SAN FRANCISCO – An ongoing conflict between the Sierra
Club and Friends of the West Shore with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) has
come to an end ... for now. The environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice
attorney Trent Orr, appealed their lawsuit to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit after U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez dismissed it in April
2014. The appeals court upheld the TRPA plan.
Regarding the two sides' points of conflict; "Sierra Club and Friends of
the West Shore did not feel 2012 Regional Plan does enough to protect Lake
Tahoe's environment," said Tom Lotshaw,
public information officer for TRPA.
"TRPA feels very differently. We think the 2012 Regional
Plan is the best path forward to conserve and restore important natural areas
that were degraded by legacy development put on the ground before TRPA's
creation, and revitalize our communities with mixed-use redevelopment that
makes them more walkable, more bikeable, and upgrades the built environment so
that it meets modern environmental protections that reduce storm water
pollution that harms the lake's famous water clarity."
The people of the area seem to largely support the 2012 Regional Plan. In
addition to enhancing the recreational attractions of Lake Tahoe, it also will
improve the affordable workforce housing issue in the area. "This widely
supported plan was years in the making, involved extensive public outreach and
comment, and in the end, built the broadest consensus ever achieved at Lake
Tahoe with the states of California and Nevada, dozens of government agencies,
nonprofit groups, environmental groups, and chambers and visitors authorities
all supporting the plan," said Lotshaw.
The challenge of affordable workforce
housing is a complex issue that threatens the state of California's economic
recovery. The median home prices of $500,000 on the North Shore and $400,000 on
the South Shore put the cost of home ownership or even rent out of reach of
the region's low-wage earners. Because of this situation, many people commute
long distances for work, which is creating pollution and transportation issues.
"There are multiple provisions and incentives that allow housing projects
for moderate income and low-income people to build without the usual
development rights needed for residential projects at Lake Tahoe," Lotshaw said. "We are working
with many partners around the lake on affordable housing problems, and the
problems and solutions will most likely vary around the lake."
TRPA believes that by focusing on redevelopment of the
existing town centers, removing legacy development from the outlying
environmental fragile areas will not only transfer development back to the
existing town centers but also restore the outlying areas back to their natural
function. As the communities are revitalized, TRPA is expecting to create
additional revenues to help implement programs like the Lake Tahoe
Environmental Improvement Program. This is a capital investment plan for high-priority
projects that conserve or restore the environment for public recreation
So as the tightrope walk of trying to protect the beautiful and
environmentally sensitive areas of Lake Tahoe while revitalizing the
communities economically continues, all parties agree this national treasure is
worth the struggle to find an ideal middle ground.