Bill Yeates

By Bill Yeates

2018 was an extraordinary year for Lake Tahoe, and one of the region’s most successful years in decades. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) assisted by dozens of partners approved landmark programs and projects, including a new Shoreline Plan, a comprehensive update of TRPA’s development rights system, and the U.S. 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project. These accomplishments were made possible through the willingness of many different interest groups and agencies within the Tahoe Basin to work collaboratively with TRPA for the benefit of Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Basin’s environment, and its communities.

As the new chair of the TRPA Governing Board, I plan to maintain and encourage this partnership among the many interested groups within the Tahoe Basin. We must continue to look for ways to work together to meet the many challenges, like climate change, transportation, and housing, that will affect Lake Tahoe, the residents who live within the Basin, and the visitors who come to enjoy this unique natural wonder. Fortunately, I believe we are primed for continued success.

Completion of the State Route 89/Fanny Bridge Community Revitalization Project in Tahoe City and the Incline Village to Sand Harbor Bike Path will bring necessary improvements to Tahoe’s transportation system on the North Shore; and, hopefully, will provide opportunities for visitors to get out of their vehicles. These projects provide access to world-class recreation, improve infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians, address traffic congestion problems, and will help revitalize communities. On the South Shore, this year TRPA, the Tahoe Transportation District, and many other partners will begin developing a Main Street Management Plan for the Stateline area as part of the recently approved U.S. 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project. The development of this plan is an exciting opportunity to set the stage for transformative changes from Heavenly Village throughout the Stateline area that will improve transit services, bike and pedestrian mobility, housing availability, recreation access, and economic vitality.

Emerald Bay is one of the most heavily-visited and cherished places within Lake Tahoe, yet it is also at times a frustrating “bottleneck” for travelers on the West Shore. TRPA and more than a dozen government agencies (including U.S. Forest Service, California State Parks, and El Dorado County) and community partners will be developing a highway corridor management plan for state Route 89 from South Lake Tahoe to Tahoma. The goal is to develop a comprehensive blueprint for projects and programs that will reduce traffic and parking congestion while improving safety and recreation access.

In 2017, California and Nevada convened a working group of Tahoe Basin partners to propose and evaluate solutions for the Basin’s most pressing and vexing transportation challenges. Last October this Bi-State collaborative process developed a broadly-supported 10-year Action Plan that prioritizes the projects that will address the Basin’s most critical transportation needs. These projects include better transit and ride-sharing services to connect communities, workplaces, and recreation sites; better connected bike and pedestrian paths; and technology to provide travelers with real-time information about traffic, road conditions, parking availability, and alternative transportation options. The immediate challenge for 2019 is to work with the two states, our public agency and private partners to raise the necessary funds to implement these priority transportation projects. We know neighboring metropolitan areas like Reno, Sacramento, and San Francisco are continuing to grow, and as they do, more people will want to come enjoy Lake Tahoe. Implementation of the 10-year Action Plan will make the Basin’s roadways safer and less congested; and, make it easier for people to travel to, from, and around Tahoe without their cars. That will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, water quality, and quality of life. We will implement this 10-year Action Plan in the same way that we have successfully carried out the many projects within TRPA’s Environmental Improvement Program.

With the overhaul of TRPA’s development rights system, we also start this year with new tools to address the Basin’s shortage of affordable housing. The changes allow TRPA to provide free residential development rights called bonus units for projects that provide affordable “work force” housing for the people and families who earn more than the area median income, but still cannot afford to buy a median-priced home. These new provisions also simplify the transfer and conversion of existing development rights, which will make it easier to invest in redevelopment projects that revitalize our communities, restore the environment, and provide needed workforce housing.

There is no shortage of challenges facing Lake Tahoe. Yet, we have demonstrated we have the will and the partnerships to meet these challenges. This past year shows we can bring about real change and solve difficult problems by collaborating and working together. As we embark on a new year, please join us. Share your energy and ideas to help us build sustainable communities and protect Lake Tahoe for future generations.

Bill Yeates is Chair of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the California State Senate appointee to the Governing Board.