Tahoe ski resorts desperate for worker housing are even turning to brutal encampments


With winter approaching, a sprawling ski resort to operate, and few housing options for seasonal employees who would sell lift tickets or concessions, Palisades Ski Resort in Tahoe tried a bold experiment last year.

The company opened a camp near Highway 89, where workers could park their trucks and face the months of snow without heat, water or electricity. Palisades operated and maintained the camp, which had a single service: waterless toilets with storage tanks below.

It was perhaps the most powerful illustration yet of a housing crisis affecting mountain towns in the Sierra, who rely on tourism to fuel their local economies, even as tourists reduce the housing stock and create demand for low-income workers. wages.

Palisades obtained a special use permit to lease the camp from the US Forest Service, hoping to promote van living as an alternative for people with nowhere else to go.

“Part of the idea was, can we take advantage of this ‘van life’ lifestyle?” U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Jonathan Cook-Fisher recalled that Palisades was inspired by a social media trend when he launched a “pilot program” with six campsites on the paved surface of Granite Flat. Camp ground.


However, if living in a van seems romantic on Instagram, the reality in this camp was considerably less glamorous. Crews struggled to remove snow from previously vacant land in the winter months, while a site “host” was assigned to keep campers safe in difficult conditions.

Dave Wilderotter and Francesca Santos joke with each other at a small community of houses in Truckee, California on August 3, 2022. Wilderotter bought a lot in downtown Truckee and filled it with tiny houses to help with the housing situation they find your current and former employees. Santos worked for Wilderotter for 10 years and now works at Le Chamois.

Tracy Barbutes/Special to The Chronicle

“The fact is that winter camping can be very challenging,” Cook-Fisher said, calling the Granite Flat campsite “an indication of the extent to which communities are going to find solutions” to the affordable housing shortage.

A Palisades spokesman said many employees already lived in vans or mobile homes and needed a “stable, predictable and safe place to park without having to move frequently.”

“We saw camping as a viable solution,” spokeswoman Kat Walton said. The complex attempted to find other forms of housing for its workers with limited success. According to Walton, Palisades purchased eight units to house 24 employees in Kings Beach. Last month, a Superior Court judge struck down his plan to build the Olympic Valley ski area with a new village, hotels, condominiums and lodging for up to 300 employees.

Now, as Palisades and the Forest Service plan to expand the program to as many as 26 campgrounds this winter, possibly with power hookups, Walton said, other employers are looking to replicate it.

Some are also considering dorm housing, while one business owner has filled an RV lot with small cabins for his employees. Placer County is slowly testing its own solutions, ranging from down payment assistance to a cap on short-term rentals and, more recently, grants for landlords who rent properties on seasonal or long-term leases. long term, a way to free up housing. that would otherwise become vacant when the tourist season ends.

Taken together, these measures reflect a desperation to maintain a local workforce, in a region where house prices are soaring much faster than wages, and rising demand for vacation homes is tightening housing supply.

But while local officials say they’re trying to get creative in the face of a daunting problem, housing advocates say the situation won’t go away until Tahoe leaders start pushing for dense apartments or deed restrictions to reserve housing for the workers.

