Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Angora -- One year later

unedited June Tahoe Mt. News

By Kathryn Reed

Twenty-three days before the one-year anniversary of the most devastating fire to chew through the Lake Tahoe Basin, Tara Brennan and Tony Colombo were planting flowers outside their lot on Mount Olympia Circle.
A handwritten sign with some of the words recited during the blessing of their lot last month is out front. The contemporary Victorian it’s being framed. The contractor set March 2009 as the move-in date. Brennan has her fingers crossed for Christmas.
A lopped off charred tree remains. The blackened bark will come off. It will be an icon of what was. Decorating it will be part of the remembrance, part of a new beginning.
Colombo doesn’t want the standard green or brown bear box. He plans to paint it to match the colors of the house.
A picnic table sits on a concrete slab out back. The slab survived the June 24, 2007, fire that charred 3,100 acres, caused more than $150 million in damage and cost $23 million to fight.
The couple has lived here for decades. The thought of moving elsewhere wasn’t ever a consideration.
Nonetheless, the last year has not been easy. They are about $350,000 underinsured. Brennan doesn’t have great things to say about State Farm. The insurance issue is far from settled.
The economy has taken a turn for the worse, forcing Brennan to close Pandora’s Trunk, an upscale resale shop for women. July 26 is her last day.
“I know I lost a good 60 percent of my regular customers. They don’t live here anymore,” Brennan said. “I think we have lost our middle class.”
The one good thing from having to empty the Emerald Bay Road store is discovering a box of old photographs. Something from the past, something of their lives they thought was lost.
Brennan and Colombo were out of town when the illegal campfire whipped into what is now known as the Angora Fire so they were not able to grab anything.
Neither is satisfied with what has happened in the last year. They want the grand jury to delve into the investigation of who started the fire. The Forest Service says they still have no idea who left the smoldering fire at Seneca Pond.
Brennan says she has a file 2-feet-high about conflicting statements and other things that have gone on in the last year.
“Something does not fly right. The whole thing doesn’t. The fact that the 911 operators were reassigned quickly. There are just some really strange things surrounding this fire I cannot understand,” Brennan said
She has approached El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago about her misgivings, but has not gone to the grand jury directly.
The couple is part of the sixty-three present of the homeowners who lost houses last summer who have filed building plans with the county. Of those 161 permits, 153 applications were filed in 2007 so they can use California’s old building regulations.
Tina and Mike Shannon hope to move into their house on Cone Road in July.
“I guess it gets better every day, but it’s difficult. It’s hard to explain how difficult,” Tina Shannon said. “I know people will say wow you are getting new stuff. But I want the stuff I had.”
The Shannons grabbed pictures and their dog that Sunday.
“You just go totally stupid when it happens. My mind just went: Is this really happening? Are we leaving our house for the last time?” Shannon said.
The couple is renting a place with their best friends who also lost their home in the fire. They don’t sit around dwelling about their predicament. But it is comforting to be able to talk to people who understand the emotional roller coaster of the last year.
They had put on an addition in January 2007, so the building department was familiar ground. But it wasn’t all easy.
“It’s Tahoe,” was her response to – How is the rebuilding process going?
They are some of the lucky ones when it comes to insurance issues.
“We had AAA and they were very good to us. We are doing all right,” Shannon said.
The county waived building fees for people not expanding their footprint. However, so far 152 are going bigger.
Two homes have been completely rebuilt, with their owners back in. Six homes that needed to be repaired before being habitable have been signed off as well. Another six were waiting for final inspection at the first of this month.
As of early this month, 24 houses passed the footing inspection, another two dozen have their foundation and passed the girder inspections, a couple dozen passed framing, the same number have passed the sheet rock inspection.
Mike Applegarth, senior administrative analyst with the county, said about 15 lots have been sold. If that lot has a building permit for it, it can be transferred to the new owner. Permits are good for three years.

What next?

The bi-state fire commission created last summer by Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Gibbons sent 90 recommendations to the men. The state leaders acted May 27 by signing an emergency declaration regarding the threat of fire in the basin.
Photos in the report from 1928 show Angora Ridge with sparse vegetation. The Forest Service used that photo at its May 22 meeting to demonstrate what Angora Ridge looked like on June 23, 2007 -- full of trees – is not what it has always looked like.
The commission’s 247-page report’s six categories are: Environmental Protection, Issues of Governance, Community and Homeowner Fire Prevention, Forest and Fuels Management, Fire Suppression, and Funding.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which was pummeled by residents at meetings and in the media for months after the fire, received a standing ovation by the commission at its last meeting.
TRPA is charged with taking a more active role in fire issues inside the basin.
“Certainly the fire brought to the forefront of a lot of peoples’ minds the need to do defensible space at their house,” said John Singlaub, TRPA executive director. “It forced us to look at how our erosion control program interfaces with defensible space.”
The report said one of the first priorities is fuel reduction projects in the wildland urban interface. By July 1, Cal Fire is supposed to have worked with the local fire agencies and TRPA to establish a single phone number for basin homeowners to call for information on defensible space guidelines.
Conflicts between erosion control rules and fire safety measures have been resolved. Don’t put pine needles by the edge of your house. TRPA now allows trees 14 inches in diameter to be cut without a permit. The old rule was 6 inches.
“Lahontan is getting out of the business of permits for forest fuels. We are still in the process to make all the changes to get there. That was a recommendation from the commission and Lahontan agreed.”
Harold Singer, executive director of Lahontan Water Quality Control Board, did not return multiple calls. His was one of the 254 home destroyed. He attended the May meeting when the governors were at Lake Valley fire station in Meyers.
The California Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency will monitor the progress of the revised memorandum of understanding between TRPA and Lahontan with regard to reduction of fire hazards. Schwarzenegger wants a report on his desk by Jan. 1, 2009, about the progress.
The recently create Tahoe Fire & Fuels team will use about $4.4 million from the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act this season to have fire districts treat 500 acres in the basin.
About a quarter of that money is targeted for a defensible space rebate program for private property owners. Some of the money is earmarked for creating fuel breaks and residential chipping programs.
“Living With Fire”, produced by the UNR Cooperative Extension, is a collaboration between Tahoe fire departments and agencies such as TRPA.
TRPA changed its rules about allowing mechanized equipment in stream environmental zones four years ago, even though at the time of the fire people didn’t know.
“What we are doing is working with the Tahoe Fire & Fuels team which is a group of fire chiefs, TRPA and Forest Service. We’ll go out on any proposed treatment in an SEZ and talk about the equipment. We call it rapid response,” Singlaub said.
A decision will be made within 72 hours about what equipment can be used. Hand thinning is easier on the environment and puts less sediment into streams which flow into the Lake. That’s why mechanized treatments are such a big deal.
The League to Save Lake Tahoe’s reaction to the commission’s report is mixed.
“The good is the recognition of the need for all different levels of government to be involved and to be more aggressive about reducing fire risk,” said Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League. “The bad is the emphasis of road building outside of urban areas as opposed to using less impactful methods of thinning. What is missing is a clear assignment of accountably for making sure that defensible space is achieved in our urban area. It remains unclear whether fire chiefs will be responsible or whether the state will be responsible or whether the responsibility remains solely with private homeowners.”
Despite the ambiguities in the report, Singlaub said TRPA is putting defensible space in the fire chiefs’ hands.
The fire chiefs had a conference call on May 30 to work on defensible space enforcement issues for private property owners. All the kinks are still being worked out.
“It’s hard to create a synergy in a neighborhood when people don’t live there,” city Fire Chief Lorenzo Gigliotti said.
About 75 percent of the houses throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin are owned by second homeowners.

