Players in both states developing South Shore vision


By Kathryn Reed

Taking a look at the South Shore it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out things must change or the area will be irrelevant to tourists.

Various stakeholders who want to revamp the area from Ski Run Boulevard on the California side to Kahle Drive on the Nevada side have put out a call to action. The state line is not an impediment, but instead viewed as nothing more than a traffic light along Highway 50.

“It benefits us if we work regionally,” Lisa Granahan, economic vitality manager, in Douglas County said. A collaborative approach with more partners is also beneficial when it comes time to look for funding for specific plans.

Driving down Highway 50 it's hard to know the recreation opportunities that abound on the South Shore. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Driving down Highway 50 it's hard to know the recreation opportunities that abound on the South Shore. Photo/Kathryn Reed

As South Lake Tahoe City Manager Tony O’Rourke put it, “We are one market … one destination. Tourists could care less about the state line.”

Redevelopment attorney Lew Feldman is impressed so far with how things have evolved since last fall.

“The level of participation is extraordinary. It is a new day in terms of trying to achieve environmental and economic excellence,” Feldman said.

Design Workshop’s Aspen and Lake Tahoe offices have been massaging the vision that is starting to evolve. This week more clarity to the direction players want to go will come to light.

A two-day charette is scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday, with Wednesday being a working day. It is not open to the public.

Richard Shaw of Design Workshop says what will make this plan different than all the others sitting on shelves collecting dust is that it will have a vision for the South Shore out 25 to 30 years, with some ideas that can be implemented immediately. A working document should be completed this fall.

Starting in Douglas County

All of this talk of turning the economic and environmental tide around began in Douglas County. Knowing government cannot cure all that ails society, a partnership has been formed with private entities to help various regions in the county – with one person designated as the “champion” of a particular project.

Tahoe is one of 12 projects in the county.

Granahan said government can’t do it alone. She said bringing the private sector on board makes sense because businesses have a lot to lose by not helping to improve the economy.

In the county’s strategic plan it’s about concepts more than it is specifics to provide more latitude and creativity.

At Lake Tahoe the “champion” is Mike Bradford, CEO of Lakeside Casino. He has assembled interested people – including Andrew Strain from Heavenly Mountain Resort, O’Rourke, Feldman, Douglas County officials, Embassy Suites, Edgewood Companies and others.

Bradford said, “The refrain coming back was the problem is we don’t have a plan.”

Gaming is no longer king and everyone wants recreation to be the leading tourism draw to the area. It’s also one of the three components to the Lake Tahoe Prosperity Plan. (B Gorman with Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce did not return multiple calls.)

South Tahoe Alliance of Resorts (the former Gaming Alliance) is paying Design Workshop $50,000 to come up with a plan.

“This town is dying. Someone needs to resuscitate it,” Bradford said. “We need a discovery a day for tourists.”

Finding consensus

“I’m not disagreeing the initial reason people travel to Tahoe is the lake,” Shaw told Lake Tahoe News. “But the reality is when you are there, particularly on the South Shore, it’s a struggle to find recreation opportunities. Short of high rises, there is almost no view opportunity.”

He pointed out while locals and repeat visitors know where the public beaches are, it is near impossible for a first-time visitor to find them. The same goes with mountain bike trails and other outdoor activities that the marketing gurus are telling them exist here.

Bradford simplified the goal of all of this  – “To draw a picture of what Tahoe should be.”

While sitting in his casino’s restaurant Bradford readily admits the gaming model is no longer relevant.

“We never created a connectivity,” he says. “That is what we are focused on now. How we connect the product.”

The product is no longer what’s inside, but everything that is outside.

Feldman says it’s time “community character” is a factor in planning.

“This will help TRPA understand what the local jurisdictions and property owners in the Compact area believe is necessary and desirable to achieve environmental and economic excellence,” Feldman said.

(TRPA officials were not available for comment.)