Dave Wilderotter chats with Cassie Wiggins at a tiny home community in Truckee, Calif., on August 3, 2022. Wiggins is the property manager for the tiny home community and has lived there for three and a half years.  Wilderotter bought a lot in downtown Truckee and filled it with tiny houses to help with the housing situation of his current and former employees.  online colleges that accept fafsa  online schools for psychology  best online schools for psychology  elementary education degree online  bachelor of early childhood education online  early childhood education degree online  best online schools for military  online teaching credential  educational leadership doctoral programs online  online doctoral programs in education  online bachelor's degree in education  online special education degree  online learning platforms for business  early childhood education online  bachelor of education online  the best online schools  online teaching programs  online teaching degree  paralegal degree online  online education degree  i need a degree fast  most affordable online colleges  bachelor's in early childhood education  early childhood education online course  regionally accredited online schools  good online schools  master of education online  online phd programs in education  online schools near me  accredited online schools  master of teaching online  bachelor's degree in early childhood education  best online schools  early childhood courses online  online tech schools  online education programs  top online schools  online doctoral programs  bachelor in early childhood education  master of early childhood education  online graduate degrees  phd in education online  master of teaching early childhood  online technical schools  bachelor of early childhood  online distance education  elementary education online  master degree online  accelerated teaching degree  online classes for adults  best online education programs  online learning platforms for schools  cle online  walden university online degrees  online learning platforms  lamar university online  early childhood degree  online education platforms  online class learning  best online learning sites  uta online degrees  nutritionist degree online  online learning programs  all online learning sites  distance learning program  lsu online courses  online trade schools  online teaching platforms  online business schools  best online education platforms  best online learning platforms  online career schools  pepperdine online  online accredited high schools  best online elementary schools  online executive education  online graduate courses  online vocational schools  online learning platforms for students  top online learning platforms  distant degree courses  best online teaching platform  Keywords you provided online education  Keyword ideas learning platforms for students  online education websites  top online education platforms  ma education online  online study sites  best online learning  continuing education online  unlv online degrees  online teaching platforms for teachers  phd online  online learning sites for students  msc computer science distance education  online classes for seniors  online learning in higher education  online physical education degree  online education companies  liberty university phd
Dave Wilderotter chats with Cassie Wiggins at a tiny home community in Truckee, Calif., on August 3, 2022. Wiggins is the property manager for the tiny home community and has lived there for three and a half years. Wilderotter bought a lot in downtown Truckee and filled it with tiny houses to help with the housing situation of his current and former employees.

Tracy Barbutes/Special to The Chronicle

Otherwise, they’re just “nibbling around the edges,” said Matthew Lewis, a spokesman for the California state group YIMBY, which advocates for more housing development statewide.

“(Placer) County and the City of Truckee have always had the ability to work with the rest of the development community” on more far-reaching measures, namely setting aside land for workforce housing and subsidizing it with fees in other developments. Louis said. “The fact that they have waited so long to really take those measures seriously has put them in a really difficult situation.”

Some mountain towns are starting to build affordable housing — Mammoth Lakes funded and is currently building 466 affordable units — but other communities don’t seem to be considering development. Cindy Gustafson, president of the Placer County Board of Supervisors, argued that Tahoe cannot get out of the housing shortage due to regional height and development restrictions.

“There are limitations to protecting the Lake Tahoe environment,” he said, citing rules put in place decades ago and overseen by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which controls land in California and Nevada. Gustafson sits on the agency’s board of directors and said its members are currently reviewing those standards.

A COVID-driven boom in remote work exacerbated the situation. The median home value in Tahoe City skyrocketed during that time, from $964,000 in January 2020 to $1.51 million in June 2022, according to real estate listing site Zillow. In eastern Placer County, owners converted more than 65% of single-family homes to second homes or vacation rentals, according to a 2021 study by the Mountain Housing Council. As a side effect of that short-term rental boom, many residences remain empty for most of the year, despite all the residents needing a place to live.

“Vacation rentals have been part of our culture for 40 or 50 years,” Gustafson said, noting, however, that rental conversions have spiraled out of control during the pandemic. “The houses became full-time occupied by so many short-term renters.”

As rents rise and properties remain vacant, businesses are struggling to hire and retain the workforce. Many restaurant and hospitality workers can’t afford to live in Tahoe, and even government employees commute from as far away as Roseville, Meyers or the South Shore, where housing is cheaper. Cook-Fisher said she drives 50 miles one way from her home in South Shore to her job with the Truckee Ranger District.

Gustafson, who has lived in Tahoe City for 40 years, said he sees signs of a housing shortage everywhere, from the proliferation of “Help Wanted” signs in store windows to the number of people driving staggering distances. long to get to work. to seasonal workers who choose to sleep in cars or vans, instead of paying rent for a cabin or studio. He has seen companies fail or cut their hours. The post office reduced its counter service, he said.