Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if I need a permit?
There are generally three levels of TRPA environmental review:
- Exempt Activities (No TRPA Environmental Review Required)
- Qualified Exempt Activities (Information and Application)
- Standard Application Review- Where To Apply
If you need a TRPA permit, here is a basic overview of the permit process:
- If you need a permit and are creating new or relocating existing land coverage, you need to know your land capability and have your existing coverage verified. If your property was built before 1987, you may need to submit a separate application for a Site Assessment to find this out. Parcel and Permit Records Search
- Gather all the information required on your application and submit it to TRPA
- TRPA might request additional information
- TRPA review will normally take no longer than 120 days from the date your application information is complete
- Conditional permit issued
- Once you show that all conditions have been met, final permit acknowledgment
- You may need to post a security
- Pre-construction inspection
- You complete your project
- Final inspection and security return
A more detailed description of the permit process is here.
I want to build a deck on my property. What do I need to do?
Since the deck that is proposed may create land coverage, the activity may be a project that requires a TRPA permit before it can be constructed. Before a project application is submitted, TRPA needs to verify two important things: the land capability of the property and the amount of existing land coverage. This information can be obtained from two sources:
- Existing records available from TRPA or a MOU partner
- By submitting a site assessment application to TRPA or a MOU partner (El Dorado County and Placer County only)
A site assessment will verify your land capability, which determines the amount of allowable land coverage on the parcel, and your existing land coverage on the parcel. These amounts may then be compared to determine if coverage is available to build a deck. If the existing coverage exceeds the allowable amount, the TRPA cannot approve the deck since it increases land coverage on the parcel. If the existing coverage is less than that allowable then the remaining potential land coverage may be allocated to the deck and a TRPA permit may be issued. A permit may also be issued if it is possible to relocate existing coverage on the parcel to be used for the deck.
Land Coverage Exemptions for Residential Improvements
Special incentives are now available to homeowners through the updated Code of Ordinances that may exempt certain structures from land coverage calculations for certain properties that have installed water quality Best Management Practices (BMPs). To know if the exemptions can be applied to your home improvement project, open the information packet below.
How do I request a file that is not online?
In response to COVID-19
In an effort to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus, TRPA has moved to online, electronic, and virtual operations and will no longer provide paper copies of project/permit file records. If the file information you need is not already online, TRPA staff will convert the paper file and provide it to you electronically. Fees may apply.
Many TRPA files are already accessible through the Lake Tahoe Info Parcel Tracker.
On occasion, electronic files not found there can be found in the TRPA permitting portal, Accela Citizen’s Access, which requires a login.
If an electronic record has not been uploaded there, email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email should include:
- The assessors parcel number (APN)
- The specific file number of each file being requested
- What you are looking for in the file
Avoid asking for “All Files” as these requests can be costly and often do not provide the specific information you may need.
File requests are processed as soon as possible, or within 5-7 business days. Some file requests and associated scanning can take up to 15 days. You will be notified via email regarding the status of your request and how to retrieve the electronic file.
TRPA avoids charging fees for these services, however, the agency reserves the right to charge a fee for the actual cost under the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. § 552) for public records requests and other services that require substantial staff time to assemble, prepare, and reproduce.
FOIA requests can be submitted online via Accela Citizen’s Access:
- Login or Create an Account
- Choose “Create Application” and select “FOIA-subpoena” from the list
- Owner information is required
- No parcel number or address is necessary, but should be included if it is relevant to the request
What is my IPES Score, and what does it mean?
If your parcel was developed prior to 1987, you do not have or need an Individual Parcel Evaluation System (IPES) score. IPES scores can easily be found on the Lake Tahoe Parcel Tracker.
IPES was adopted in 1987 as a more parcel sensitive method to determine development eligibility and allowable coverage for residential parcels. IPES scores applied only on vacant residential parcels. In 1987 and 1988, vacant residential parcels in the Tahoe Basin were evaluated and scored based on the following eight elements:
- Relative erosion hazard
- Runoff potential
- Stream environment zones
- Condition of local watershed
- Ability to revegetate
- Need for water quality improvements in the vicinity of the parcel distance from Lake Tahoe
Each parcel was given an IPES score ranging from 0 to 1017. Parcels with an IPES score of 726 (the “cutoff” line) or higher were deemed to be equivalent to the Bailey system capabilities of 4–7 and considered “buildable.” Annually, TRPA evaluates how each jurisdiction in the basin has worked towards protecting environmental quality; based on these studies, staff may lower the IPES “cutoff” line, thus increasing the number of parcels that are “buildable.”
Currently, if a parcel has an IPES score of 726 or greater in Placer county, or 1 or greater in any other jurisdiction, it is above the “cutoff” line. For residential parcels in El Dorado, Washoe and Douglas counties, or in the City of South Lake Tahoe, all parcels with a score greater than 0 are eligible to apply for an allocation. TRPA has been able to adjust the eligibility line in those jurisdictions because the total inventory of non-sensitive vacant parcels has surpassed the inventory of sensitive parcels. Circumstances in Placer County have kept that tally from reaching a similar ratio and TRPA has worked with Placer County to keep looking for solutions to the parcel inventory.
Land Coverage allowed pursuant to IPES
Base allowable coverage on IPES parcels is determined by the first two of the above mentioned elements: Relative erosion hazard and runoff potential.Because only two of the eight elements determine coverage, two parcels may have identical IPES scores, but different percentages of allowable coverage. When a parcel is scored, only 1/3 of an acre (14,520 sq. feet) is evaluated. For parcels larger than 1/3 acre, a Determination of Allowable Coverage application is needed for TRPA to determine if the whole parcel is “similar and contiguous” to the original 1/3 acre evaluated. If a parcel is at least 25,410 sq. feet an owner may apply for an alternative building site evaluation for the parcel. The alternative building site may not overlap the original building site by more than 25 percent.