What is happening

Gigliotti and Police Chief Terry Daniels will give a presentation to the City Council on June 17 about what their agencies have done in the past year to be better prepared for the next catastrophe.
The Lake Tahoe Airport, which was used as a command center during the fire, is now a joint operating facility for the city and county to function as the local Office of Emergency Services.
Two WiFi connections are in place, as well as multiple phone lines. One could be dedicated for a recorded outgoing message updating the community about the crisis.
How to handle crews working 12-hour shifts was sorted out. Things like food and water for these people was not part of the planning until now.
Mutual aid agreements with the Forest Service have been renegotiated.
The city has upgraded its fleet of vehicles to be better for wildland fires.
Under the Fire Suppression category of the commission’s report it says the states and feds need to ensure the basin has 24/7 fire suppression resources, Cal Fire needs to be brought back into the basin, and the Nevada Air National Guard’s C-130s should have firefighting systems.
Much discussion has been had about the need for a firefighting helicopter at Lake Tahoe Airport. About 80 percent of the terrain burned in Angora was charred within eight hours. Low humidity, high temperatures and windy conditions made for the perfect firestorm.
“We had a lot of resources at our disposal quickly,” Rex Norman, spokesman for the Forest Service said. “We had helicopter resources within minutes, but wind made it too difficult. All the hardware can’t help you if conditions don’t let you use them.”
All agencies are part of the 10-year plan to rid forest fuels of the basin. It will be an ongoing process because vegetation never stops growing.
“There’s a misconception that now that the fire came through you don’t have a fuels issue. Really, only 20 percent of the burnable material burned,” Norman said. “Now with the mortality of a lot of trees there is maybe four times as much fuels as we had before the fire.”

Getting residents involved

The Nevada Fire Safe Council, which operates on both sides of the state line and has an office in South Lake Tahoe, is working on defensible space. The only city chapter is in the Tahoe Tyrol neighborhood.
Chief Gigliotti said with 70 percent of the homes throughout the basin being owned by second homeowners, he and the other six fire chiefs are working on how to get those people involved.
The Chimney Rock chapter, which is the largest in Nevada with 423 houses, gathered a multitude of agencies on May 14 to simulate what would happen if their Stateline neighborhood were ablaze.
Residents were involved, too. Dispatchers in Minden notified about 75 households via the reverse 911 directory to the drill as it unfolded. Residents were advised they could “evacuate” county administration building’s parking garage.
Four years ago during the Glenbrook drill the 911 reverse system had glitches. Not this time.
This was the first time the water district and the Nevada Department of Transportation participated in a drill like this. Nevada Highway Patrol and U.S. Forest Service were invited, but chose not to participate.

A lighter note

The community is invited to a party on June 24 at the Horizon. Tickets for the Angora Benefit Concert are available at
Sixty Jeffrey pine seedlings are taking root on the four lots owned by El Dorado County in the burn area. They were donated by the Israeli consulate in commemoration of that country’s 60th anniversary. They were planted June 5.

• Video from May 27 signing of emergency declaration:
• Kathay Lovell’s video blog on governor’s website:
• Fire Commission report:
• Nevada Fire Safe Council:
Andrew List, executive director, 775-220-8967

• June 24, 2007, Angora Fire started
• July 2, 2007, fire fully contained
• July 5, 2007, bi-state commission formed
• May 27, 2008, governors declare state of emergency in Lake Tahoe Basin
• 3,100 acres burned
• 254 houses destroyed

Angora -- Working on the trails

unedited June Tahoe Mt. News

By Kathryn Reed

The extensive trail system in the Angora burn area is being put under a microscope to figure out what should stay, be removed or be created.
A meeting on May 22 attended by nearly 70 people focused on what to do with the trail system in the burn area. Forest Supervisor Terri Marceron talked a bit before people were able to ask questions and roam the room to write on flip charts what they want the area to look like.
The three major areas of input were for a transportation system, ecological restoration that includes noxious weeds and stream zones, and vegetation management.
The National Environmental Policy Act is what the Forest Service is following as it methodically restores the burn area, which in total encompasses more than 3,100 acres. The process is expected to be finished by the end of the year. Between now and then the public will have another chance to comment on restoration efforts.
It’s likely the multi-phased rehabilitation work will begin in summer 2009.
“There’s quite a network of non-system trails. Some are user created and some are old decommissioned roads,” Catherine Schoen, assistant forest engineer, said after the meeting about paths in the burn area. “We may be able to identify a lot of need out there for adopting or creating new trials that are sustainable.”
Upgrading some trails, obliterating others are possibilities. Paying attention to sensitive areas is critical. Looking at current use patterns is another component.
Schoen expects a trail to go over Tahoe Mountain to link various sectors of that part of the South Shore.

Ex-resident closes trail

Monica Kohs only owned the house on Dundee Court for 17 months. But in that short time she changed the decades-old mountain biking culture for ever more.
It was a long held belief that the trail skirting the back yards of property in this Tahoe Mountain neighborhood was public – owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Three years ago it was discovered it is actually private land.
The trail was closed. And will remain so. A distinctive green Forest Service barrier and a sign clearly signify no one is to go on this trail.
Kohs never went on the record with the Tahoe Mountain News about why when she bought the property in December 2004 for $1.31 million she didn’t know a trail wide enough to drive on existed about 50 yards from the house. She eventually sold the 15-acre plot in May 2006 for $1.85 million.
She had a net profit, but recreationists’ had a loss of a trail that had been used for 30 or so years.
Before the Angora Fire, the Forest Service was planning to revamp the trail system in the area. A two-year wildlife survey for the greater Fallen Leaf trail planning area was under way. It was derailed a bit when the fire hit a year ago.
The Fallen Leaf study area includes 16,000 acres which includes Fallen Leaf, Tahoe Mountain, up to Angora and down to the Lake Tahoe shoreline. Essentially that study and the one for the burn area are being studied concurrently.
“The goal of our plan is to establish a sustainable trail system that meets current and future use needs,” said Garrett Villanueva, trail program manager with the Forest Service, before the fire. “Without having the right information such as wildlife, watershed, soil, recreation and heritage information, how can we make good decisions with where to put trails and what the needs are?”
The Forest Service has about 500 miles of trails in the basin, with only half of them maintained.

