L a k e   T a h o e

Location:  The Lake Tahoe Basin is located 15 miles south of Truckee, California, 200+ miles northeast of San Francisco, California and 36 miles southwest of Reno, Nevada.  The Nevada/California border bisects the lake and the City of South Lake Tahoe, in a north-south direction.  South Lake Tahoe is heavily developed with major hotel-casinos on the Nevada side of the border.  There are numerous general commercial, tourist oriented, and residential developments surrounding the large hotel-casino developments.

Statistics:  Lake Tahoe covers approximately 190 square miles.  It is over 30 miles long, 12 miles wide, and has a maximum altitude, set by law, of 6,229'. 

Development:  The lake perimeter is ringed with small residential communities which include tourist oriented facilities such as hotels, motels, restaurants, service stations, stores, etc.  Gaming casinos and big name entertain­ment are prominent at Nevada's south shore area and to a lesser extent in the north shore area of the Lake Tahoe Basin, three miles west of Incline Village.  The California side of the lake has a large number of motels, with the heaviest concentration in the communities of South Lake Tahoe, Kings Beach, Tahoe Vista, and Tahoe City.  The U.S. Forest Service owns and/or controls 65% of the land in the Tahoe Basin.  The Forest Service is ac­tively acquiring addi­tional ownerships for the preser­vation of the environment of the Tahoe Basin at this time.  Private owners control 15% of developable land in the Basin, while the remaining 20% is in county and state park ownerships.

Development throughout the Tahoe Basin has been strongly restricted with a long term moratorium (August, 1983 to July, 1987) effectively halting most development throughout the entire Lake Tahoe area.  This moratorium first created an artificial "shortage" of buildable sites, then when lifted, an "oversupply".  The market is currently in a re-adjustment phase following the establishment of thorough TRPA regulations cover­ing most types of developments in the Lake Tahoe Basin.  Even with the lifting of the total building moratorium, land de­velopment in the area is, at best, time consum­ing and extremely costly.  The regional body, which must approve construction and development, is the TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency).  This organi­zation has control of all development in the area relat­ing specifically to uses allowed and the amount of land coverage by structural or other man-made improve­ments to be allowed on indi­vidual sites.  Additionally, approval must be granted by juris­diction of the county in which a proposed development is planned.

Population:  The estimated year-round population of the Lake Tahoe Basin is approximately 30,000 permanent residents with peaks exceeding 100,000 individuals dur­ing summer months.

Access:  Access to and around the Lake Tahoe Basin is good and, for the most part, open to traffic all year.  Inclem­ent weather and heavy snowfall sometimes restricts access to the area during winter months.  However, major thoroughfares throughout the Basin are rarely closed to through traffic as adequate snow removal programs provide around-the-clock highway maintenance.  The entire 78-mile perimeter of the lake has asphalt paved state and federal highways.  Major highways leading out of the Basin include California State Routes 89 and 267 which connect Tahoe City and Kings Beach, respectively, with Interstate 80 at Truckee.  U.S. Highway 50 connects Carson City, Nevada with Placerville, California via a 15+ mile section of this highway along the lake's east and southeast shoreline.  Nevada State Route 431 (the Mt. Rose Highway) connects U.S. 395 just south of Reno with Incline Village.

Transportation:   Transportation into the Lake Tahoe Basin is primarily by automobile.  There is limited bus and air transportation and two airports serve the Basin, one at South Lake Tahoe and the other out­side the Basin in nearby Truckee.

Recreation:  The Lake Tahoe Basin has an attractive conifer forest cover and is surrounded by mountain ranges with peaks exceeding 10,000' in elevation creating an excel­lent environment for hiking, camping, skiing, and other lake/forest activities.  The Basin has beach and boat facilities for summer recreation with boating, water skiing, swimming, and fishing popular recreational activities.  During winter months, tourists come to ski at many ski areas.  The Lake Tahoe Basin provides the highest concentration of ski lifts in the world, with 140+ lifts.

Utilities:  Sewage disposal and water availability are major problems in the Basin.  Septic tanks are not allowed and hookups to local sewer facilities are necessary for any development.  Available municipal water is becoming quite limited and all building permits are subject to the availability of adequate utilities to service a planned development.

Government:  Five individual county planning agencies have jurisdiction in the Lake Tahoe area and work in conjunc­tion with the TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) to maintain the fragile ecological balance in the Lake Tahoe Ba­sin which has been subjected to degradation through commercial/residential development in the area.  With an eight-year drought having just ended, concerns for Lake Tahoe environment are especially high at this time.

Summary:  Primarily, undeveloped land in the Lake Tahoe Basin is zoned General Forest, which allows only one single family development per ownership, irrespective of site size.  Because of these restrictions, existing developments and developable land are at a premium throughout the area with prime commercial and residential properties having been highly sought after for years.  The existing stringent regulations governing proposed developments throughout the area have made existing improved sites more desirable as the potential for the development of vacant land in the future is questionable.  At best, new construction requires a detailed application/approval process which is time consuming and often costly.

Federal, state and county restraints are designed to protect the environment.  The TRPA is intentionally reducing the allowable ground coverage of properties whenever possible to reduce the density of potential developments throughout the Basin.

Recent legislation, as well as the restraints on new construction and the recent drought, have created a general atmosphere of uncertainty for new construction in the basin with a concurrent high demand for good quality existing developments and easily developable sites meeting TRPA and county regulations.