How to Build on Vacant Land in Tahoe Basin Area- LAKE TAHOE

The Lake Tahoe Area is rigorous on the regulations and restrictions to build on land. There are regulations in place to maintain its inherent and indigenous environmental conditions primarily to protect its uncommon environment. In fact, the codes mandate upgrades to existing homes simply for this reason.

 Apart from the usual Building Department Permit requirements for new construction, the Lake Tahoe basin has the Tahoe Regional Planning Association (TRPA) that demands certain criteria to be met. TRPA puts most consideration on the Size and Area of a parcel. The criteria to determine buildable coverage revolve around factors as type of dirt, slope, or anything that will have an affect of on Lake Tahoe.

Vacant building permit fees for a parcel depend on the area. Prices vary from $45 to $55,000 dependant on the size of the structure you want to build (approx. 1500-3000 sq. ft). In addition you may only begin building May 1 to October 15. Of course, this is Lake Tahoe weather dependant and will change accordingly.

TRPA assigns each parcel a score. This score is called the Individual Parcel Evaluation System (IPES). To begin construction in the Tahoe basin the IPES scores are as follows:

Buildable IPES Scores Per County:

Douglas= 1
Washoe= 1
El Dorado= 1
Placer= 726

The state of California allows an owner of a lot with an IPES score within 10% of the cutoff, to participate in the IPES Limited Incentive Program.

An example using this score would be a lot with an IPES score of 718. In Placer County one would need 8 points to bring it to the base score to 726. In Placer County, the maximum number of additional points that will be given is 72 (10% of buildable). Each IPES point cost $672  (up to cut-off score).

Therefore, in Placer county, if the size of the parcel/ lot was given a IPES score of 718 it would need 8 more points to fulfill the requirement of 726. Currently, the maximum number of additional points that will be given to a parcel is 72 for Placer County (10% of buildable). IPES points may be purchased at $672 per point up to the cut-off score.

The Coverage refers to the amount of ground you may cover when building. Coverage only includes impervious material/elements such as the house, driveway, decks and such. If the lot has a low coverage amount, you can purchase additional coverage, up to 20% or a minimum of 1800 square feet, regardless of the lot size up to 1/3 acre. The cost is at $10 a square foot. A typical home usually is from 1800-2000 square feet. Currently, there is very limited and or no extra available coverage. 

Click Below to read more on TRPA


When transferring coverage, the hydrological zone is relevant. One may only transfer coverage in the same hydrological zone. Below is a map on the Hydrologic

Click Below to read see Hydrological Map     



 Best Management Practices (BMP’s) is the “structural and nonstructural practices proven effective in soil erosion control and management of surface runoff in the Lake Tahoe Region.” All homes that exist or are built in the Lake Tahoe area have regulations to uphold these practices. Both residential and commercial real estate need to implement Best Management Practices (BMP). The requisite depend on the site, it can be simple drain install to a slope change.

 Please contact my team for more information for your property and to learn more about buying and selling your home with Century 21. Kelly Smith / 530-546-8224 / kel@ltol.com



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