Looking for answers

Not everyone who lives in Angora Highlands area agrees the “Monica Kohs Trail” should have been closed. Dentist Ken Weitzman long ago stopped using the trail, but is not satisfied with the explanation the Forest Service has given for its closure.
He was at the meeting last month – again seeking answers to why it was closed.
Weitzman understands it is private land and that the El Dorado County District Attorneys Office in November 2005 determined the 15 acres did not contain a public easement. However, his contention is that a prescriptive easement should be in effect even though the DA says otherwise.
Weitzman cites Glenmore Way when in 2003 Tahoe Regional Planning Agency staff recommended a trail be kept in place by someone wanting to build on their property.
In 2005, TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan told the Tahoe Mountain News, “If it’s a recorded easement on the property that is a public easement, then yes, under those circumstances we would require that it be incorporated (into the permit).”
Because the Forest Service refused to give Weitzman a written reason why the trail was closed he took the matter up with Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville. The congressman in a letter dated May 7, 2007, to Marceron wrote in part, “Unfortunately, he has not been able to ascertain why the trail was closed to public access. On his behalf, I am requesting from you an explanation as to how that decision was reached and what the prospects are for its reopening.”
A year later and Weitzman has heard nothing more from Doolittle or Marceron.
After the May 22 meeting he said of the Dundee issue, “It will never be over in my mind because I feel that it was wrong.”
In some ways he’s not surprised his issue has been met with deafness. “It’s such a low-level issue. They have more important things that affect people’s lives,” Weitzman said of federal officials.
Nonetheless, he welcomed the chance to speak out last month and talk to all levels of Forest Service employees about proposed trails in his neighborhood.
Dave Hamilton, board member of Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association, has been working with the Forest Service to make sure mountain bike advocates are represented in the process.
“The management unit and particularly the trails end have been very responsive to all the particular user needs,” Hamilton said. “That trail system will be improved. I feel pretty positive about that.”
People have until June 22 to submit comments to the Forest Service about trail plans in the Angora burn area -- 35 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150.

Angora -- John in June

unedited June Tahoe Mt. News ..

Editor's note: This is a monthly article following one of the hundreds of people who lost their homes in the Angora Fire in summer 2007.

By Kathryn Reed

John Mauriello is a man of many words, many opinions. He is also a man of indecision.
June 24 will mark one year since Mauriello and 253 other households lost everything in the Angora Fire.
It’s the first of June. He started on a bike ride, but the winds made it more of a workout than he wanted. Ask cyclists who bike in the Upper Truckee area – they’ll tell you the winds are worse since the tree canopy was wiped out.
He ends up giving an impromptu tour of his lot, pointing out what others are doing and how if the woman who bought the lot next to his on Mount Olympia Circle builds a certain way, he will need to adjust his plans.
The week before, he talked about looking at houses on the South Shore. He wants to see what’s out there at what prices.
Mauriello lived in a modified A-frame. A brand new one is on the far side of his street. He likes it. Says it’s something he’d like to build.
“All these people moving up here … I think they are out of their minds. I know it up here,” he says May 21. He likes the rental he’s in. He can walk to his lot, but looking at the charred remains of Angora Ridge day in and day out depress him.
That same day he says, “I’m not planning on doing anything right away because I still have to settle with my insurance company.”
He’s more than $100,000 underinsured.
Odd things trigger a reminder about another personal effect that has long since hauled away as ash to the landfill. Things like the $500 this former actor had spent on headshots before moving to Tahoe a handful of years ago. He had forgotten to list those glossies.

Getting stuff done

He went to the tree planting ceremony on June 5 where the Israeli consulate donated 60 saplings in commemoration of that country’s 60th anniversary.
He went to the May 22 meeting put on by the Forest Service where people could give input about what they want the federal land in the 3,100 burn area to look like.
“It was a dog and pony show if you want my honest opinion,” the retired 69 year old said. “If some of the stuff I said comes out, then I will be happy.”
Mauriello suggested having people be responsible for replanting a 10-foot-square plot. He wants to sell the dead trees and put saplings there. He wants Angora Ridge cleared.
He’s decided that he needs to do something instead of just talking. At the Angora Benefit Concert on June 24 at the Horizon he wants to have a booth with petitions for people to sign saying “Reforest Angora Ridge.”
“To see a ridge without trees for the next 50 years … I won’t tolerate it,” Mauriello said. “If you start people in a positive movement, you get things done.”
He went to the May 27 signing of the basin-wide emergency declaration by Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Gibbons.
“I went out there and this highway patrol guy said this is private. I said my house burned down. He was polite and apologetic. I turned around and walked away,” Mauriello said.
Schwarzenegger’s people weren’t letting the public in. Gibbons’ office sent out a press release with no indication it was a private deal.
Mauriello felt jilted. The government people who attended either don’t live in the basin or didn’t have their house burn. Shunning survivors did not build trust with this survivor.

Other matters

“I think the air is contaminated,” Mauriello said of the burn area. He called the county air quality board and was waiting for a call back as of press time. He knows of people who are having issues like never before. People who have never had allergies.
He said he started coughing before the snow arrived and the blowing of his nose as returned since the snow melted.
“All I know is the dust looks different than anything I’ve seen. It doesn’t look like normal dust. It has particles in it. Brown and black,” Mauriello said.


unedited June Tahoe Mt. News

By Kathryn Reed

Temporary vs. probationary teachers – that’s the gist of court documents filed by South Tahoe Educators Association against Lake Tahoe Unified School District.
Judge Jerry Lasarow is scheduled to hear the case June 27.
The writ of mandate was filed in El Dorado County Superior Court on Jan. 29. The issue has been percolating for more than a year. A teachers’ union official said talks went nowhere so now it’s a court matter.
A “temporary” teacher can be dismissed at anytime without a hearing. When a “probationary” teacher is dismissed he has a right to a hearing. If a probationary teacher is laid off, he has seniority when it comes to being hired back.
“We figure 13 people right now are classified as temporary in our district. We feel only about five of those are legitimate because of leaves of absence and other reasons,” STEA President Steve Hayward said shortly after the filing. “It is more convenient to keep people temporary because (the district) can say ‘bye, bye’.”
In other words, the district has flexibility with temps when it comes to not filling the position the next year. Even at “probationary zero” status, which is what the union would like these people listed as, they must have a hearing.
Theoretically, teachers could be a probationary zero for a number of years before moving to probe 1, then probe 2 and then permanent, also known as tenured.
“There is no money involved. That’s why we can’t figure out why the district won’t pay attention to the Bakersfield ruling,” Hayward said. “They wrote back and said it didn’t apply.”
The 2006 Bakersfield case is a California appeals courts decision interpreting a section of the state Education Code about teachers who are paid with categorical funds.
According to court documents, the union believes “that these misclassified teachers were either: (1) assigned to categorically funded positions or (2) replacing teachers assigned to categorically funded positions.”
The documents go on to say, “… both groups of teachers are entitled to be classified as probationary employees with all rights of probationary employees so long as the fund source for the categorically funded programs continued.”
The convoluted funding mechanism of public schools has it so certain money can only be put toward specific things – not directly into the general fund to be dispersed at the school board’s discretion. They are called categorical funds. Special education and English learner programs are just two types of categorical funds.
As for the district’s point-of-view, officials don’t discuss pending litigation.
Superintendent Jim Tarwater said, “I can’t really comment on it. It will work its way through the court system.”
LTUSD’s attorney, Allen Vinson, did not return calls.

