On the Issues Impacting South Lake Tahoe

My vision for the future of the South Lake Tahoe area is to become a truly sustainable community that provides widespread job and economic benefits to Tahoe community residents and businesses.

Locally owned businesses, town hubs and diversification of our economy

A thriving, sustainable Tahoe will create abundant new opportunities for innovative business activity that correlates with community priorities, in a way that sustains local workers and their families with higher-wage jobs.

I support policies that foster locally owned businesses in thriving walkable/bikeable town hubs that feature local artists and live music. I strongly support transforming the 56-acre parcel between the Rec Center and Lakeview Commons/Harrison Ave. into a recreation and arts-focused town center, and possible central location for city hall. Traffic could be looped around this area, or at the very least slowed down to make it pedestrian and bicycle friendly, similarly designed to the US 50 revitalization project at stateline. Also, we need a new name to replace the bureaucratic sounding “56 Acres”. Tahoe Centro? 

In addition, I support development of new business clusters to help diversify our economy, including health and wellness, sustainable outdoor recreation, and environmental innovation.

Covid-19 and Community Health

Covid-19 is by far the largest health and wellness issue confronting the Basin. It illustrates the need to have a unified, Basin-wide approach. 

We need to come together as a community to do everything possible to reduce community covid spread, to protect our neighbors, doctors, nurses and other frontline workers, to keep our economy open, and to create the conditions for safe in-person education.

The current El Dorado County and California rules don’t account for the greater concentration of Covid cases we’ve experienced as a heavily visited tourist destination. I support public health decisions being made for Tahoe in accordance with guidelines for other California jurisdictions, and in coordination with the Nevada side of the Basin to ensure fair treatment for California-side businesses.

I strongly support additional services for people with mental illness, and those experiencing homelessness. The new South Tahoe Alternative Collaborative (STAC) program being developed by Police Chief David Stevenson will be a big step in the right direction.

 

Sustainable Tourism

Our community has been very divided over tourism this year. On one hand, over 60% of Tahoe’s economy is dependent on tourism. Many of our neighbors lost jobs, and small businesses suffered, during the economic shutdown. Many families are under stress, some having to move or facing eviction.

On the other hand, we’ve experienced spikes in COVID-19 rates, piles of trash on our beaches, illegal campfires, and disruptive events like the Lake2o loud car fiasco, which all led to resident protests.

So what’s the solution? I believe the answer is sustainable tourism, where we welcome visitors who support our hard-working local business owners and employees, in a way that doesn’t overburden our community with negative impacts. What does that look like?

To help achieve a win-win for visitors and residents, I support ideas, programs, and policies that raise new revenue from tourism to help offset associated environmental and social impacts, in particular the impact of vehicles. These programs could help pay for additional services such as free electric microtransit and other alternatives to private auto travel throughout the Basin, road repair, or additional wildfire prevention efforts.

TRPA is an original signatory on a new set of responsible, sustainable tourism principles, together with other destinations from Sedona, AZ to Athens, Greece.  Here are some of the “Guiding Principles for Tourism’s New Future.”

* Recognize that most tourism by its nature involves the destination as a whole, not only industry businesses, but also its ecosystems, natural resources, cultural assets and traditions, communities, aesthetics, and built infrastructure

* Seek to develop all tourism through a collaborative management structure with equal participation by government, the private sector, and civil society organizations that represent diversity in communities.

* Manage tourism development based on quality of visitation, not quantity of visitors, so as to enhance the travel experience while sustaining the character of the destination and benefiting local communities

* Maximize retention of tourism revenues within those communities.

* Account for all tourism costs in terms of local tax burdens, environmental and social impacts

* Favor metrics that specify destination benefits such as small business development

* Invest in green infrastructure and a fast reduction in transport emissions involved in tourism

* Turn away from use of disposable plastics by tourism businesses.

 

Affordable high-speed internet for all

I support affordable, high-speed internet access for all, through solutions such as a community owned coop or municipal broadband, and development of a broadband infrastructure deployment plan. This is critical for students studying at home, remote workers, and all of us who depend on quality, reliable internet access.

