Regional Plan Update

November 2016 Update:

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a final opinion. Press Release. Court ruling.

On another note, TRPA recently released the draft 2015 Threshold Evaluation Report, which is intended to assess the status of TRPA’s environmental standards for the Basin. The Report will also help guide future actions to update the threshold standards, which provide the backbone for the protection of Lake Tahoe. FOWS submitted extensive comments on the Report, noting both improvements compared to previous years’ reports as well as several concerns regarding existing conditions and proposed (or not proposed) future actions.

April 2016 Update:

We are now waiting for a final decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding our lawsuit on TRPA’s Regional Plan Update. The final hearing was held on April 12 and can be viewed here.

February 2016 Update:

A date for the final hearing in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, regarding FOWS’ and Sierra Club’s lawsuit challenging TRPA’s 2012 Regional Plan Update has been set for April 12. The hearing is scheduled for the morning session at the James R Browning US Courthouse, Courtroom 3, 95 7th St., San Francisco, CA. The public is welcome to attend.

The December 2012 Lake Tahoe Regional Plan Update:

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), charged with protecting the beautiful pristine waters of Lake Tahoe and the lake’s surrounding watershed, approved an update to its Regional Plan in December 2012, and the news is not good. The new plan allows taller buildings, more pavement, and in general encourages more of the types of development and crowding that have historically damaged the lake and stolen cherished views of the Lake and mountains.

What Does TRPA’s RP Update mean for West Shore?

More buildings and more crowding:

TRPA’s new Regional Plan Update (RPU) opens the door for major increases in development, vehicle congestion, and crowding along the West Shore, and more so in Tahoe City and Kings Beach (although the RPU also created the “Resort Recreation District” zoning that developers have used to propose substantial new development on Tahoe’s ridgelines). Local governments such as Placer and El Dorado Counties have also been given the authority to approve most new development through adopting local “Area Plans.” With increased development in the North and West Shore areas, just imagine how many more visitors and residents will ‘take a drive’ to Emerald Bay, and what this will do to traffic on Highway 89! In fact, according to the 2014 Visitor Research Summary from the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, Emerald Bay was the most visited attraction, with 47% of the survey respondents indicating they’d spent time there.

One-size-fits-all urbanized communities:

TRPA’s RPU applies a one-size-fits-all model of urbanization to all of Tahoe’s very unique communities. Now, as local Area Plans are being developed to implement the RPU’s zoning changes, small communities like Kings Beach and Meyers are learning that the RPU’s mixed uses and higher densities will forever alter our unique, rural communities.

Ongoing Changes to the RPU:

TRPA has since continued to propose major changes to their rules that will further reduce environmental protections. For example:

The Lake can only handle so much pollution, and as the declining clarity in our nearshore shows us, we are already adding too much; yet the new RPU adds more pavement, more cars, and more buildings, all causing more polluted stormwater runoff to enter Lake Tahoe. In addition, meteorologists are warning us that because climate change means more rain and less snow, we need to be prepared to handle more flooding, however the RPU continues to rely on outdated and undersized stormwater treatment requirements.

Protecting our West Shore Communities and Lake Tahoe:

1. What FOWS is Doing:

We are working tirelessly to help shape the plans for West Shore in order to protect our communities, our quality of life, and Tahoe’s irreplaceable environment. After years of participating in TRPA’s RP update process, including the submittal of a complete alternative Plan for consideration in October 2010 and extensive participation throughout 2012, we were unable to influence TRPA to adopt a plan that protects Lake Tahoe. Left with no other recourse, the Friends of the West Shore and the Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, filed a federal lawsuit in February 2013 challenging the new RPU. (View Press Release. View Federal Lawsuit). As the court considers our case, the development of Area Plans moves full speed ahead, with the counties scrambling for the biggest pieces of the pie. FOWS representatives have been participating in the TRPA and Area Plan meetings, and are working hard to keep up-to-date on the latest Plans. For those interested in the nuts and bolts of our concerns, we encourage you to review our detailed comments to TRPA on the Draft and Final Regional Plan ‘packages.’ Please contact us if you would like to obtain the referenced attachments.

2. What You Can Do:

Currently, large resort and corporate development interests are doing their best to retain, and even expand, the new development increases allowed by TRPA’s RP update. Whether you are a full or part time resident, visitor, or you simply appreciate the rural quality of our communities, you can help speak against these powerful interests. We encourage you to be aware of what is happening in your neighborhood, and we would be glad to meet with you to help you understand how these Plans may impact West Shore – and how you can help shape the future of our communities. Please contact us for more information, and check our website regularly for updates. You can also sign up for our bi-monthly Newsletters to keep appraised of plans and projects.

Background Information on RPU and Lawsuit:

TRPA’s Role:

TRPA’s primary role is to protect Lake Tahoe. Many question how TRPA changed from pro-environment to pro-development. Learn more about the political situation leading up to the December 2012 Regional Plan Update.

Legal Documents:

October 2013:

Read Plaintiff’s (FOWS & Sierra Club) October 2013 Opening Brief & Plaintiff’s “Statement of Undisputed Facts”

November 2013:

Read November 2013 TRPA Response/Opposition Brief, Response to Plaintiff’s “Statement of Undisputed Facts” & TRPA “Statement of Undisputed Facts”

January 2014:

Read Plaintiff’s January 2014 Reply Brief & Response to TRPA’s “Statement of Undisputed Facts”

February 2014:

Read February 2014 TRPA Response to Plaintiff’s Reply Brief

April 2014:

On April 7, a decision was issued in the RPU lawsuit, which challenges new rules for Lake Tahoe that illogically purport to ‘fix’ problems caused by urbanization with more urbanization (read the Decision by federal court Judge Mendez). We are extremely disappointed with the decision, which supports TRPA’s adoption of the Regional Plan Update (RPU) and rewards TRPA’s intense media campaign which appears to have been crafted to gain favor for the new Plan through public messaging and inflated promises in lieu of science and clear, factual public engagement.

May 2014:

FOWS and the Sierra Club filed a Notice to Appeal on May 7th, so our case will be heard by federal judges in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

September 2014:

On September 30, FOWS and the Sierra Club filed the Opening Brief for our Appeal to the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

December 2014:

TRPA’s reply to our opening brief was received November 28th. Earthjustice filed our final reply on December 23rd. The next action will involve a public hearing of the case.