“Bottom Line at-the-top”: The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s first twenty-year planning lifecycle had been completed some five-years ago (in 2007), but a new updated plan had yet to be ironed out by various factions. This was a problematic situation for a number of reasons, not only because the Lake Tahoe Basin was being guided by an outdated set of policy documents, but also because a number of provisions in the 1987 Regional Plan were no longer relevant or productive. This situation was effectively rectified on Wednesday, 12 December 2012, when the TRPA Governing Board members overwhelmingly approved the Regional Plan Update package of documents. For most components of this Plan, the effective date will be sixty (60) days after having received this final set of approvals. Thus, in about two-months time the Tahoe Basin will begin to operate under, and implement, the new Regional Plan. The newly approved TRPA Goals & Policies, Code of Ordinances, and related documents will be posted in the near future to TSBOR’s website for member reference. The final draft version of this 4,000 + page set of documents is currently available at TRPA’s website.

TSBOR’s Stance:  The Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors® has weighed-in over the course of the past ten years on a number of specific aspects of the evolving Regional Plan Update (RPU). We served on the multi-year Pathway 2007 process, which brought a diverse group of “stakeholders” to the table to discuss what’s working, what’s failing, and how we might find common ground upon which to build a new Regional Plan. TRPA staff members have engaged our organization throughout the Plan Update process, attending TSBOR LGR Committee meetings on a few occasions to field questions, listen to critiques, and consider alternatives to ensure that the new Plan adequately addresses the opportunities and constraints of the present day state-of-the-Basin. With each successive draft, the evolving Plan provided incremental improvements over previously proposed language. Throughout this redrafting process, TSBOR focused its effort and input in the service of improving specific aspects of the Plan documents. As the final draft took shape, the inevitable question arose as to where our organization stands on the overall product. Shifting from our previous “500 ft. treetop fly-over” dominated approach, which emphasized fine-tuning the language, the Board recently considered the merits of the Draft Regional Plan Update from the “10,000 ft.” bigger picture perspective. It seemed clear that the previous Plan had run its course; with its focus on severely restricting new development / growth of limited relevance as the Basin quickly nears build-out. Given this 1980’s referent for the Policies and Code, the outdated Regional Plan was no longer a fruitful approach to achieving the important objectives that are still in play. The new proposed RPU contained a number of paradigm shifting approaches as to how TRPA approaches its mission, and amends the methods/implementation piece in a valuable and constructive fashion. This Regional Plan Update does not represent a shift in its environmental objectives.  The environmental Thresholds remain a centerpiece of the Plan, its core mission.  The approach embedded within the new Plan is more of a qualitative shift in how to further these goals. Is the RPU perfect? Surely not.   Is the RPU better balanced to address today’s constraints, challenges, and opportunities?  Absolutely. Given the outmoded punitive approach to environmental concerns as reflected in the previous Plan, and the still compelling need to correct and protect those natural attributes of the Basin which define its beauty and give property its underlying value, the proposed Plan reflects the “ground truth” in a qualitatively and quantitatively superior fashion.

Considered in the aggregate, the TSBOR LGR Committee found merit in the draft Plan. This committee forwarded an action recommendation to the TSBOR Directors for their consideration; namely, to formally/officially support the draft RPU in its present iteration. Quite recently (11 Dec. 2012), the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors® governing body, the elected Board of Directors, acted to establish a policy position on the draft RPU package of documents (e.g., Goals & Policies, Code of Ordinances…). The motion, to officially support the draft Regional Plan Update package, was approved and thus became Board Policy. This policy stance was communicated to TRPA in writing on the 11th, and via oral testimony by your advocate on the 12th at the Agency’s joint Advisory Planning Commission (APC) and Governing Board meeting.

Regional Plan Background & Particulars: The 1987 Regional Plan (similar to a city or county General Plan) was designed, by the Agency’s own admission, to impose “…strict growth control limits and environmental regulatory constraints…” (TRPA RPU staff summary, Oct. 2012, p.3). While this reactionary approach to fragmented and unguided development might well have had merit at the time, given the lack of environmental awareness and unrefined building practices, it is clear that these deficiencies are no longer operational. Our local population, and the units of local government that operate in the Basin, are well-informed, sensitive to the needs and constraints of development in the High Sierra, and possess the requisite knowledge to provide outstanding stewardship of the region.

The Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors® has been fully engaged in this Plan Update from its inception. Early on in the process, we saw the merit of pursuing the objectives of the “triple bottom line”, advancing environmental, community, and economic interests simultaneously, for each of these components is influenced by the others. These are not three independent facets of the region; rather, they are intimately intertwined, interdependent components of the Basin’s future prosperity.

Throughout the elongated process we, and like-minded allies, sought to ensure that the next Regional Plan provided a degree of flexibility in implementation to address localized opportunities and constraints, streamlined the process to make it more ‘user-friendly’, and to include mechanisms that would make this Plan truly a living document… dynamic, transparent, and open to change as new information and experiences dictate.

Outcome: We almost secured the unanimous affirmative vote we sought from the TRPA Governing Board, missed it by one vote (but not bad, considering the diversity of opinions and personalities on the governing body).  The meeting of the 12th was a joint meeting, with both the full Advisory Planning Commission and full Governing Board gathered at the dais. Protocol dictated that the APC commissioners consider each component of the Plan that required action first. There were some seven or so motions that the APC took. After each motion, the APC Chair verbally communicated the recommendation to the Governing Board, which then took action on the subcomponent under consideration. Each of the APC votes was cast unanimously in the affirmative. However, when the matters moved to the TRPA Governing Board, on every motion (14 in all) there was one consistent “no” vote.  Governing Board member Mara Bresnick (the California Assembly Speaker Appointee) was that recurrent “no” vote. Nonetheless, the affirmative position, to approve the Regional Plan Update, still carried the day in overwhelming fashion. There was an interesting development that took place during this all-day marathon. Senate Rules Committee appointee, Byron Sher, resigned from the TRPA Governing Board, effective the following day (Thurs, 13 Dec. 2012). Apparently, he has some family issues in play, and couldn’t continue his service on the TRPA Board. Because he was not going to be in place for the RPU’s implementation, he chose to “abstain” from most of the motions/actions as they came forward; though, he let it be known that if he were to be staying on the TRPA Board he would be voting against the majority of the actions taken by the body.

To reference a statement made by Winston Churchill during WWII, as the tide was turning in the allies favor in 1942, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” This is ever so true in regard to the recently adopted Regional Plan. The RPU provided the foundation for the future, but not anywhere near the final word on the matter. Most of the “heavy lifting” will occur during the establishment of Area Plans; highly localized implementation strategies, based upon the overarching policies and principals as set out by the RPU.