What those involved in this process want is to show the bi-state regulatory agency there are other ways to accomplish environmental goals, which in turn will stimulate the economy. But change must come from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to make all of this a reality. Stakeholders are hoping to be influential as the Regional Plan update is being worked on and should be released late 2012.

So many people today speak to the built environment being horrible for the natural environment. This is because what was erected in the 1960s had little or no thought about sediment, what pollutes the lake and how runoff without treatment is not a good thing if Lake Tahoe is not to turn into a brown body of water.

“It’s a very risky and costly process to gain approval for a project (in the Lake Tahoe Basin),” Shaw said. “There is a conflict between the business model that can succeed and what development parameters are.”


About author

This article was written by admin


Comments (12)
  1. Steve Kubby says - Posted: July 18, 2011

    Another well-written, informative and valuable article by Kathryn Reed. Nice to see Mike Bradford receive recognition for his outstanding efforts.

  2. PubWorksTV says - Posted: July 18, 2011

    What South Lake Tahoe needs now is the same thing that has been “talked about” for the past several decades.

    A more diversified economic base with a broader section of businesses so that more people can make a living here outside the tourism or ‘real estate sales’ industries.

    The past lip service and lack of follow through and legitimate effort by these same “players” over the years has me questioning the likelihood of success this time around.

    There are many things that could and should have been done. Instead the players played. Still playing. Check closely here, these are mostly government and non-profit types so they also get plenty of your taxpayer dough to play with.

    If you continue to do as you have always done you will continue to get what you got.

    Is it what you want?

  3. 30yrlocal says - Posted: July 18, 2011

    I appreciate the efforts of everyone involved and I hope all involved can continue with a unified effort to take the bull by the horns and steer us in the right direction. Congratulations to Mike and the team.

    I hope that the plan can come to fruition and be applied as quickly as possible and not be hung up for years. We’ve had the Prosperity Plan for TRPA and the Chamber so it’d be nice to have ONE plan that everyone can live with and within.

  4. Careaboutthecommunity says - Posted: July 18, 2011

    I see the point of not being able to get to or even find the recreational opportunities, as I can still remember when I was a tourist in this town. I still have not found everything, but know way more than when I first moved here.

    How about a Recreation Trolley/Bus/Van that picks up tourists at the major lodging sites, and has stops at the major recreation sites? Draw up a cute colorful map with the Urban Trail head, Van Sickle State Park, Ski Run Marina, Bike Rental places in-between, Paddle Board shop, more bike rentals, continue on down to end at Camp Richardson with more bike and boat rentals.

    You could have these businesses pitch in to get better billing, or even get on the stops/brochures.

    This way when a group decides they want to say paddle board today, they just walk out the front door of their lodging, and hop on the mass transit; which also cuts down on the cars on the road.

  5. dumbfounded says - Posted: July 18, 2011

    Hats off to the successful American Century Celebrity Golf Tournament this weekend. It was sure nice to see the town full of visitors, it was nice to see the airport doing a lot of business and I hope that the town made money on the deal. Perhaps the traffic at the airport will show the Nevada side that they should contribute to the costs of the airport since they certainly have used it to host the celebrities’ aircraft. Let us focus on the positive side of everything for just a little while.

  6. satori says - Posted: July 18, 2011

    I agree with Steve Kubby on Kae’s ‘well-written, informative’ article but will stop short of ‘valuable’- as it appears that this $ 50,000 dollar effort over the next few months is only palliative.

    ‘Care about the community’s’ comment is close to the intent of a sustainable resort/tourist-oriented approach, as using the original “Motel” (motor hotel) concept of a drive-up market like this one has no other options with a transit system that focuses on the back & forth emphasis on HIghway 50 (only).

    Use the On-Call to better effect, and expand it as necessary. . . Thanks, CATC

    Going in reverse order in the article itself, Mr. Feldman sets an improper tone for the 21st century, off on the wrong foot with “there is a conflict between the business model that can succeed and what development parameters are.” As Hunter Lovins of Natural Capitalism and Rocky Mountain Institute fame pointed out recently, you no longer have to even like global warming issues, as “the business case has already been made for you”.

