Regional Plan

The Lake Tahoe Regional Plan guides development in the Tahoe Basin to achieve balance between the natural and built environment. The Regional Plan outlines actions to attain these thresholds that restore Lake Tahoe while balancing economic and community vitality. To achieve this, the Regional Plan leverages private-public partnerships and created incentives for property owners to make Lake-saving improvements to their home or business. The Regional Plan promotes environmentally friendly redevelopment of the aging built environment into compact, mixed-use development town centers that connect residents and visitors to work, home, and outdoors without the need for a personal vehicle.

The Regional Plan is a regulatory framework that includes several initiatives and documents. The Plan is meant to be updated every four years, in conjunction with an environmental evaluation report, so that the plan can adapt to changing needs, circumstances and emerging threats.

The Regional Plan Goals and Policies document presents the overall approach to meeting the Thresholds. A key component of the Plan is the land use element. The land use element of the Plan identifies the fundamental philosophies directing land use and development in the Lake Tahoe Basin. It addresses topics like suitable development locations; maintenance of the environmental, social, physical, and economic well being of the Region; and coordination with local, state, and federal requirements.

The updated 2012 Lake Tahoe Regional Plan followed years of negotiations and a recommitment of the states of California and Nevada to the future of Lake Tahoe. The plan is spurring redevelopment that creates walkable, bikeable communities and restores marshes, wetlands, and streams. Progress is apparent and the Tahoe Basin is undergoing a renaissance that promises a brighter future for the environment, the economy, and the community.

Updated in 2012, the Regional Plan identifies goals for the Region and policies that establish the strategies necessary to achieve those goals. This document integrates the requirements of the Bi-State Compact, the thresholds, related plans and legal requirements, and the public’s input. As a result, the Regional Plan provides coordinated and integrated direction for the Agency’s regulatory Code of Ordinances and implementation programs.

Goals and Policies, Attachments and Maps present the overall approach to meeting the TRPA’s environmental thresholds. A key component of the goals and policies identifies fundamental philosophies directing land use and development in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Click here to view the 2012 Regional Plan Update Documents.

The components of the Regional Plan are listed below or download the full Threshold Standards and Regional Plan.

Bi-State Compact

The Bi-State Compact calls for the Regional Plan to establish a balance between the natural environment and the human-made environment. The Plan emphasizes an improvement in the quality of development in the Region and in the quality of the natural environment.

Environmental Thresholds Carrying Capacities set environmental goals and standards for the Lake Tahoe Basin and indirectly define the capacity of the Region to accommodate additional land development. Land development may negatively affect attainment of an environmental threshold. Special efforts, such as mitigation measures, must be taken to reduce impacts.

The Land Use Element of the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan includes the following Sub elements: land use, housing, noise, natural hazards, air quality, water quality, and community design. The Land Use sub elements intend to establish land use goals and policies that will ensure the desired equilibrium and attain and maintain the environmental thresholds within a specific time schedule.

Click here to learn more about the bi-state compact.

Threshold Standards

The Bi-State Compact as revised in 1980, gave TRPA authority to adopt environmental quality standards, called thresholds, and to enforce ordinances designed to achieve the thresholds. In 1982, TRPA adopted nine environmental threshold carrying capacities (thresholds), which set environmental standards for the Lake Tahoe basin and indirectly define the capacity of the Region to accommodate additional land development.

Download the Environmental Threshold Carrying Capacities

Many of the environmental thresholds will take generations to achieve and a sustained commitment to conservation is imperative. The Environmental Improvement Program is intended to accelerate threshold attainment.

There are nine threshold areas:

Water Quality: Return the lake to 1960s water clarity and algal levels by reducing nutrient and sediment in surface runoff and groundwater.

Air Quality: Achieve strictest of federal, state, or regional standards for carbon monoxide, ozone, and particulates; increase visibility; reduce U.S. 50 traffic; and reduce vehicle miles traveled.

Scenic Resources: Maintain or improve 1982 roadway and shoreline scenic travel route ratings, maintain or improve views of individual scenic resources, and maintain or improve quality of views from public outdoor recreation areas.

Soil Conservation: Preserve natural stream environment zones (SEZ), restore 25% of disturbed urban SEZ areas (1,100 acres), and reduce total land coverage.

Fisheries: Maintain 180 miles of good to excellent stream habitat, achieve nearly 6,000 acres of excellent lake habitat, and attempt to reintroduce Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.

Vegetation: Increase plant diversity in forests, preserve uncommon plant communities including deepwater plants, enhance late seral forests and reduce forest fuels, and maintain minimum sustainable populations of sensitive plants including Tahoe Yellow Cress.

Wildlife: Provide habitat for special interest species, prevent degradation of habitats of special significance.

Noise: Minimize noise disturbance from single events, and minimize background noise disturbances in accordance with land use patterns.

Recreation: Preserve and enhance high quality recreational experience. Preserve undeveloped shorezone and other natural areas, and maintain a fair share of recreational capacity for the general public.

A Threshold Evaluation Report is completed every four years as part of the Agency’s adaptive management cycle– Plan-Do-Check-Adjust. The report compiles information from monitoring of over 100 indicators basin wide. The results are compiled and evaluated every four years to assess if the Regional Plan is working and to advise the TRPA Governing Board on making critical adjustments in the Code of Ordinances and other planning documents.

