establishing environmental goals and standards for the Lake Tahoe Basin and identifying carrying capacity thresholds;
  • Increasing funding and investments for the Environmental Improvement Program, and supporting environmental redevelopment projects;
  • Creating coordinated area plans that increase community participation;
  • Simplifying the permit review process to encourage updates to older buildings.

South Lake Tahoe Land Use

By adopting new land-use policies, making the permit review process simpler, and encouraging development without compromising environmental protections, TRPA hopes to create a Regional Plan that accounts for multiple stakeholders and interest groups in the Tahoe area.

But many conservationists are concerned that new policies, such as the “Area Plan” process, give too much control to local jurisdictions - exempting some planning from direct TRPA review - and lead to weaker protection for Lake Tahoe. The Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore recently sued to block the Regional Plan Update, stating that the new plan illegally shifts authority for development to local agencies, which will result in increased development projects such as ski resort expansions, at the expense of environmental protections.

Over the years, California and Nevada have worked together to protect, restore and enhance Lake Tahoe. Their relationship has been tested from time to time by conflicting interests, and perhaps faces its greatest test in the coming months.

How much power should local jurisdictions hold when incentives to develop can potentially outweigh environmental protection?

Credits: Images by Amanda Christian. Data linked to sources.

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Alex Riemondy is a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Environmental Studies, and a Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning. Her interests in urban planning first stemmed from a cross-country ...

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