LTUSD bond goes down

unedited June Tahoe Mt. News

By Kathryn Reed

A is for almost.
Lake Tahoe Unified School District board member Larry Green summed it up best, “It seems more like a wake.”
Somber was the atmosphere at LTUSD board member Wendy David and LTCC board member Kerry David’s house election night. Early returns on June 3 told the story – the $84 million school facilities bond measure was not going to pass.
“Disappointing” was the word of the night.
People were still “partying”, if you could call it that, at 11pm. The county Elections Department didn’t post the results until 12:37am. With all 20 precincts reporting, 48.51 percent voted no for Measure A, while 51.49 percent voted yes. It needed 55 percent of the voters to say yes to pass.
Superintendent Jim Tarwater stayed barely long enough to hear happy birthday sung to him. He turned 64 the next day.
“I don’t think people have the confidence in the school district to do what they say they are going to do,” said Dave Kurtzman, semi-retired Realtor and school board member from 1983-99. “They confuse this with Measure S and redevelopment, which having nothing to with the school district.”
“What next?” was a common topic. The board had a special meeting June 6, but press times prevented coverage of it.
The district has secured more than $15 million in grants. One is an overcrowding grant that would eliminate the bulk of the portables. Another is for the Green Academy at South Tahoe High School. The $4.5 million grant is for a digital media arts center at Gardner Mountain.
The string attached to those dollars is the district must match them. The bond was the match. The state budget has no bearing on whether the district gets the money.
STHS teacher Bob Grant isn’t giving up. Beth Delacour, speaking for herself and not as the district’s human resource officer, and Grant said maybe a major company will be a sponsor of sorts. Toyota could have naming rights to the auto building, Pixar on the digital structure.
Grant believes if the district could buy time if it can make progress in securing matching dollars this summer. Otherwise the money will be distributed to other districts.
Some version of the bond could be on the November ballot.
Board President Sue Novasel said, “We need to regroup. It’s always been about the kids.” She shakes her head, remembering how in the 1990s the community passed two bonds with more than 80 percent of the vote. In her 30 plus years here she doesn’t remember a general obligation school bond failing.
Some wonder if the vote is one of no confidence for the district, or a sign of a dismal economy and people not wanting to tax themselves, or if it’s a bigger message.
“I told (my husband) Chris if this doesn’t pass, I question where we are living,” said Christina Proctor, who is the spokeswoman for Lake Tahoe Community College. Their children are 6 and 7. “For the community to survive, you’ve got to have families.”

LTVA hires executive director

unedited June Tahoe Mt. News

By Kathryn Reed

Carol Chaplin wants to change the trend of LTVA executive directors not having long tenures at the South Shore tourism agency.
With a 10-year-old and 13-year-old, she ends to stick around until they graduate from Whittell High if not longer.
“This is the next step for me ... moving from the property level to the destination level,” Chaplin said immediately after the meeting.
She doesn’t see this as a stepping stone to something else, but a job to have for a number of years.
This is the second time the 51-year-old vied for this position. In the 1990s she lost out to Ron Spellecy. Ironically, Bill Chernock applied for the position then as well. He didn’t get the job until after Spellecy, Skip Sayre and Terry LeBan left their marks.
Now Chaplin gets her turn to lead the agency that has a $4.5 million budget. She takes over after Patrick Kaler left. He never returned phone calls to explain why he really left. Kaler had been at the helm for the 3.5 years after Chernock left for Southern Nevada.
After the board unanimously voted for Chaplin on May 29 she seemed undaunted by the organization’s past or the region’s uncertain future economic times. She said a board retreat planned for this summer will help define the direction of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.
Chaplin beat out 82 applicants for the job.
Besides her day job as the sales and marketing director for Aramark for the last six years, Chaplin has spent the last two years on the LTVA board as the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce’s representative. She has been in the marketing business at the lake for a quarter century
Chaplin plans to be at the LTVA full time by the end of the month.
Chaplin will have one position to fill rather quickly. Nicole Cox, LTVA special events manager, is leaving for San Diego soon.

Douglas shelves condo proposal

By Kathryn Reed

For the time being, the 15.5 acres near the Fox and the Hound restaurant on Tramway Way will remain vacant.
Last month the Douglas County commissioners voted 3-1 to nix the 40-unit Sierra Sunrise condo project. Commissioner Kelly Kite voted yes, while Commissioner Dave Brady was absent.
This was the second time this year that Carlsbad-based Rancho Pacific owners Fred Totah and Roy Salameh asked the commissioners to approve the project.
One parcel is 12.25 acres designated forest and range where one dwelling could be built. The other 3.25 acres are equipped for 39 multifamily residential units. County code allows planned development to combine the two parcels to better use both sites.
The divisive issue was that the architects only designed one way into the development. Even though the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District wrote a letter saying that’s fine, three of the commissioners completely disagreed.
Commissioner Nancy McDermid questioned what would happen if the intersection of Tramway and Kingsbury Grade were blocked and emergency vehicles needed to get in. Because no one from the fire department was at the meeting, those types of questions were left unanswered.
The fire issue is one reason the project got nixed 5-0 the first time. The developers came back with a new design that had the height of the structures reduced by 15 and 25 feet. This appeased the commissioners who didn’t like the original 100-foot roof line.
McDermid said the project had several green building elements the county likes, but that she couldn’t get past having only one access road.
Douglas County Principal Planner Harmon Zuckerman said the applicants can appeal the decision in court. Per county rules, to see the commissioners again within the next 12 months the project will have to have major revisions. Zuckerman isn’t sure what the property owners will do.

