Monday, January 28, 2008

SLT City Manager's report -- Jan. 22, 2008

Electronic Version

January 22, 2008


“The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein

In this Edition:
The Planning Hierarchy in the Basin
Doing our Part to Define the Carbon Footprint
22,000 Prisoners Proposed for Release


There are a number of planning activities and special studies underway in the Tahoe Basin and within the City limits. Deciphering what the planning process means can be daunting.

Listed below is a brief and non-inclusive summary of the major current planning processes underway in the Basin and City limits. The results of these important planning processes will have long term and lasting impacts on the region and the residents of South Lake Tahoe.

The Tahoe Regional Plan – The Regional Picture

In the planning hierarchy, the Regional Plan is the most important planning document. TRPA is responsible under the Inter-State Compact between Nevada and California (that was approved by Congress) to update and revise the existing regional plan for the entire Tahoe Basin. The process involves examining the current environmental conditions, determining how the Basin has done to meet environmental thresholds over the last twenty years, establish new environmental thresholds, and adopt a regional plan document that will be a guide for the region over the next twenty years. Ultimately, all planning efforts underway by all planning agencies will need to be consistent with the approved Regional Plan.

City General Plan – The City Picture

The next planning update on the City General Plan will be presented to the City Council on January 29, 2008.

California law requires all 478 cities to have a comprehensive general plan to serve as the “constitution” of all development for a period of twenty years. Unlike any other city in California, South Lake Tahoe’s General Plan must be consistent with the adopted Tahoe Regional Plan. In addition to the regional planning process, the Inter-State Compact that created TRPA contemplated a vigorous local planning process implemented through the adoption of a City’s General Plan that focuses on lands within and adjacent to the City limits.

City elected leadership has embraced a vigorous local planning process contemplated in the Inter-State Compact and have not abdicated their planning responsibilities. Vigorous local planning gives more public input and the ability to shape City planning in ways that are flexible to meet changing local conditions and needs as long as the changes are consistent with the City General Plan goals and policies and the Regional Plan. The City General Plan will have eight elements which address the seven State mandated elements as well as three optional elements:

• Land Use and Community Design Element *
• Transportation Circulation Element*
• Housing Element (that must be updated every five years)*
• Natural and Cultural Resources Element (includes open space and conservation) *
• Health & Safety Element (includes noise) *
• Recreation and Parks Element
• Economic Development Element
• Public/Quasi-Public Facilities and Services Element

• * Required General Plan Elements

Tahoe Valley Community Plan (TVCP) – The Gateway Project and Picture

The Tahoe Valley Community Plan is a specific planning process that was initiated before the Regional Plan was in full swing and the City’s General Plan process had begun. This planning process is a more specific planning process that involved the work of the TVCP Advisory Committee, a Design Charette, and the development of different land use options/alternatives for the gateway to South Lake Tahoe.

At the present time, PMC is preparing an environmental impact report for City government in collaboration with TRPA to examine the various land use options for this area. This planning process is expected to be completed later this year.

CEP – The Specific Development Project Picture

This is a special TRPA-initiated program developed to inform the Regional Plan update by processing mixed use projects that revitalize their sites by using existing land coverage and development rights in a creative way to accomplish environmental as well as socio-economic objectives. The CEP is a competitive process where land owners throughout the Basin compete to propose projects that will provide environmental enhancements and make improvements to the physical appearance of their property. In South Lake Tahoe, the owners of the Mikasa site and the owners of the K-Mart site have entered the competition to obtain incentives such as additional commercial floor area and height.

Originally, I recommended that this process be held off until planning had been approved and completed in the TVCP Area. TRPA staff and officials believed that waiting was not a good idea because it would stall land owners who wanted to make improvements now.

The New Redevelopment Plan – The Financing Tool

After a TVCP is agreed on and approved, how does it get implemented or does it become like so many other ideas just a shelf document that collects dust?

A new redevelopment project area (No 2) is being studied to determine if the study area (survey area) in whole or in part qualifies to be designated a redevelopment project area. The City has one area already. The new area would focus principally on the area in and around the Y. The RDA Study Area is usually a larger area than a project area. A project area can be smaller than a Survey Area but not larger than it. Once a redevelopment project area is established it helps (through tax increment financing) to pay for the costs of various improvements in the area that are consistent with the TVCP and City General Plan. A redevelopment plan and new project area can only help implement what is already approved in the TVCP or City General Plan…it cannot do whatever it wants to do.

A new redevelopment project area would not have the power of eminent domain. It cannot and will not take privately owned property for a public or private use. It would not increase taxes. It would not force people to do things they do not want to do. It would provide the financial tools from tax increment to make defined public improvements and assist property owners interested in fixing up and improving their properties. Thus, unlike the other planning activities above, a new redevelopment project area is a planning implementation tool to help implement agreed upon planning


The Governor of California, The California Legislature and the State Attorney General have expressed their serious concerns with greenhouse gas (as part of AB 32) and are encouraging local planning efforts to examine the issue carefully.

With City government proceeding now with active planning efforts that are described above, how can South Lake Tahoe do its part to examine the potential of green house gases from local planning now underway and come up with reasonable and responsible steps to address the issue?

I asked the City’s General Plan Advisor Dan Amsden, AICP of Mintier & Associates, for his thoughts on the matter, and he offered the following comments and observations:

“Identifying ways to reduce a City's carbon footprint in relation to Global Warming is a very new issue relative to General Plans. The State (OPR specifically) has been tasked to prepare guidelines for global warming requirements applicable to General Plans as a result of AB 32. However, these guidelines are still a few years out at best. In the meantime, the Attorney General's office has been very proactive… to make sure cities and counties in California address ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the General Plan…

We are dealing with this issue in all of our general plan projects, and have been in close contact with numerous environmental planners and attorneys in the past few months to gain their insights into how this should be addressed. The only clear-cut direction that has been received so far from the State is in relation to threatened lawsuits against San Bernardino County and San Diego. The AG's office released a letter to both these jurisdictions that outlines policies and measures to be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are using this as the temporary benchmark for now until OPR prepares the official State guidelines.

We will address Global Warming in the General Plan's Policy Document and Environmental Impact Report. This will include specifically ways the City can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage energy efficiency. Because this is becoming such a large issue in State law, we have been including this discussion as its own section in most policy documents/EIRs.”

The issues of global warming and carbon footprint will be addressed in the City’s environmental documents for the General Plan and TVCP.


At last week’s League of California Cities Community Services Policy Committee meeting in Sacramento, a representative from the Governor’s Office was present and discussed the Governor’s proposed early release of 22,000 individuals who are presently in the State prison system as part of the Governor’s proposal to trim the State budget.

Kurt Wilson told us that the program involves the release of prisoners who were convicted on non-serious offenses, are non-violent, and non-sexual predators. Persons scheduled for release will be returned to their County of origin. He said that each prisoner’s record is being carefully examined by the State before the release is completed to ensure their suitability for release. In addition, prisoners released under this program can be searched by law enforcement. This latter provision will require State legislation to implement.

When I asked him if the State plans to provide funds for job training or re-entry services into the communities, he said that there are presently no such proposals on the table. Releasing 22,000 prisoners into the State’s population in a tight job market and with them having no training or re-entry programs is something City and County officials need to examine closely. There is no doubt that State prisons are overcrowded and costly to operate. What is unknown is the impact these releases will have on communities to whom they are sent.

City Manager

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