Sher: A breath of fresh air at TRPA

images5I’ve followed the TRPA for years as a Tahoe basin cabin owner and was always disturbed that it didn’t merit more investigative reporting from the local community newspaper — or even bloggers. (I figure it was an issue of resources and institutional knowledge, two big “rocks” in the newsroom of a small-town paper).

You’ve got enough fodder at TRPA — inaction, conflicting policy-making, infighting, conflicts of interest — to shine a light on one of the Sierra’s most important government agencies.

When I read the headline Monday that “Harvard graduate appointed to Tahoe Regional Planning Age…” in the Sierra Sun, I was forced to click on the article to see what it was about. (Please write shorter headlines for the Web; not ones that end in …).

I was pleased to see a press release that Byron Sher, the retired longtime California legislator, was appointed to the TRPA board.

If you know Sher, flaunting a Harvard law degree is not what he’s about. In a low-key style, he helped create some of the state’s major environmental laws over more than two decades.

I met Sher when I was covering the leveraged buyout of Pacific Lumber for the San Francisco Chronicle in the mid- ’80s. Later, he helped lead an effort to preserve old-growth redwoods that otherwise might have been chopped down under Texas owner Charles Hurwitz.

Hurwitz doubled the timber cut of Pacific Lumber to pay down junk-bond debt — a symbol of the excesses of LBOs in the ’80s.

“Of all the legislators we’ve known over 50 years, we rate Byron right at the top,”  Bill Lane of Portola Valley, former publisher of Sunset Magazine, told The Almanac.

As the publication summed up: “Laws bearing his stamp help protect California’s air and waters, reduce garbage going to land fills, encourage recycling, promote renewable energy, and preserve forests. He has also been strong on health and education.”

Sher brings a decidedly environmental bent to the TRPA. I’m OK with that, since I’ve never seen a Lakefront McMansion (and the fees that go with it) that TRPA didn’t like. When you’re sailing on the lake, you can see the glare from the windows.

Sher is from Palo Alto. But unlike around here, the Tahoe basin doesn’t seem to resent “flatlanders” as much. After all, sometimes they bring some experience and talent to the party. Besides, he now lives in El Dorado County.

Sher’s also a deft negotiator — something that is called for in dealing with the cross-fire of politicans and agencies that have their hand in the Tahoe cookie jar.

Lake Tahoe is a national treasure, and the TRPA needs a seasoned and talented leader such as Sher to help protect it.

I hope Sher is profiled in the local media someday soon.

(credit: photo courtesy of

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

3 thoughts on “Sher: A breath of fresh air at TRPA”

  1. Byron Sher is a good guy. He is exactly what TRPA needs. During the effort to create the Sierra Nevada Conservancy in 2002 and 2004 Sher was a steadfast ally for supporters who brought real intellectual rigor and real world political savvy to the table. Byron has been a great board member on the SNC for several years now.

    The most important thing that he brings to the basin is his ability to reach out and make agreements with people he does not necessarily always agree with. He is a coalition builder as a board member, which is precisely what the TRPA needs.

    The Tahoe basin has been frozen by a series of controversial planning decisions leading to community controversy and litigation in the last several years.

    Some of that controversy is because there are some community members who just don’t want any change. The controversy over the Kings Beach Core Improvement Project is a good example of people who live outside the area affected and do not understand modern urban planning ideas kicking up an irrational fuss and litigating because they lack foresight and vision.

    Some controversy is because environmental organizations who are entrenched in power lack the ability to compromise principles in order to reach issue ending agreements. The argument over the regional plan is a good example of that. Clearly if the basin developed at a greater density of human development, with strict provisions to reduce the footprint, incorporating new technologies to ensure that new development has low impacts, it would be a win-win. But if you are an organization founded on fighting making peace is perceived as the end of your relevance.

    Some controversy is of course a legitimate reaction to a real threat to the Lake.

    Byron is good for the Lake because he has the ability to see all of these and make rational decisions.

  2. Jeff,

    Great to see your blog here. I’ve just joined you in being excommunicated from our local paper. Hurwitz was/is the precursor, along with Milken, to our current crop of greedies. I think I got dumped because I mentioned the treason connection.

    Al Qaeda wants to destroy the USA.
    Taking down the economy would be a good 2nd act.
    The brokers and folks like the former Secretary of Treasury aided and abetted Osama’s cause, with the invention of 4th order derivatives.

    “How could have we have known?” is their version of Bart Simpson’s, “I didn’t do it.”

    It is a bald faced, in-your-face lie.

    Anyone who got paid $200,000/year and up plus bonuses into the millions had a brain very capable of working through the scenarios and the consequences.

    They should be tried, convicted, thrown in jail, and all their assets seized.

    This line of thought is what I think got me ousted from the comment boards. Plus, I got it out in its entirety on Joanne Green’s KGO talk show the other night, 50,000 plus listeners. At the Union, he who has the sharpest pitchfork and brightest torch is removed, ASAP

    My final insult was to use the line, “None Dare Call It Treason.” I guess they considered that copyright infringment.

  3. Nice to cover this Jeff. I agree with what Steve Frisch posted. Byron Sher works with everyone and works for solutions. What a great addition to th effort to help Lake Tahoe and the region.

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