MontBleu goes green

By Kathryn Reed

MontBleu workers are making a concerted effort to turn the casino green. It has nothing to do with money, but everything to do with the environment.
Their efforts outside the facility were recognized last year when Amador County named it the Adopt a Highway Volunteer of the Year. After the snowmelts about a dozen employees don vests, protective eye-wear and hardhats before scouring four miles on both sides of Highway 88 past Kirkwood for garbage.
Another group participates in June’s Community Cleanup Day to clear the area from MontBleu to Horizon of debris. In September, they are cleaning up Lake beaches.
Paula Peterson is the team leader for Bleu Goes Green. The group is doing several projects inside the Stateline casino, as well. All work is done on a voluntary basis.
“We are looking at ways to reuse things. The old table cloths from the convention area, we cut them up and sew them into coin bags,” Peterson said. She admits the company saves money through their initiatives, but says the group is about doing its part to make the world better, while the benefits to the bottom line benefits are a bonus.
Paper and beverage containers are recycled. Using recycled products is encouraged. All light bulbs are now T8 energy-efficient bulbs. Styrofoam can’t be found on the property. Working to conserve water via toilets and faucets is the next project.
Peterson said discussions are under way with toiletry supplier Aveda to create a bag to recycle the used plastic bottles in as well as ones for guests to pack the bottles in to take home. Now all empty and half full plastic bottles wind up in landfills.
The green team is looking to work with Bently Biofuels in the valley to take the cooking oil from its restaurants. It could be turned into fuel used in BlueGo buses.
When it comes to transportation, the casino offers discounts for workers to ride the Kingsbury Express. Four parking spaces for hybrid vehicles have been created.
Joe Yung, director of community development for parent company Colombia Sussex, had the idea for the casino to host April’s Earth Day. Last month was the second year for MontBleu to take the lead on the free event.
For info on Bleu Goes Green, go to

Recreation fees may go up

By Kathryn Reed

Fewer heads in beds has contributed to Douglas County’s financial quagmire. Commissioners at an eight-hour meeting in May passed a budget most residents will feel.
If further measures are taken, Californians will be affected as well. That’s because prices are likely going up at Kahle Community Park.
The county’s Parks & Recreation Commission met five days after the elected officials passed the county budget. The five in attendance (Commissioners Kelly Gardner and Mark Neuffer were absent) agreed to up fees at Kahle and Topaz Lake Park.
Besides increased fees, services will be reduced. The elected body cut 13.8 full-time positions in the rec department, which also includes the library and senior services.
The ranger-security personnel won’t be on hand at night or weekends anymore at the Stateline facility. The Lake branch of the library is losing eight-hours of operation.
The DC commissioners told the rec department to come up with an additional $25,000. Increased fees and reduction in hours is how it plans to do so.
Just like last summer, Kahle will close Sundays, lock up one hour earlier M-F and two hours earlier Saturdays. Staff proposes keeping these hours through mid-November as another cost savings. Winter is high-use season for the facility.
Douglas County commissioners must approve the Parks & Rec Commission’s proposed fee increase. Parks & Rec Director Scott Morgan said that’s possible this month, but more likely in July.
Rate increases won’t be immediate so staff and customers can get used to the idea. Annual passes are often bought near the start of the calendar year. Morgan expects to have the fees raised by then.
Similar rate hikes were proposed by the rec commission last year, but the elected officials said “no way.” Faced with a drastically different monetary situation, the outcome could be much different when it comes up for a vote.
Morgan said this fiscal year, which ends June 30, his department has been using reserves which created a $232,000 deficit. He expects to restore those funds and then some in the next fiscal year via the rate increases and reduction in hours.

Kahle Community Park
Usage Current Fees Proposed Fees

Adult annual pass $199 $219
Most walk-in rates $6 $7
30-day pass $15-$32 $19-$35
90-day pass $32-$73 $35-$99

Douglas County election

unedited June Tahoe Mt. News ..

By Kathryn Reed

Even though Douglas County has a primary election on Aug. 12, the major race for residents at the Lake will be in November for the school board.
Douglas County School Board has five of its seven seats up this year. Although everyone in the county votes for all positions, one seat is considered the Lake’s representative. Incumbent Cindy Trigg is being challenged by newcomer Greg Felton.
The other contested school board seat is between incumbent Karen Chessell and challenger Charles Swanson. Both of those races will be voted on Nov. 4.
Running unopposed for school board are newcomer Randy Green, and incumbents Teri Jamin and Tom Moore. Those three will have their names on the primary ballot. As long as each receives one vote, they get to skip the November general election and will automatically be on the board.
Three of the five Douglas County Commission seats are also on the ballot. Because this is a partisan office, the races with more than one Democrat or more than one Republican will be on the primary docket, with the winner of each party facing the other in November. All the seats are in the valley.
Three seats are open in the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District. Incumbents Patrick Atherton, Bob Cook and Steve Seibel face competition from Roy Clason Jr. and Brad Dorton.

Free firewood

unedited June Tahoe Mt. News

By Kathryn Reed

Heating your home with wood? Tired of skyrocketing prices for a cord? Want something for free?
Did you answer “yes”?
Then the California Tahoe Conservancy is the number to have – (530) 542-5580, ext. 3. The recording is updated weekly to let people know where workers have been clearing out lots and leaving behind 16-inch rounds.
The only catch is that the CTC allocates just one permit per household a year for two free cords of wood. Permits are available at the CTC office at 1061 Third St. in South Lake Tahoe.
The CTC gives away about 400 cords of wood each year. That number could increase in the near future because at the board’s May meeting more funds were allocated for fuels reduction.
“We aren’t going to tolerate people abusing it. It’s a criminal activity,” said Ray Lacey, CTC deputy director, said of the firewood program. “We want people to use the program, but be respectful.”
The problem is with people taking more than their share. Some have even had the audacity to sell the free stuff. That’s a misdemeanor.
“In the winter when the snow is flying the operation slows down a bit, but the firewood program is all year-round,” said Milan Yeates, with the CTC forestry program.
Most of the wood is Jeffrey pine, white fir and lodge pole. The wood is usually within 50 feet of a road, so no need to drive off road. CTC lots being worked on range from 5,000 square feet to hundreds of acres, so the amount of wood at any given location varies. Permits are good for 30 days, but the CTC doesn’t guarantee someone will have beaten you to the rounds.
The CTC asks people to leave fence poles behind. Yes, people have taken them in the past. No mechanized tools are allowed on the CTC lots. Hand tools are OK.

