Thursday, January 17, 2013

Loop Road flip flop

EVER SINCE THE Jan. 12 ANNOUNCEMENT in the LTN feature articles  that the Horizion was laying off people and the entire property is set to revert back to Edgewood Properties in March of 2014……it's really got me too thinking about how that might be best utilized as we re-imagine the whole strip from Edgewood to Ski Run. As that corner would be integral  to ANY option for improving mobility there, I tried o conceive a mental picture of what it's best utilitarian (not necessarily economic) function would be.

Believe it or not, I see this as a potentially POSITIVE development. Certainly not for those who lost their jobs. I have been on unemployment 3 times myself times since 2008 so I completely empathize. BUT in the bigger picture of the future, this could prove significant. Here’ why.
There’s been so much contention around the Loop Road—I have argued for an east /west split Loop Road option……..but many questions remain to be answered: what about impact on the economy of the immediate area….and SLT overall? Does tunneling make sense? What’ll it’ll cost? Glass skyways ? What about the hole?
Perhaps what’s needed here is an entirely new perspective. and I'M STARTING TO GET ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE ON THE WHOLE ISSUE..   In fact I might say I've had an ephany about re-reoutinng Hwy.50 at all. Here's why:
With the stated goal of improving walkability/ bikeability and improving traffic flow, I have mentally constructed many alternatives [none include moving he entire stretch behind (south) of the casinos]. That southern route is a beautiful corridor, would eliminate too many aspen groves better suited to hosting gentle walking trails. and would impact far too many property owners.
Having lived and worked in Europe and being very familiar with their ped (and often’pet’) friendly shops and cafee’s, I tried to visualize a similar ambiance here between sky and sun blocking high rise buildings. Somewhow, It’s just not the same at the bottom of a a human made canyon even if traffic is significantly reduced and bike and sidewalk facilities are in.
The REAL views and potential to get people to walk, ride and shop are largely blocked by the the behemoth casino buildings. So, In short , LEAVE THE ROAD WHERE IT IS, Coordinate the traffic lights  maybe even take out one or two, but leave the hwy.  alone otherwise. Enhance the BACKSIDE of the clubs and the adjacent area (and of course, ‘the hole’). On the CA. side we can create quiet, scenic, ped/bike accessable opportunities. We can create an oasis of sorts with unique botique shops, lodging and eateries. Themes are always a way to attract a specific demographic. Anyone view the sunset / sunrise from the street level in casino row??

The trickiest part is what to do with the Horizon property and the whole ‘casinos vs. Ca'. sentiment,. I envision a transit center, landscaped parking , bike etc. rental, pedi-bikes (Rickshaws) and access to electric trollies and EV charging stations. The casinos perhaps have focused their day-time views away from the street scene and a state-of-the-art convention, exposition, entertainment, educational center is constructed at the hole. We must ensure that the entire zone prospers.
Now....I'm moving very far out on a slippery slope. IS it posssible for two states to form some sort of a BID in a specifically defined area? Would that not quiet the voices of NV. vs. CA, if the entire “project” were sharing the entire economic pie?
Would love to hear from some of you MBA’s or anyone who might have an educated opinion on this.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Council Member next big issue

The next big issue to face SLT and the City Council is the appointment or election of a new council memeber as Mayor Claire Fortier stepped down shortly after the general election as she said she would after the TRA Regional Plan was adopted. The 4 sitting council members must vote on nomiees to replace her position and if no consensus is reached, a spcial election would likley have to be called.  This will be contentious  no matter howit comes down. Many locals have voiced suppot fo the 3rd place finisher in recent city council elections: Austin Sass. I happen agree as he would have occuppied the 3rd seat had Clair resigned prior to the election.
IF the council does not listen to the majority, appoints someone else or spends $16K on a special election....that will make for some interesting political theater. Dates to be aware of: January 25 2013….aplications from registered voters and living  in the City of South Lake Tahoe who wish  to be considered must be in. The City Council will then hold a special meting on 1-29 at 9  a.m. to interview and vote on a candidate. If no majority is reached, a special election will be called for June,

This will likely set the sage for how well the council functions for the next 2 years. Hang on to to your butts!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Musings on the events of 2012

As we close the books on 2012 and I myself have some significant down-time, it would seem propitious to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly that this past year of the not-quite Mayan Apocalypse has brought us.

Starting right at 12 midnight 12-31-11 -- 1/1/12 all  of South Lake Tahoe was reverberating with the super-loud electronica sounds coming from the  huge, outdoor SnowGlobe 'music' festival at Lake Tahoe Community College. From a financial perspective, the festival was a huge success bringing in tens of thousands of young music fans at a time of historically low snowfall and mass cancellations due to poor skiing conditions. Clearly the Globers filled in that niche and them some. Many businesses attribute their making it through that season based on the revenues generated by SnowGlobe.. With the use of off-site parking via dedicated transit busses, taffic was, for the most part, handled well.

That was the good part ……. financially…tragically….bad and ugly went hand-in-hand with the good.  The sheer volume and intensity of this bass driven music negatively impacted thousands of near--by (and not so near- by) homes with a rattle and hum that can only be described as torture especially for those not  expecting., enjoying or physically able to tolerate it This includes small children and pets. Deep, bass infrasounds can damage human tissue (sinuses, skull, , sternum, ears, lungs…)    With many older homes in Tahoe, building infrastructure.  was effected from cracks in  stucco walls and actually fractures in old. cement foundations.The vibrations (NOT good ones) shook pictures and statues right off of the walls and mantle pieces.  That was and is completely unacceptable and the citizenry quickly buried the city with calls and complaints. Requests from the city to the promoters to "turn it down" went unheeded. ramping up the anger several more notches.