Affordable Housing and Workforce Development

The loss of jobs caused by Covid-19, combined with an influx of new homeowners pushing home prices and rentals out of range for many, is creating great anxiety and uncertainty for a growing number of South Lake Tahoe residents.

I support immediate action to confront our affordable housing crisis, including permitting Accessory Dwelling Units (cottage units), incentives for making more second homes available as long term rentals, and inclusionary zoning policies. I also support the work of the St. Joseph’s Community Land Trust to help meet community housing needs.

We have a growing crisis with homelessness that must be addressed as an urgent priority. I support working with El Dorado County to develop a county-wide intake system for all homeless housing programs. We should also identify opportunities for funding for housing solutions.

As the founder and director of the Tahoe Green Jobs Initiative, I am developing training programs for livable wage jobs in sectors that are vital to our economy and environment, including solar and electric vehicle charging installation, energy efficiency, and building new green homes. I support policies to expand the size and scope of job training programs, and revolving loan funds to help residents start new enterprises that meet community needs.

U.S. 50/ South Shore Community Revitalization/Main Street Management Plan (Loop Road)

I support the Main Street Management plan to create a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, transit-oriented, “complete street” area near stateline.  I would also like to see similar investment made in creating more walkable and bikeable community hubs throughout South Lake Tahoe, in places like Ski Run Blvd., Harrison Ave./56 Acres, Bijou, Sierra Blvd., and the Y.

As to the loop road portion of the project– I oppose the proposed route through the heart of the Rocky Point neighborhood, which is home to hundreds of predominantly Latino, Hispanic and Filipino families. I do not support the City granting right of way access to relocate Highway 50 along this proposed corridor.

I support routing traffic around the Main Street Management Plan area, but using a different alignment than proposed to save existing affordable housing in walking distance to Stateline area workplaces, as well as the integrity and cohesion of the Rocky Point neighborhood. I wouldn’t want Highway 50 routed through my neighborhood, whether over my house or one block away, and for the same reason can’t support that plan for another neighborhood.

The bypass roads must not leave any current residents without housing, regardless of their status. Housing is more important than highways, especially in the Tahoe Basin.

The current affordable housing crisis we are facing, combined with the need to reduce not facilitate more traffic, means we need to evaluate new options — such as creating a two lane, one way loop on both sides of highway 50, using existing road infrastructure (primarily along Lake Parkway E/W).  Related options were dismissed in 2012 due to “Department of Transportation concerns about an eastbound/westbound highway split.” The City of South Lake Tahoe needs to make it clear it has stronger concerns about a low-income residential neighborhood split, and take that option off the table.

At the same time, measures must be taken to reduce the amount of traffic currently cutting through the Rocky Point neighborhood as a de facto local loop road, which severely degrades the quality of life for residents there. On busy days, residents report it taking 30 minutes or longer to leave their homes due to the constant, heavy, speeding traffic flow past their homes, which is also very dangerous for children and pets. This is unacceptable. Options to confront this problem include adding speed bumps along Chonokis Rd. and other cut-throughs, and/or making them dead ends or one way streets designed for use of Rocky Point neighborhood residents.

The bypass/loop roads should create no net increase in pavement to protect Lake Tahoe. The proposed new road would create 5.5-7.5 of new road surface, plus an equivalent footprint to construct replacement housing. Given the tight restrictions in the Basin regarding new coverage, unncessarily adding 10-15 acres of new impervious surface is not supportable. Using existing roads to bypass the Main St. area would require no new pavement, and would result in a net decrease as lanes are taken out through the new pedestrian-oriented corridor.

