CITY OF SOUTH LAKE TAHOE
October 14, 2007
“The obstacle to creation is, in a sense, reality itself - i.e. ‘reality’ as we assume it to be. The Idea Person does not accept this reality, even though he or she may be, and preferably is, highly realistic.” What a Great Idea, Charles Thompson
“We need to make the world safe for creativity and intuition, for its creativity and intuition that will make the world safe for us.” Edgar Mitchell, Apollo Astronaut
WORKING TOWARD DEVELOPING A CITY GENERAL PLAN
Four hundred seventy eight (478) California cities are required under State law to develop a comprehensive general plan to guide growth and development over a twenty (20) year planning period. State law requires seven mandatory planning elements be part of the plan. The City of South Lake Tahoe has the same requirement, but it is uniquely situated within the Tahoe Region and land-use policies (commercial, residential, industry, affordable housing, open space, facilities etc) must be consistent with the adopted TRPA Regional Plan.
Why do we need a City general plan?
The preparation of a comprehensive general plan and its adoption as part of the developing TRPA Regional Plan is the top Strategic Plan priority adopted by the City Council in 2007 because of the recognition by the City Council that all other planning and land use decisions emanate from the plan and must be consistent with the plan. The City General Plan becomes the adopted and constitutionally-protected strategic plan that lays the foundation for all land-use and regulatory City decisions relating to development of the community. In addition, the adoption of a City General Plan that is more than a recitation of regional issues, is contemplated and encouraged in Article VI of the TRPA Bi-State Compact when it states,
“Whenever possible without diminishing the effectiveness of the regional plan, the ordinances, rules, regulations and policies shall be confined to matters which are general and regional in application, leaving to the jurisdiction of the respective States, counties and cities the enactment of specific and local ordinances, and rules, regulations and policies which conform to the regional plan.”
The preparation of a comprehensive City general plan and environmental impact report, housing element (required to be updated every five years and must be adopted by July 2008), and the integration of these plans into the TRPA Regional Plan now underway is one of the most complicated general planning efforts undertaken by a California city. California cities, except South Lake Tahoe, do not reside with in a Bi-State Compact and do not have to bring their general plans into conformance to adopted regional plans that are in place. Although incorporated in 1965, City government has never had a comprehensive general plan prepared by general plan experts according to the City’s Community Development Director. As a result, City land-use decisions (essential to economic development initiatives) have been largely left to TRPA that has a broader regional focus rather than a full-City service focus. Economic growth and development have suffered and continue to suffer while City planning issues have been largely made by TRPA and not locally elected officials based on a comprehensive City General Plan.
More than a Document on a Bureaucrat’s Book Shelf
Preparing a meaningful general plan that is more than a document that occupies space on a bureaucrats book shelf takes more than the work of amateurs and the inexperienced. It must be developed and crafted with skill, knowledge, and experience that include an effective public outreach program. It must clearly articulate the City vision and include within its policies the authority for City government to undertake the desired projects and activities. By embracing and committing to the City General Plan and its strategic goals, City government is moving forward on the path to achieve these goals.
The General Plan as a Strategic Tool
The City Council has adopted a number of important strategic plan objectives including Smart Growth, economic diversification, strengthening the important tourism base, strengthening local businesses, encouraging and supporting the development of quality workforce housing, improving storm drainage facilities and services, improving neighborhoods, developing joint facilities, improving streets, delivering a high quality of public safety services to the community, creating bicycle trails and open spaces, protecting the environment, creating a viable, self sustaining, and environmentally-friendly airport, and encouraging greater business opportunities within the City limits.
To maintain and improve City services, retain qualified City employees, build and maintain needed streets, drainage and utility infrastructure, have adequate resources to finance needed and desired public safety services, a stronger and more viable local economy is needed and must be achieved. The City’s General Plan and its strategic focus establish the foundation for these community improvement and enrichment goals to be achieved.
To achieve these important and lofty objectives, City government is developing a comprehensive general plan that allows for and encourages these plans to be implemented. City government has a responsibility “to plan for the City’s future” and represent the public interest at all levels of government to help to ensure that these objectives are achieved. Having a meaningful, comprehensive and effective City general plan ensures that City government is prepared to accomplish the mission.
A comprehensive City general planning process is underway, and it is important for people in the community to become involved in the process. The City Planning Commission will serve an important role in facilitating development of the preliminary plan, holding public meetings, discussing land-use objectives and policies and eventually recommending a general plan to the City Council for adoption. The City Council will then evaluate the proposed plan, hear public comment and then adopt a plan and recommend it to the TRPA Governing Board for adoption.
The City Council and City management anticipates that by doing a great job on the City General Plan and gaining a community consensus on it and its strategic objectives that the TRPA Governing Board will recognize the high quality work and adopt the City’s General Plan as a part of the Regional Plan. Any City General Plan proposed must be consistent with the environmental thresholds in the proposed regional plan.