Convention Center crater in South Tahoe

unedited June Tahoe Mt. News

By Kathryn Reed

RockResorts, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, has backed out of the deal to be the hotelier at the South Lake Tahoe convention center site.
This means no management company is onboard to run the city’s largest redevelopment project – a $410 million convention center-hotel-retail enterprise. The city used eminent domain to oust a handful of owners in the nearly 12-acre area.
A press release dated May 21 from RockResorts says, “In light of the recent announcement by Lake Tahoe Development Company (LTDC), the third party developer of the Chateau at Heavenly Village project, that it has placed the project on hold due to financing issues, RockResorts has terminated marketing license and technical services agreements associated with the project. As a result, LTDC will no longer be permitted to use the RockResorts brand in marketing the project.”
The developer says the decision was mutual. LTDC says one reason it has not been able to get financing is RockResorts is not well enough known in the finance world, especially outside the United States.
Rock is affiliated with: Hotel Jerome in Aspen; The Osprey at Beaver Creek; The Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek; Keystone Lodge; The Arrabelle at Vail Square; The Lodge at Vail; La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa; The Landings St. Lucia in the West Indies; and Snake River Lodge & Spa in Jackson Hole. Future RockResorts include Biscayne Hotel & Spa in Miami and Rum Cay Resort Marina in Port Santa Maria, The Bahamas.
Calls to RockResorts were not returned as of press time. Laurance Rockefeller founded the company in 1956. Vail has been sole owner since 2005.
Early on Rock was touted as a perfect fit because the Vail-owned Heavenly Mountain Resort is across the street. Blaise Carrig, Heavenly’s chief operating officer, had been effusive about the benefits Chateau at Heavenly Village guests would reap because of the Vail connection. An overpass was touted as a way to link the hotel and gondola – something Caltrans has not signed off on.
Kevin Lane, one of the partners in LTDC, said it is likely to take several more months to secure a lender.
“Certain lenders have certain relationships with certain flags,” Lane said in explaining why RockResorts is out. Lane essentially blamed potential lenders for Rock being out of the picture. He said Rock might be brought in down the road. A second hotel is planned for phase two.
The agreement between the developer and South Lake Tahoe states a four star hotelier must be used. Rock fits that profile. So would Four Seasons, Westin, Fairmont and St. Regis.
Lane said acquiring a hotelier and financing is essentially being done simultaneously. He would not disclose who LTDC is talking to. LTDC’s other partners are Lane’s father, Randy, and the father-son duo of John Serpa Jr. and Sr.

City reaction

It was a call from the Tahoe Mountain News the last week of May that alerted city council members and the city manager that Rock is out of the picture.
Council members Kathay Lovell and Ted Long as well as Mayor Mike Weber voted for the initial project. They said they would do so again. Council members Jerry Birdwell and Bill Crawford were not on the council for the initial vote.
Hal Cole and John Upton were the other council members for the 2006 vote. That duo acting as the subcommittee negotiated the deal and recommended the council OK the project despite knowing the developer had not secured financing.
“There was a level a comfort knowing Rock was involved in the project so it is a concern for me,” Lovell said. “I would (still vote for the project). I think it’s certainly better than having those old motels.”
“I’m very disappointed. I don’t know what to say. I’m obviously surprised. It’s not something anyone had talked about. In fact there was talk (Rock) would take over the whole thing,” Long said.
Long called back later that day saying he’d made some calls and thought Rock’s departure could be a good thing.
Weber and Jinkens learned of Rock pulling the plug from a council member who had spoken to the Mountain News.
“There’s always a bigger fish looking to eat a smaller fish. Regardless, I’m confident someone will come in and finish it,” Weber said. “Frankly, I saw the presentation Rock did and it seems like they operate great properties. I had never heard of them (until then).”
“I did not know they pulled out. When did that happen? I was not aware of it. I guess my question is why,” Birdwell said. “I still feel it will be developed, but I think it will be on hold for a while. I do not think it’s good for our tourists to see that (hole). But I think they probably understand economic conditions are bad throughout the country.”
“Have they? That’s not a surprise. In fact, Randy Lane said at the City Council meeting when he appeared recently that if he could find financing, that one of the conditions of financing would be he would have to get someone with a more recognizable name than RockResorts. He said he would certainly fly any flag whoever loaning them wished them to have or something to that affect,” Crawford said. “When RockResorts came aboard I had never heard of them.”
“We had not heard about the decision about Rock. So the issue is: what does this mean now? I think Randy alluded to partners other than Rock. Offshore partners are a possibility. Until they let us know I don’t know,” Jinkens said.
Despite all the surprise, on June 3 the council voted 4-0, with Crawford abstaining, to approve the private Mello Roos for the project. Two Mello Roos were always going to part of the deal. This one taxes hotel-condo buyers to essentially create a homeowners association. The public Mello Roos, which the council has yet to vote on, would create a $50 million redevelopment debt that the city would pay to LTDC.
“Well, if money is in short supply, why shouldn’t I wait,” Crawford said after the council meeting in explaining why he abstained. “My thoughts are let’s not give any more ammunition to a public that thinks the city will do anything to satisfy a developer.”
LTDC’s attorney, Lew Feldman, briefly addressed the council about all the property having not yet been acquired. He said escrow with Lakeside Landing owners John and Margaret Maxhimer should close by the end of the month. Their property is where the Chateau’s sales office is.

Impact on SLT

An American flag stands in the corner of the big dig as though it’s a battleground. And in some ways the hole in the ground near Stateline is just that.
Chatter on the street ridicules the council for approving the project without LTDC having financing; critics chastise another tourist project; and fingers point toward Nevada casinos which may reap more benefits from room nights, and restaurant and gaming dollars when the project is done than businesses on the west end of Highway 50 will see.
With the removal of the 1960 Winter Olympic-era hotels near Stateline, the city lost 577 hotel rooms. The 116 hotel-motels that remain within the city limits total about 6,000 rooms.
The original LTDC plan called for the first hotel-condo structure to have 130 rooms. The second, dubbed a boutique hotel, would have 46 rooms. With the ability to lock off rooms, all told 386 rooms could be rented. The concept is like Marriott.
Christine Vuletich, director of finance for South Lake Tahoe, could not pinpoint the loss of dollars from the hotel room tax from the demolition of the properties. The most recent statistics from March 31 show that in the first six months of this fiscal year that citywide the transient occupancy tax is down 0.2 percent compared to a year ago.
In the redevelopment area, TOT is down 4.2 percent or about $76,000.
“We have no way to prove the folks who would have stayed in those (demolished) hotels booked across the street or some other place,” Vuletich said. “So it’s hard to objectively quantify (the loss of TOT).”
The city is guaranteed to receive $374,000 in TOT from the convention center project based on the contract.
“That’s the thing, the upside potential of the project is much, much greater than any short-term reduction in revenue we are experiencing right now. That’s why we are doing it,” Vuletich said.
In the 2007-08 city budget 18 percent of revenue is projected to come from TOT. That’s about $5.55 million.
Sales tax is down citywide as well – 6 percent in the first six months of this fiscal year compared to the same period a year ago.
“That’s the experience of every other city in the state of California right now. The reduction is because that’s the way the economy is going, especially in retail sales,” Vuletich said.
Sales tax represents 21 percent of expected revenue in the current budget, or $6.46 million.
Vuletich doesn’t have estimates for what is not coming in from the shops that were leveled. Nor is it known if those same potential dollars are being spent elsewhere.
The city is bringing in more in property taxes because after LTDC bought the acreage the county had to reassess the land. LTDC wrote checks totaling $7 million to acquire the property. The assessed value will be recalculated as structures fill in the hole.
Jinkens, the city manager, says the contract prevents the city from being on the hook for any debt to date. This is unlike the Heavenly Village project which some contend is a drain on city coffers. The city has no financial liability on the west side of the street until the project is up and running.
“If the delays are too long, there will have to be amendments to the agreement,” Jinkens said. “We don’t want a hole there any longer than it needs to be.”
He said the city is monitoring the situation on a monthly basis. He would not give a date for when the city might get tired of the fence around the concrete and rebar and want to renegotiate the deal.
“Does the city want to assume the risk? I don’t think so and I don’t think the taxpayers want to assume the risk,” Jinkens said when asked if the city would take over the development.
For the project to be something other than what’s in the agreement, developers would have to seek approval from the city and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. LTDC can sell its development rights, but the council needs to OK that transaction.
According to Lane, California law says LTDC can’t lose entitlements it has to development rights because the foundation has been poured.
“This thing is a long ways from being settled,” Crawford said.