Click here to learn more about the Threshold Standards.

Click here to find previous Threshold Evaluation Reports.

Goals and Policies

The Regional Plan Goals and Policies present the overall approach to meeting the TRPA’s environmental thresholds. A key component of the goals and policies identifies fundamental philosophies directing land use and development in the Lake Tahoe Basin. It addresses topics like suitable development locations; maintenance of the environmental, social, physical, and economic well-being of the Region; and coordination with local, state, and federal requirements. Goals and Policies

The Regional Plan Goals and Policies, Attachments and Maps present the overall approach to meeting the TRPA’s environmental thresholds. A key component of the goals and policies identifies fundamental philosophies directing land use and development in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Regional Plan Goals and Policies
Attachments
Regional Maps

Code of Ordinances

The Code of Ordinances compiles all the laws and ordinances needed to implement the Goals and Policies. The Code is what most applicants use to plan their project, but Plan Area Statements, Community Plans and, soon, Area Plans describe the allowed land uses in an area and are related to the Code. Download the complete Code of Ordinances (Amended 9/30/2020,  Effective 11/29/2020, through Ordinance 2020-05)

TRPA regularly amends the Code of Ordinances to improve its effectiveness and clarity. Click here to view amendments and previous code versions. Please review the Advisory Planning Commission and Governing Board meeting packets for detailed information on Code amendments in progress.

Rules of Procedure

The Rules of Procedure set standards for how the Agency operates and how certain processes are to be carried out. Legal procedures, voting requirements of the Board and levels of environmental analysis for projects are described in the Rules. The Rules of Procedure was last updated on 11/4/2015. The Rules supplement, interpret, and implement both the Bi-State Planning Compact, Regional Plan and Code of Ordinances. Maintenance Responsibilities Chart and Plan Template. Download the Rules of Procedure

Area Plans

Area Plans are a signature element of the Regional Plan. These plans allow other regulatory agencies in the Lake Tahoe Basin to implement the Regional Plan policies with greater flexibility and at the community scale. Area plans are created by local governments with community members and stakeholders at the planning table. These plans are intended to reflect the community’s vision for its future and can be developed for varying geographical scales – from a local neighborhood or commercial center to an entire county. Click here to learn more and read existing Area Plans.

Community Plans and Plan Area Statements

Community plans are similar to Plan Area Statements, but focus on specific areas where humans dwell. Click here is search Plan Area Statements and Community Plans.

Plan Area Statements provide a description of land use for particular areas in the Basin. The Lake Tahoe Region is divided into more than 175 separate Plan Areas. For each Plan Area, a “statement” is made as to how that particular area should be regulated to achieve environmental and land use objectives.  

With the 1987 Regional Plan, neighborhood specific goals, policies, and land use regulations were included in community plans and plan area statements. Area plans are intended to update and replace these older planning documents. Community plans and plan area statements still exist in some areas of the Lake Tahoe Region. To view all existing local planning documents, click here.

Development Rights

To control development in the Tahoe Basin, the Regional Plan established growth caps and regulates development over time through development rights. Development rights are land use units someone must acquire before a property is developed. Development rights include tourist accommodation units, single and multi-family residential units, and commercial floor area.

The Lake Tahoe Regional Plan has incentives in place to encourage environmentally beneficial redevelopment – removing development in environmentally sensitive areas and transferring that development potential to areas more suitable for development and town centers which have access to infrastructure, services, and transit. Click here to learn more about development rights.

Shoreline Plan

The TRPA Governing Board approved a new Shoreline Plan for Lake Tahoe in October 2018. The plan supports boating, paddling, swimming, and other water-based recreation, while also ensuring effective natural resource management for continued attainment of environmental goals in the Lake Tahoe Region. The plan includes updated shorezone regulations (Chapters 80-85 of the TRPA Code of Ordinances) and a Shoreline Implementation Program. Click here to learn more about the Shoreline Plan, Program, and permitting.

Lake Tahoe (208) Water Quality Management Plan

208 Plans are required for certain areas by the Federal Clean Water Act (section 208). These plans promote efficient and comprehensive programs for controlling water pollution in a defined geographic area. The Lake Tahoe 208 Plan was updated by TRPA on December 12, 2012, which initiated the need for parallel updates by the states of Nevada and California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The certification letters from each agency  are included below.

Lake Tahoe (208) Water Quality Management Plan Final June 19, 2013

State and Federal Certification Documents

California State Water Board 208 Certification Letter May 30 2013
California State Water Board Resolution 2013_0014
California Lahontan Water Board Recommendation to Certify February 20 2013
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection 208 Certification Letter March 12 2013
US Environmental Protection Agency 208 Certification Letter June 19 2013

Archived 208 Plan-Water Quality Management Plan for the Tahoe Basin

The archived version of the plan (pre-2013) is here:

Volume 1
Volume II BMP Handbook
Volume III BMP Handbook Stream Environment Zone Protection and Restoration
Volume IV BMP Handbook Erosion Control and Capital Improvement Projects
Volume V BMP Handbook Summary
Volume VI A BMP Handbook Summary and Comments
Volume VI B BMP Handbook Comments Continued
Volume VII BMP Handbook Technical Appendix

Supporting Plans and Programs

In addition to the Regional Plan and component, several supporting plans and programs help implement the Regional Plan and achieve threshold attainment. The following plans and programs support the Regional Plan.