    Just ask the Embassy Suites at your closed meeting, how much they’ve realized in R.O.I. on their short-term investment. What might that mean in a long-term investment ?

    Or, as Mr. Shaw is from the Aspen office of Design Workshop, he might ask Auden Schendler of Aspen Skiing Corp. (also formerly with the Rocky Mountain Institute) how much their use of hundreds of thousands of gallons of biofuel has contributed to their No. 1 ski area ranking, and how much their in-town employee-housing complex has worked out to the favor of constituents.

    He might also get a hold of Deanna Gay, whose father, Dave Gay (of Dave Gay Propane here) developed the original Heavenly tramway here, how well her downtown multi-story office block concept has worked in downtown Aspen.

    Mr. Feldman gets paid very well to ameliorate Tahoe project issues, but we know the real problem is that the TRPA has no real standards, and that what standards there are for the counties within the Basin, are “all over the map”.

    With 21st century standards (in a true sense), developers could also realize something other than what they bring with their only experience up-’til-now . This would, in turn, benefit them in their other dealings elsewhere, so they don’t end up “leaving money on the table”, their major concern.

    Lack of community character (as well as appropriate standards and vision) are why we are where we are. Something that, not so ironically, a Harvey Gross and, in particular, a Bill Harrah brought to the table (that’s why their names are on the building). What they provided was the compass and the rudder to the community enterprise, which the bottom line could easily follow.

    I somewhat agree with PubTv’s comments re:”questioning”, as this one already has the air of exclusivity, which is not in the direction of community character – it is more in the ‘status quo’ direction of “I’m paying for it”, so it should say what I’m thinking. . . not a good sign, as “they” could have been doing something else for decades, but did not. . .

    At least there is a possibility of counteracting Einstein: “doing the same thing over & over, and expecting different results”.

    That’s the real challenge . . .

  7. Carl Ribaudo says - Posted: July 18, 2011

    I think where the business model fails is the prohibitive time and cost of getting good projects through the process. Case in point, even prior to the recession the look of the town was substandard. Few people want to invest or reinvest is a place where the time and cost as well as the outcome can be unending.
    I think everyone understand the need for redevelopment that comes improved environmental elements (smaller footprint, improved sediment run off/erosion control etc.) the problem is very few want to go through the process here especially when there are opportunities for investment elsewhere.

    With regard to these efforts specifically, Richard Shaw is a pretty smart guy and given the abundance of community input he can draw on from past efforts (including Pathway 2007, place based planning meetings, prosperity plan and many others) I look forward to seeing what he comes up with. I hope it wil be good. Will it satisfy everyone, not sure.

    With regard to community character and Harvey Gross and Bill Harrah-that was a different unregulated world. They provided the compass by sheer force of will, not sure they could accomplish what they did with todays complexities.

  8. Jerome Evans says - Posted: July 18, 2011


    I’m sorry to see you fall for such nonsense. We have had too many “visions” unrelated to serious economic, demographic and other analysis of our situation. The kids in Aspen and here have produced some fascinating plans (Tahoe Valley Plan)but totally unrelated to reality. Not their fault. The fault lies with fools like Mike Bradford who
    somehow hope to keep lining their pockets in the same old way while denying
    the obvious changes taking place and blaming TRPA and others for their failures. It’s very sad to see.

    jerome Evans

  9. satori says - Posted: July 20, 2011

    In response to Carl:

    Harvey Gross & Bill Harrah were indeed in an ‘unregulated’ era, but were astute enough as visionaries to extend themselves into their own future – Harvey, for example, managed to “grandfather” enough permits to build the second tower when needed; Harrah, on the other hand, built a 5 Star hotel (a rating soon lost by new owners), in recognition of Tahoe’s special place in his plans.

    He also did not build it for a full decade after Harveys’, due to his loyalty to the local lodging community (a point soon lost on those same “new owners”), which caused a deep division of trust for a period of time for those motel owners who did not “bail out” in the 70’s. . .the later ones don’t know of that, which leaves them unequipped.