A bit of history

This is not the first time the city has made a huge investment in redevelopment the hard way. It shelled out at least $14 million in eminent domain acquisition at what is now Heavenly Village.
“I’m tired of all of these years of the city accommodating developers, developers, developers,” Crawford said.
The city is paying about $9 million a year in debt service – which is 9 percent of the city’s annual expenses – for the Heavenly project. The council has had to refinance that debt multiple times in the last few years.
The city also got stuck with a $6 million parking garage that doesn’t always operate in the black. It doesn’t help that on June 21 for Opening Days Lake Tahoe, which could be one of the busiest days of the years, the city is accommodating tourists with an $8 maximum daily rate instead of the normal $23/day.
The Heavenly Village complex also required the city to borrow $7 million from the general fund to finish the project.
Heavenly Village was almost a hole in the ground because American Ski Corp., which owned Heavenly Ski Resort at the time and was going to be the developer, was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and in extreme financial chaos.
Marriott essentially saved the day after Harrah’s backed out.
Another hole in the ground was at the corner of Highway 50 and Ski Run Boulevard at what is now Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort. That plot of dirt was empty for about five years while Richard Hodge Sr. went through bankruptcy.
“He was the one who in the early 1980s who had the concept of doing redevelopment,” said Dina Schwarte, who owned a consulting firm at the time that handled deals for land owners in that area.
She represented the 3,000 owners of the Waterfront Club, a timeshare on the back of the property. The city was taking all the property that is now Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort by eminent domain. At the time multiple businesses occupied the acreage, as well as apartments. Schwarte admits it was a blighted area.
The Chevron Station was on other side of the street. Al Moss built a Chevron franchise where it is now. He has since sold it. He was not available for comment.
Hodge owned Ski Run Marina then, too. The original plan was to have what is now the gas station be parking for the hotel project and the marina.
“Mr. Hodge was in the same situation we have going on now (with the convention center). He couldn’t get financing. It takes so many years to get a permit that then you can’t get financing,” Schwarte said.
Hodge filed for bankruptcy. Michael Phillips (not the real estate agent) got the marina he sold to Hodge in foreclosure. Embassy Suites got the lodging site out of bankruptcy.
Embassy opened the time-share parcel in 1997 as Embassy Vacation Resort. Sunterra took over in October 2006. Diamond Resorts bought Sunterra in April 2007. The second phase of LTVR opened in February 2008.
The owners also had rights to develop the parcel on the southeast corner of Ski Run and the highway. Because they didn’t do so in the timeframe dictated in the contract, that land has returned to city ownership.

Developers’ plans

Lake Tahoe Development Company officials say they have between $80 million and $90 million of their own money invested in the project. They are paying more than $1 million a month in interest on a $48 million loan.
Construction is at a standstill and has been all year. It will stay that way until the developers secure $200 million.
LTDC is contemplating breaking the first hotel project into two phases.
Lane said it will take about 14 months of construction to be able to open phase one. Because no dirt needs to be disturbed, work can occur year-round. If building resumes by the end of 2008, it’s possible the project could open in summer 2010.
When the city and TRPA approved the project two years ago developers said construction would start in 2007 – which it did a year ago this month – and would be fully built out by summer 2009 – which clearly won’t happen. Though, even a year ago Randy Lane projected winter 2009 as the opening season.
Money continues to flow from LTDC for marketing and sales efforts. A big sign for the Chateau on the parking garage at the Reno-Tahoe airport says, “We’re building the new Tahoe.”
An ad was taken out earlier this year in the San Francisco Chronicle alerting would-be buyers of the hotel-condo project to an offering staged at the Fairmont hotel. The cash infusion was not enough to put construction crews back online.
Lane maintains securing financing for this project is his No. 1 priority. This doesn’t mean the other companies he and his father operate are standing still.
Permits for the Gondola Vista project were secured in May. The 20-units, with four affordable housing units, will be off Montreal, near Harrahs and across from Forest Suites Inn.
The earliest ground will be broken on it is 2009. Lane said details need to be worked out, but it will definitely be tourist accommodations and not condominiums.
The long talked about project at what is now Timber Cove Resort is in the planning stage. What is there now will be leveled and something new will take its place.
“Nothing is going to change on that landscape for a little while,” Lane said.
The Lanes had two partners in the Sierra Shores development in the center of town. The 16 units are sold on a quarter share basis. Lane said it’s close to being sold-out.
Lane was the sole owner of the Cedar Room restaurant at Elk Point Way that is no longer in existence. On May 1 Elegant Affair catering began leasing the property, with the intention of staging wedding receptions there.
The Lanes have some residential property as well.

Feinstein, Schwarzenegger coming to Tahoe

June .. Tahoe Mt. News

Feinstein, Schwarzenegger coming to enviro summing

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will be the hostess of the Aug. 16 annual Lake Tahoe environmental summit.
Forest fuels and fire management, climate change and the environment improvement program (EIP) will be the focus of the gathering, which was first launched in 1997 by then President Bill Clinton.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be in attendance this year.
“The EIP will be much more strategic and not just a list like before,” said Patrick Wright, executive director of the California Tahoe Conservancy.
The event is at Valhalla from 9am-noon.

Crime stats in Douglas County

June .. TMN ..

More people, less crime in DC

Violent crime in Douglas County went down in 2007 compared to the previous year despite an influx in population.
The Uniform Crime Report Data was recently released by the Nevada Attorney General’s Office.
In 2006, 50,108 people lived in the county. That number increased to 51,770 in 2007. The county had 85 violent crimes reported in 2006 and 69 in 2007. Percentage-wise, that’s a population gain of 3.31 percent and an 18 percent decrease in crime.
“Sheriff Ron Pierini is also proud to announce the 2007 crime clearance rate for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office ranked 10% higher than the average for Nevada law enforcement agencies, and 6% higher than the national average for law enforcement agencies,” a press release stated.
The 2007 crime clearance rate for the county was 25.42 percent, the state rate was 14.9 percent and nationally it was 19.3 percent.