KEEPING PEOPLE SHOPPING IN TOWN – Good for the Environment and Good for Local Economics
A study done by economists for City government (RRC) discovered that City business and City government lose over $219,000,000 annually to other shopping areas. Local residents are voting with their feet (or more appropriately their vehicle) to shop out town for products they want and need in stores and centers. This is not good news for existing local businesses that lose customers, City government that relies on sales tax and property tax to finance services to the community, and the environment that bears the brunt of the commuting and pollution of residents shopping out of town and the congestion associated with it.
The City Strategic Plan contemplates that a vigorous effort will be made to identify adequate land with proper entitlements for new and desired businesses to locate in town, support business-friendly regulations that help existing businesses grow and expand and diversify the job base to increase wealth for all residents who want to work and live in South Lake Tahoe.
The development of a comprehensive general plan that allows for this economic growth and economic diversification is absolutely essential to achieve this objective. With the plan in place, achieving the economic diversification and retail growth goals become one of execution by policy makers City management.
If we are to maintain services to the community and even improve them, we must have a strong, healthy, diversified and vigorous local economy. Creating the type of shopping opportunities in town that people are looking for is part of the economic growth and revenue enhancement model. Resources, time, and effort must be made to attract commercial retailers desired by the community. Existing efforts to work with existing retailers to expand and improve their business must continue.
If there is one goal that should be shared by all, it is the imperative that we grow and improve our local economy and do so in the near term.
ANGORA FIRE REPSONSE
The Executive Officer of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality control Board sent a reply to my letter of August 28, 2007 concerning City Council and management concern over potential contamination from the Angora Fire burn area from winter runoff.
Mr. Singer states that while he does not think it is necessary to issue an enforcement order to the USFS at this time, “…we will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the mitigation measures, and will suggest additional measures in response to conditions that may occur in the winter.”
Mr. Singer also clarifies the issue of City liability by stating that “Permittees are only responsible for flows generated within their respective jurisdictions. The City, therefore, cannot be held liable for runoff exceeding effluent limits that originates outside jurisdictional boundaries…”
Finally, Mr. Singer states his support for funds from the State’s Cleanup and Abatement Account “…to cover some of the local government’s increased maintenance costs associated with runoff from the Angora Fire…” Mr. Singer’s support and that of his Board of City cleanup efforts and funding of maintenance costs are welcome and appreciated.
At this time, City government has not received a written reply from the USFS regarding the mitigation concerns raised by the City Council and City management.
SOUTH WYE SIGNAL PROJECT REVIVED
As you will recall, Caltrans re-programmed $870,000 for the traffic signal improvement project at the Wye in September 2007. The project at that time looked dead. The Director of Public Works and his staff continued seeking funds for the project.
On Friday he informed me of the following:
“Based upon the previous e-mail (below) that I sent you, we met with the TTD/C today to discuss the project funding and whether to proceed forward. We presented a funding plan that included additional Caltrans funds, RSTP funds and Air Quality mitigation funds to replace the funds pulled from the project by Caltrans. I have attached a spread sheet that contains the new project estimate and funding sources. We received approval to move forward with the Signal project and the work on the Runnels’ property. We anticipate bidding the project in the Spring.
We will begin the fund encumber process. Please let me know if you have any concerns or questions.”
The Public Works Director and his staff did a good job working with regional agencies to revive the project and specifically the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD)/Commission. Attending the Commission meeting in support of the Project was Mayor Pro Tempore Mike Weber and Assistant City Manager Rick Angelocci. I sent a letter of support to the Commission as well.
Congratulations John Greenhut and Public Works staff for a job well done and thanks also to the TTD Board members for their support of the project.
JOINT FACILITIES UPDATE
On September 17, 2007 the architect for the School District met with City staff to discuss a design concept for the proposed joint facilities project. The architect, retained by the District, will next be meeting individually with City Department heads whose departments would be part of a consolidated facility to discuss space needs.
Once the space needs are assessed and determined by the District and City and joint–use space defined, the cost of the project can be better defined and the feasibility of the project assessed. A report to the City Council will be made when this information is available.
LUKINS WATER SYSTEM UPGRADES
I recently sent a letter to the owners of Lukins Water Company seeking their cooperation and assistance to upgrade their water system in compliance with their existing franchise agreement and State law. I recently received a response to my letter, and I am having it evaluated by the City Attorney’s Office. I plan to schedule a meeting with Lukins representatives in the near terms to discuss the matter.
Under the leadership of the City Council, the goal has been to see that the water system is improved and reliable for domestic and fire fighting needs and done so without massive rate increases (rate shocks) that users cannot afford. The City Council has encouraged and supported City management efforts to search for ways to assist with system upgrades without burdening the general public with these costs.
The Lukins System must be upgraded for public safety purposes.