I believe we can unite the community around a plan that creates a walkable/bikeable Highway 50 core, while avoiding the new negative impacts to the Rocky Point neighborhood and its vulnerable families, and fixing the current traffic situation that diminishes their quality of life. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

Justice, equity, inclusion

I have been proud to stand peacefully with this community for black lives throughout the late spring and summer at Lakeview Commons, where I’ve been inspired over and over by the powerful voices speaking out for justice, equity and reform. I support more mental health and unarmed crisis intervention programs like CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR, which would support and complement our police department. Our community has conducted itself admirably during this time, including active dialogue with a responsive police department and city leaders. We’ve shown that standing up for equal treatment for all, and support by and for law enforcement, can go hand in hand.

I volunteer with Tahoe Supports Tahoe, an initiative to help out our neighbors struggling in these Covid times. I organized two online concerts in the spring, featuring local musicians, that together raised $18,000 in direct relief for families served by groups like the Family Resource Center. I’ve also organized several trips to Tijuana to deliver toys for migrant children, and other supplies for their families. I look forward to building on our sister city relationship with Ameca, Mexico, and likewise am passionate about building bridges among people with diverse backgrounds in our community.

Hiking and biking trails

I support new bicycle and hiking trails, including completion of the Greenway from Meyers to Van Sickle State Park, to help locals and visitors travel throughout town and around the lake outside of our cars, while increasing our quality of life. Expansion of our existing trail network, with increased wayfinding signage and connections to residential neighborhoods and lodging properties, will be a cornerstone of a healthy, livable community and sustainable, low-impact tourism economy.

I also support development of more community parks and community gardens throughout South Lake Tahoe.

Quality of Life

Quality of life is a South Lake Tahoe community that complements our world-class natural resources by creating town centers for people to meet, be inspired by local art and music, and to support local businesses and entrepreneurs. Quality of life means getting around with less dependence on private automobiles, with ample access for all to hiking and biking trails from their homes, or places of lodging. Quality of life means access to health care, good jobs, affordable housing, good schools and meaningful, well-paying jobs for all, in a safe and respectful community. It means more connections between parts of our community that are too often segregated. Quality of life is helping the community overcome its contentious divisions, to come together to realize common aspirations for a healthy, thriving place to live that welcomes visitors from around the country and world, who visit with less impact and with a better visitor experience, and leave inspired by what they learn and experience here.

Public Safety and Health

I support our hard-working police officers, firefighters, and first responders who need adequate resources to confront public safety challenges like the recent loud and crowded Lake2o event, and heightened fire risk caused by illegal campfires and other reckless behavior.

I support and have confidence in the leadership of new Police Chief David Stevenson, who responded to the request of the community by implementing a new, collaborative mental health and crisis intervention program (South Tahoe Alternative Collaborative), inspired by the successful CAHOOTS program in Eugene, OR, which will support and complement our police department. I recently had a long conversation with Chief Stevenson, and I believe he is sincerely committed to running a department based on the golden rule of treating everyone in the community equally, to setting high standards, and to having no tolerance for biased policing.

Arts and Culture

I support transforming the 56-acre parcel into a recreation and arts-focused town center, and would like to see art galleries, small theaters, and live music venues in each of our town hubs (the Y, Sierra Blvd., Harrison Ave., Ski Run Blvd, Stateline). It’s long been a dream of mine to have a live music venue here that supports a line-up of musicians along the lines of Crystal Bay Casino. We have a very talented theater and music community here, who need more venues and other support to flourish, and help South Lake Tahoe come alive culturally.

Democracy and Public Participation

But there is also a need to proactively engage residents, business owners and others to find common ground on issues that have long led to acrimony, contention, and paralysis. I strongly support, and would like to build upon, the committee structure that brings local residents together to explore and propose solutions. Given the centrality of the City budget in reflecting local priorities, I’m a big fan of participatory budget processes that give the public an opportunity to better understand service needs, and the funding needed to sustain those services. Here’s a good overview of what we might consider doing here in South Lake Tahoe:

https://www.westerncity.com/article/public-involvement-budgeting-options-local-officials.

I’d be honored to have your support!

I welcome your ideas and am always available to hear your concerns and the issues that matter to you. You can reach me at: johnf4council@gmail.com