Bus service on Tahoe's South Shore

unedited May Tahoe Mt. News

By Kathryn Reed

It took a part-time transportation guru less than a couple weeks to come up with a 26-slide PowerPoint presentation outlining the inefficiencies of BlueGo.
With John Andoh’s help, members of the transportation board brainstormed for five hours to figure out what can be done to reduce the duplication in services, how to share vehicles, get more riders and increase revenue.
No decisions were made, but a lot of eyes were opened. A time line was presented that is designed to get the board to stop spinning its wheels and move forward. Yes, the public will be involved -- possibly by this fall.
Andoh’s efforts so impressed the board of directors that he has since been hired as the first administrator for the Coordinated Transit System Management Company.

BlueGo issues

One stumbling block is BlueGo is comprised of seven service contracts -- six with Area Transit Management and one with El Camino Trailways. Contract holders are Heavenly, the casinos, Douglas County, El Dorado County, South Lake Tahoe, the trolley and Kingsbury Express. The governing boards of those entities need to be in agreement before the BlueGo board can make any real decisions.
“Our goal is to understand each other. We need to understand that the transportation market has changed,” said Stacy Dingman, board chairwoman and Lakeside Inn employee. “We need to make sure we are serving everyone’s interests.”
Heavenly moves its customers to and from the mountain as expeditiously as possible. This is free to riders because transportation costs are built into lift ticket prices.
Casinos want door-to-door service – not dropping patrons off at the transit center and having them walk to the tables.
The city wants neighborhoods served because the farther people have to walk to a bus stop the less likely they are to use public transit.
Andoh’s documents said, “Heavenly historically has been the most productive BlueGo service, followed by the city of South Lake Tahoe fixed routes. Casino service has drastically dropped in productivity and ridership over the past four years.”
Gabe Chavarin with Area Transit Management said, “Maybe one of the things we need is a (Highway) 50 express route.”
Andoh said something like that is “the cheapest alternative to getting light rail.”
During the spring brainstorming session reliability and frequency were common themes. People talked about shelters at all stops, stops on both sides of the streets, destination signs, ski racks on all buses, and having fares be consistent system-wide.
Making sure the fleet is appropriate was mentioned. Right now of the 43 buses that are active, some are as old as 17 years and as new as this year.

Looking forward

By consolidating all the funding sources, Andoh said about $4.18 million is going to be spent this fiscal year.
Costs are going up and revenue is declining. Alfred Knotts with El Dorado County said his forecast shows a need to cuts services in four years.
“We may need a ballot measure,” Knotts said of a way to generate money.
Andoh threw out the idea of creating a business improvement district. This was met with grumbles because of the controversial failed bid from a couple years ago.
Another source of revenue could come from parking fees. Last fall the BlueGo boards’ parking subcommittee touted the idea of $5/night for hotel guests, fees at trailheads and beaches, at Heavenly, for public and private employees around town. It is estimated more than $5 million a year could be generated just at lodging establishments.
Mobility 2030 is the name of Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s regional transportation plan that encompasses the entire basin.
The March draft report says some South Shore plans are to:
• Expand BlueGo fixed route system and reduce traffic on Highway 50
• Establish new fixed route service to Meyers
• Expand fixed route service to South Lake Tahoe neighborhoods
• Expand BlueGo casino service daytime hours and reduce headways
• Expand service hours to Nevada Flex Route
Regional transportation is still talked about so locals and visitors ditch their SUVs to get to the other side and back without having to paddle.
The report says, “An intraregional transit service, the Summer Lake Lapper Service needs to be resurrected. As recently as August 1997, average ridership totals (117 passenger trips/day) suggest that during the summer months, the Lake Lapper could provide a strong transit connection between the North and South Shores. Lake Lapper service would also address some of the seasonal parking issues along the East Shore and Emerald Bay areas. Based on information contained in the Tahoe Interregional-Intraregional Transit Study (LSC, 2006), the capital and operation requirements for an 82-day Lake Lapper Summer Service (June 15-Labor Day) would require three 32-to-40 passenger buses operating in opposite directions around the Lake with three-hour headways. Anticipated operating costs for the service is estimated at $238,100 with a farebox revenue estimated at $43,800 given a $3 fare for a one-way trip.”
Andoh did say, “Transit cannot be everything to everyone. Tradeoffs must be made.”
BlueGO's Nifty 50 Trolley started the season Memorial Day weekend. The two routes this year are Route C between the South Y Transit Station and Stateline Transit Center and Route D from the South Y via Tahoe Valley Campground to D.L. Bliss State Park. From there riders can board the free Emerald Bay shuttle to Tahoe City.
Schedules are available at t or call (530) 541-7149.

Who is Andoh?

Andoh actually rides the bus system so he has an idea of what is working and what isn’t. It also allows him the opportunity to mingle with people who use the system.
He is “committed to dramatically improve public transportation service in the South Lake Tahoe region,” according to a press release. Andoh is tasked with managing the daily operation of BlueGo, as well as obtaining founding sources and creating a more cohesive public transit system on the South Shore.
In his eight years of transit experience, Andoh has been the assistant transit manager for Elk Grove and part time transit services manager for Benicia. In those capacities he essentially did all the things he is being asked to do here.
“Andoh was successful in rebranding these transit operations, improving mobility and increasing ridership by 25 percent in Benicia and over 55 percent in Elk Grove,” a press release says.
Andoh’s office is at TRPA. He may be reached at (775) 589-5284 or

Funding issues

Funding decisions nearly 3,000 miles away are making transportation officials at the Lake a little uneasy.
A letter obtained by the Tahoe Mountain News written by the Tahoe Transportation District dated April 17, 2008, to Terri Marceron, local Forest Service supervisor, questions why her agency is cutting local transit dollars.
The Forest Service as of press time had cut $8,100 – its annual contribution to the South Shore and North Shore trolleys and membership in the Truckee-North Tahoe Transportation Management Association.
“These funds are used to help market North Shore and Emerald Bay Summer Trolley services, and the transit connection between North and South Shores,” the letter says.
The Forest Service says the money may eventually arrive, but because Congress held up allocations, it could not go forward with previous obligations.
“We are reviewing the budget to see what we have to contribute and then we’ll respond back (to the letter),” said Cheva Heck, local USFS spokeswoman.
The Forest Service funds transit operations throughout the country as benefit to people using its recreation sites.
“If the funding is not available, we would have to look at other sources. It’s not a huge amount. It’s about 3 to 4 percent of the budget,” said Mike Harper, chairman of the Tahoe Transportation District. “But it creates a link around Emerald Bay. The ridership we get magnifies it.”
He said in the last couple of years more people have been using public transit to travel between the South and North shores.

Expanding service?

At the BlueGo’s board meeting on June 6 a public hearing was conducted regarding a proposal to restart the 24-hour curb-to-curb service. Deadlines prevent us from telling you what happened.
The idea is to restore 7pm to 7am service that was cut last year. It would be paid for from funds through the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality and Transportation Development Act as well as fares.