    Being ‘unregulated’ is not the same thing as not being a good corporate citizen, and shrewd entrepreneurs. As Harvey started in 1944, and Harrah preceded him by 8 years or so (but in Reno), it nevertheless took them both a quarter of a century to “hit their stride”, but their momentum carried on for another quarter century before the exporting & exploiting took over.

    Steve Wynn vastly improved Las Vegas (especially the Strip) simply by adopting what Tahoe moved away from, so I don’t have much confidence that the “Players in both states” can create a vison, absent better understanding of their own market, as they have rested on their laurels by riding the momentum created by others before them. They’re stuck.

    This is only compounded by the TRPA disconnect you mention in the permit process, as the world changed right under them without a corresponding “tune-up”.

    Now they’re stuck as well . . . absent the same needed understanding of anything but their own out-moded construct.

    So, with all due respect to Mr. Shaw, whatever “vision” he creates will not be met with the appropriate will power, as if the caliber of his suggestions are indeed sound, they will once again seek yet another ‘vision’, not being able to swallow what they will need to do. . .

    Mr. Evans is correct – we’ve already established a pattern of there being money available for “planning”, which sometimes comes with execution; most of the time it does not.

    This of course is now compounded by current fiscal considerations – so, it will take that much more will power to accomplish something, leading to reluctance. . .

    Any vision is not about being able to “afford” it; it is from now on a perspective of “can’t afford not to”. . .
    always something to be wary (and very careful) of. . .

  10. Carl Ribaudo says - Posted: July 20, 2011

    Satori I don’t disagree with your assessment of Bill Harrah and Harvey Gross I just wonder if they could do it in today’s environment. I think also Wynn’s vision while imaginative and transformative may not be applicable to this destination as he did not face the regulatory environment in Las Vegas he would have here. I believe he had a state and local government that actually wanted to see him succeed. The same does not exist here. In fact when he was on the TRPA board I believe he took a look at this market and quickly decided not to invest. Clearly his investments in Las Vegas and Macao have paid off.
    With regard to the comment “we have already established a pattern of there being money available for “planning”, which sometimes comes with execution; most of the time it does not”. Why does that in fact happen? Is it due to a lack of visionary leadership ala Harvey and Bill or is it the existing process that does not invite or incentive change. I would submit that when we change to a process that embraces and incentivizes a sustainable community direction from one that supports a legal and heavily regulated approach that brutally suppresses change we might see some of that change otherwise as you suggest the pattern will be repeated. I mean look around the country, how is it that over the last 25 years that I have been paying attention to this stuff places like Bend, Moab, Sun Valley and on and on continue to evolve and deliver for their local community, environment and economy while we are “stuck”. The system that has been created here (TRPA, League etc.) has produced the mess we seek to clean up

  11. Passion4Tahoe says - Posted: July 20, 2011

    Harvey Gross and Bill Harrah had something else going for them – they were both respected community leaders. They had vision, but they also believed in giving back to the community.

    I had the privilege of working for Harvey Gross, and he treated people with kindness and respect, irrespective of an individual’s income level or station in life.

    We could use more of that kind of character right now.

  12. onlyonesolution says - Posted: March 2, 2012

    I’m glad to see talk of moving Highway 50 to behind the casinos, but then the plan STILL MAINTAINS A ROAD WHERE THE CURRENT HIGHWAY 50 IS! Don’t the architects of this plan get it? All you have to do is look at Vail Village or Whistler Village… YOU CAN’T HAVE A ROAD GOING THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF YOUR VILLAGE! Tahoe needs a “destination” village where visitors can walk around on cobblestone walkways and shop, dine, lodge, etc. without worrying about cars driving by! I think that the road that divides the South and North sides of the current Highway 50 is Lake Tahoe’s biggest problem. We need to create a Vail or Whistler, and having a road, even a two lane road, go through the middle of the village simply does not work.