1987 Tahoe Regional Plan Updated But Environmentalists Displeased

After 25 years, the Tahoe Regional Plan, a land use plan for the Lake Tahoe region encompassing both Nevada and California prepared by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, has been updated and approved by a 12-1-1 vote, though not without controversy.

Adam Jensen explains the challenges of getting an agency accountable to two states to agree to a land use plan for the environmentally sensitive Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake and second deepest in North America.

"Supporters have billed the Regional Plan Update (RPU) as a catalyst to improving Lake Tahoe's environment and its struggling economy, while critics contend the plan will harm the environment by loosening stringent rules surrounding land use at the lake." 

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) has a storied history.  It was the first bi-state regional environmental planning agency in the country. Not only did two states have to agree to it, so did the U.S. Congress in 1969.  It was the topic of a major Supreme Court ruling in 2002 on building moratoria and 'takings'.

"The RPU leaves many of the 1987 policies in place, while giving greater control to local jurisdictions by exempting some planning from direct TRPA review through an “Area Plan” process.

The RPU also hopes to encourage 'environmental redevelopment' by providing incentives to property owners to move development from sensitive or outlying areas into more populated areas designated as town centers."

Environmentalists unhappy and considering litigation.

"The Tahoe Area Sierra Club has been one of the most vocal opponents of the plan as proposed, calling the RPU a “greatly weakened new regional plan,” in a (Dec. 12) statement."  They fear the new plan "will lead to detrimental increases in height, density and coverage around the lake."

It is not know if the update will "face a lengthy court challenge as many decisions have in the past." The inclusion of a statement by an Earthjustice attorney in the Sierra Club document may have been an indication of an upcoming legal battle.

Keeping the plan out of the courts may be a requirement to keeping Nevada in the compact. Nevada passed a bill requiring an update of the regional plan for it to remain a member but added a caveat about litigation.

Full Story: Passage of regional plan "leap forward" for Lake Tahoe



Irvin Dawid's picture

Will They or Won't They (Sue - Lake Tahoe)

This press release is from Earthjustice - if that says anything, with most quotes coming from Sierra Club, and the title, "Lake Tahoe Protections Abandoned by Tahoe Regional Planning Agency" is another indicator!

“This plan is based on the belief that the pathway to environmental improvement is through economic development. There is definitely some merit in encouraging development to replace aging commercial buildings and parking lots. But putting all of TRPA’s eggs in that basket is too risky for the golden goose that lays those eggs—Lake Tahoe,” said Bob Anderson, Chair of the Lake Tahoe Sierra Club Group."

"Wendy Park, an attorney with the public interest law firm Earthjustice, agrees that the new plan poses new and bigger risks. “Earthjustice has represented local interests and conservation groups in the past to protect the lake and regions around its shoreline from unbridled construction and development. The population of California is growing rapidly and Lake Tahoe needs stronger, not weaker, protections to stay the very special mountain lake everyone cherishes,” Park said.

Irvin Dawid's picture

LA Times update on Tahoe Regional Plan Upate

New Lake Tahoe plan to allow higher density development (December 25, 2012):
Bettina Boxall writes, "The new planning blueprint, an overdue update of the 1987 regional plan, will allow more four-story buildings in town centers and more six-story buildings in what has been designated the regional center — the area around the Highway 50 corridor in South Lake Tahoe."

"The plan does include a lot of positive elements, including community revitalization, redevelopment and bike paths," said Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. "But these things may come at a price, which is taller and more dense development close to the lake."

Seems as if similar battles against higher density development with taller buildings are being fought throughout the state, even if the heigh is "no more than 6-stories".

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245

Essential Readings in Urban Planning

Planning on taking the AICP* Exam? Register for Planetizen's AICP * Exam Preparation Course to save $25.
Book cover of the Guide to Graduate Planning Programs 4th Edition

Thinking about Grad School?

The Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs is the only comprehensive ranking and listing of graduate urban planning programs available.
Starting at $24.95

Wear your city with style!

100% silk scarves feature detailed city maps. Choose from five cities with red or blue trim.