By Joanne S. Marchetta
Collaboration between public, private, and nonprofit partners is the new normal for progress at Lake Tahoe. This cultural shift years in the making is helping the region make significant strides in conserving and restoring Tahoe’s environment, revitalizing its communities, and achieving what was seemingly impossible before. Consider all that has been accomplished in just the last two months.
In October, TRPA approved two landmark initiatives that partners around the lake have been working on for three years: A new Shoreline Plan and a package of comprehensive changes to Lake Tahoe’s unique development rights system. After decades of failed attempts and inaction, we reached these successes through partnership and collaboration.
The improvements to Lake Tahoe’s development rights system will accelerate private investment in much-needed redevelopment projects that benefit the environment, revitalize communities, improve recreation opportunities, and provide more affordable housing options. The new Shoreline Plan—the first update to TRPA’s shorezone regulations in decades—will improve on-lake experiences and safety for people who enjoy swimming, paddling, and boating at Tahoe and improve the environment along the shoreline.
This November, TRPA approved two major projects. The first, the U.S. 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project proposed by the Tahoe Transportation District, has been under consideration for decades and grown into far more than just the “loop road,” as it is often called. Through years of planning, public outreach, collaboration, and project refinement, it promises to be a transformative community revitalization project and a signature example of environmental redevelopment at Lake Tahoe.
By rerouting U.S. 50 to run behind Heavenly Village and the Stateline casino core and turning the old highway alignment into a local main street, this project will improve safety, transit services, traffic flow, housing, economic vitality, recreation access, and quality of experience for residents and visitors in one of the South Shore’s most heavily-visited areas. The project builds upon past redevelopment to create a bike, pedestrian, and transit-oriented main street corridor that extends throughout the Stateline area in California and Nevada.
The project will fix problems of cut-through traffic in the Rocky Point neighborhood and provide new neighborhood amenities like a community park, greenspace, sidewalks, and lighting. It will also provide better workforce housing, replacing more than the 76 aging housing units that will be displaced by the new highway alignment by building 109 new low- and moderate-income housing units that will remain affordable through deed restrictions.
Required as part of the project’s approval and permitting, TRPA and Tahoe Transportation District will now convene a team of partners to work with residents and business owners to create a management plan for the new main street corridor. The plan will further fine tune the specifics of transit, bike, and pedestrian circulation; parking management; wayfinding signs; and streetscape amenities to ensure the main street corridor is utilized to its greatest possible potential.
On the North Shore, the newly-approved Kings Beach Pier Reconstruction Project will replace an aging public pier in the center of the park that does not reach water during low lake levels with a new public pier on the eastern end of the park that will, improving access for boaters, paddlers, and swimmers at one of the North Shore’s most popular beaches.
But the pier reconstruction is just one near-term project in California State Parks’ revised general plan for the Kings Beach State Recreation Area. The plan also envisions expanded gathering areas and event and picnic spaces, pedestrian improvements, more efficient parking, electric vehicle charging stations, interpretive features, and improved access and on-site storage for small non-motorized watercraft.
With these initiatives and projects, the Tahoe region is implementing broadly-supported plans for thriving town centers that are walkable, bikeable, and served by transit, a healthier environment, and better access for people to enjoy the lake, mountains, and trails that make Tahoe a world-renowned destination for outdoor recreation.
These are exciting times at Tahoe. The region is showing what can be done when divergent interests are willing to come together to find common solutions for longstanding dilemmas. From environmental conservation and restoration through the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program to better implementation of the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan through projects and initiatives, epic collaboration is delivering good outcomes for Lake Tahoe. By working together, the Tahoe region is achieving things that were unimaginable in the past. Please help us continue to build on this spirit of collaboration to make even more progress on the many difficult challenges facing Lake Tahoe’s environment and communities.
Joanne S. Marchetta is executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.