Scenic Protection Program
Protecting Scenic Quality in the Tahoe Basin
Scenic quality is perhaps the most often identified natural resource of the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Basin affords views of a magnificent lake setting within a forested mountainous environment. The unique combination of visual elements provides for exceptionally high aesthetic values. The maintenance of the Basin’s scenic quality largely depends on careful regulation of the type, location and intensity of development in certain areas.
“At last the lake burst upon us – a noble sheet of blue water lifted 6,300 feet above the level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks that towered aloft 3,000 feet higher still! It was a vast oval . . . As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.” — Mark Twain
TRPA’s scenic goals are shared by many in the Tahoe Basin: maintain and restore the scenic qualities of the natural appearing landscape; and improve the accessibility of Lake Tahoe for public viewing.
To achieve those goals, TRPA has established a set of policies relating to scenic quality which require property owners to blend man-made structures with the natural environment. The policies only apply to properties in identified scenic resource areas and most properties in the Basin are exempted from any scenic protection standards.
In each of the 1991, 1996 and 2001 threshold evaluations, the Tahoe Basin showed a consistent decline in the number of areas meeting the scenic standard. Some factors include the dramatic increase in the scale and mass of residential structures, increased visibility of these structures and the removal of trees and vegetation that allow the structures to be seen from the lake.
Scenic Application Forms and Worksheets
Is my property in a Scenic Resource Area?
Scenic rules usually only apply to properties visible from Lake Tahoe, from a public recreation area or from a main travel route. Each area is clearly identified in the Scenic Resource Inventories below. If your property is not visible from one of these areas, then TRPA scenic standards do not apply.
If a property is visible from one of these areas, TRPA standards are applied when the property owner plans a project. This is done either through a permit application, or in the case of minor maintenance projects such as repainting, residing or re-roofing, through an Exempt/Qualified Exempt Activity Declaration Form.
If you are planning a project in a scenic resource area, it is important to know the current “attainment status” of the area in which the property is located. TRPA regularly monitors the progress of scenic improvement in each area through the Scenic Threshold Monitoring Report included below. Each resource area is listed as either in “attainment” or “non-attainment” with the established standards. The level of review may vary for projects depending on the current attainment status of the resource area. The maps below show the current attainment status.
Scenic Resource Inventories
The maps below show the current attainment status of each scenic resource unit. Areas or points colored green are in “attainment” with the standards established for that area. Areas in red are considered to be in “non-attainment.” If you are planning a project in a scenic resource area, the level of review and scenic mitigation measures required for your project could change according to the attainment status of the area in which the property is located. TRPA regularly monitors the progress of scenic improvement in each area through the Scenic Threshold Monitoring Report included below. The report describes the historic and current conditions that have been used to determine attainment status.