What documentation or past permits are available for my property?
In Response to Covid-19
In an effort to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus, TRPA has moved to online, electronic, and virtual operations and will no longer provide paper copies of project/permit file records.
If an electronic record has not been uploaded to either of those locations, use your search results from those sites to gather the parcel number (APN) and associated file numbers and email your request to email@example.com. It is important to include the specific file number of each file being requested and what you are looking for in these files. We ask that you avoid asking for “All Files” as these requests can be very time consuming and often do not provide the specific information you may need.
During COVID-19 guidelines, file requests are being processed as soon as possible, or within 5-7 business days. Some file requests and associated scanning can take up to 15 days. You will be notified via email regarding the status of your request. For smaller files, we will scan the entire file and upload it to Accela Citizen’s Access, or the Lake Tahoe Info Parcel Tracker.
For files that are very large, we will attempt to locate those specific documents that are needed and scan those items and email them to you or upload them to one of the online locations.
TRPA avoids charging fees for these services, however, the agency reserves the right to charge a fee for the actual cost to the Agency under the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. § 552) for public records requests and other services that require substantial staff time to assemble, prepare, and reproduce.
FOIA requests can now be submitted online via Accela Citizen’s Access. Login or Create an Account, choose Create Application and select “FOIA-subpoena” from the list. For this particular application, no parcel number or address is necessary but can be included if it is relevant to the request, owner information is required.
How long will it take to get a TRPA permit?
The review time required of a project application is largely dependant upon two factors:
- The complexity of the project
- The current workload of the project review staff
Once an application is determined to be complete, TRPA strives to act on the application within 120 days. In some cases, review time may exceed 120 days where additional information is required to review the project has not been received. Currently, the staff workload is high, and average review time for a project is approximately 90 days.
View the Permit Process here.
You can reduce the review time required by submitting a complete application which includes original signatures, legible documents, and accurate information. Your patience is greatly appreciated. The project review staff receives an abundant number of calls, which may alleviate the concern of a permittee with respect to their project’s review progress, but actually slows review time. Thank you for your help and understanding.
How much are mitigation fees and how are they used?
There are several types of mitigation fees that are collected by TRPA from project applicants that receive permits for development at Lake Tahoe. In many cases, no mitigation fees are required at all.
Mitigation fees are not used to pay any staff or administration overhead , but go directly to projects and programs designed to mitigate the effects of development in the Lake Tahoe Basin. A brief summary of each mitigation fee is described below. Some projects may require only one type of mitigation fee while others may require several different types of mitigation fees.
Water Quality Mitigation
Air Quality Mitigation
Offsite Coverage Fees
Excess Coverage Mitigation
All properties within the Lake Tahoe Basin are allowed a certain amount of land coverage. Many properties were developed before the land coverage limitations were established (February 10, 1972) and therefore some of these properties have legally existing excess land coverage if the land coverage created on the property exceeds what would currently be allowed. Property owners that are proposing projects where excess land coverage exists have an option of submitting an excess coverage mitigation fee or removing a certain amount of coverage onsite in lieu of paying the mitigation fee. These fees are forwarded to land conservation agencies where an equivalent amount of land coverage is purchased with the mitigation fees and permanently removed. This way the same amount of coverage is reduced elsewhere in the same hydrological area that the mitigation fee was paid. Excess coverage mitigation fees are calculated using a formula based on the amount excess coverage that exists and the estimated project construction cost. Small projects with lower construction costs pay a smaller excess coverage mitigation fee than do larger projects.
What does it cost to submit a project application to TRPA?
TRPA has established an application fee schedule for each project application type that is regularly reviewed by the agency Governing Board. An information technology surcharge is added to each application to improve the services listed below.
To enhance customer service, an information technologies surcharge fee is added to all application submittals. The current surcharge varies with the type of project application and is listed in the filing fee schedule above. The fees are used to support the following project–related activities or information and technology systems:
- Maintenance of automated Geographic Information System (GIS) permit system
- File scanning (data archives)
- Assessor’s Parcel data maintenance
- Geographic Information Systems
- Information Technology (IT) hardware maintenance and upgrades
- Records Management software upgrades
- File and document production and replication
Please be sure to include the surcharge when calculating your application fees.
Do I have to go through TRPA to get a TRPA permit?
TRPA is partnering with most local building departments to eliminate a step in the permitting process.
Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) are agreements between local jurisdictions, public utility districts and other entities that allow certain projects to be exempted from TRPA review or reviewed at a local jurisdiction building department. For example, most new single family dwelling projects and projects involving additions to single family dwellings can be permitted by your local building department without having to also submit a project application to TRPA. Except at this time in Douglas County and Washoe County, local building department conduct the TRPA review process as a part of issuing a building permit.
In most cases, this partnership allows for permits to be issued quicker and provides for “one stop shopping” when it comes to getting information about your project. Please note that if your new single family dwelling or addition project is located on a property that is visible from Lake Tahoe, a highway or Pioneer Trail, your project will likely have to be submitted to TRPA. Please contact your local building department or TRPA to discuss where to submit your project.
Can I build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)?
Commonly referred to as secondary dwelling units or granny units, ADUs are smaller buildings that share the same lot of a larger, primary residence. Examples include a detached guesthouse or a garage with a rented apartment above. ADUs have many benefits: they are an affordable type of home to construct because they are built on land that is already owned, they provide an income source to homeowners, they are typically less costly to construct than new multifamily developments, and provide a flexible living option for individuals, family members, couples, or seniors. Because of these benefits, ADUs have been identified in jurisdictions around the country as one solution to increasing the supply of workforce housing. Examples of ADUs include a detached guest house or a garage with a rented apartment above.