 In the ensuing days, a City Council Meeting and media reports and posts brought out more people, opinions and vitriol than anny single issue I've witnessed here. There were arguments flying on bothh sides of the issue. "My babay daughter cried for hours until I took her back home ruining the holidays for my mom, me and our grandbabay" , "My cash register hardly stopped ringing", "hey, it's a new generation----suck it up!"  "I had to remove my hearing aids and couuld still fill the bass pounding in my chest and sinuses". So you see, this created a significant schism in our community as it struggles to re-define itself in the 21 st Century from within the stucco towers of it's 1960's infrastructure.

The ugly grew uglier as the extent of the damage to the neighborhoods directly adjacent to the college and to the college sports field itself became apparent. Thousands of plastic cups and cigarette butts and misc. trash was everywhere, peope smoking in windy and dry conditions,(HIGH FIRE DANGER).  Locals intent on sneaking into the festival used known side streets to access the meadow adjacent to the heavily secured college. There they parked cars, yelled, shouted hooted, slammed car doors defecated, vomited and urinated in the meadows, in front of our housess and even on our front lawns. until the wee wee hours of the morning.

Much more can and has been said, but this is a recap so I'll move on through the year until August when this issue raises it's head again  (YES…….AGAIN!) And the City Council decides to give SnowGlobe another chance……with major changes and restrictions. More later…..

ELSEWHERE IN THE TAHOE BASIN, this report was filed  on Feb.. 13, 2012 in the Sierra Sun by Kevin MacMillian about the proposed expansion of the small but surprisingly hip and definitely scenic West Shore  Homewood ski resort :

The group Earthjustice — representing the Friends of the West Shore and Tahoe Area Sierra Club — filed the suit on Jan. 5 in the U.S. District Court of Eastern California against the Homewood Mountain Ski Area Master Plan, naming the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, JMA Ventures (the San Francisco-based company that owns Homewood) and Placer County as defendants. Within the suit, the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore argued that Homewood was related to a September 2010 TRPA Shorezone case heard by Eastern District Federal Judge Lawrence Karlton — who ruled in favor of the Sierra Club and League to Save Lake Tahoe — and requested the Homewood matter be moved to his court, rather than the randomly assigned judge, William Shubb.

On Jan. 30, 2012, a ruling filed by Karlton rejected the request, saying there are different laws involved, and that the Shorezone and Homewood cases involve different development plans and different amendments to the Regional Plan. TRPA officials on Friday praised the ruling, saying in a long press release that the bi-state governing agency received a “positive ruling.”

In a Friday phone interview, Sierra Club spokeswoman Laurel Ames said the ruling was a non-issue.“We thought it made sense to request a judge who had dealt with (TRPA) could deal with it again,” Ames said. “All it does is lengthen the process, for a judge not familiar (with TRPA) to have to start over.”

Despite the Jan. 30 ruling, the guts of the lawsuit remain intact, and it's unclear when a ruling will be offered.

On Dec. 14, 2011, the TRPA Governing Board unanimously approved the Homewood plan. The $500 million project includes construction of a 5-star hotel with up to 75 rooms, 56 residential condominiums, 47 multi-family condominiums, 48 ski-in ski-out chalets, 16 townhomes, 13 workforce housing apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space, along with an additional 40 individually owned condos and 30 individually owned penthouse units.

After filing their suit, the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore referred to the project as “a wall-to-wall mass of buildings that climb 77 feet up the face of the Homewood ski slope” that doesn't fit with the community, and doesn't protect the lake.

“We want a revitalized Homewood Ski Area, but the current project is simply too large,” said Mason Overstreet, conservation director of Friends of the West Shore, in a previous Sierra Sun story. “A smaller resort in scale with the surrounding community would still bring in hundreds of jobs for residents and millions of dollars in revenue to the local area.”

David Tirman, executive vice president of JMA, issued a statement in response to the lawsuit on Jan. 6. “We were disappointed but not necessarily surprised by the appeal...” he told the Sierra Sun. “Five public hearings were held on the project, all of which resulted in unanimous votes of approval of the master plan. The project is considered to be among the most progressive and wide ranging environmental initiatives attempted in the Lake Tahoe basin.”

According to the suit, the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore seek an order vacating the Homewood Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Study prepared jointly by TRPA and Placer County, and its accompanying findings, certifications and approvals. The environmental study and plan for the Homewood project took approximately four years to complete. According to the lawsuit, the project violates numerous environmental and community development standards; the plaintiffs argue Placer County and TRPA ignored and/or changed existing rules to accommodate those issues. END QUOTE

Change is contentious no matter where it is inthe Tahoe Basin. Finding consensus on anything major is hard when one group sees their actions as meeting the need for environmental /economic benefit through development and another group sees only greedy developers ready to rape Tahoes' riches yet again.

an early update:

THE REST OF WINTER AND SPRING 2012 were relatively quiet as snow was slow in coming and did not make for good skiing until later March and April…….too late for businesses to really benefit. Skier days and roomnights were of course below average and the whole town struggling workers were laid off and many businesses had to make do with the one-time larlesss snowglobe brought in Dec. It likely saved some businesses form going under……but at a high cost to the community psyche.

IT TOOK SOME CLASSIC Tahoe Spring weather in April and May to bring us out of our funk and soften the hearts of the community after such a difficult, dry winter. Spring skiing, mountain biking, kayaking and paddling, hiking and gardening were just the prescriptions for soothing the irascible tempers of the polarized community. We were ready fro some serious summer weather, fun and income!  

THE NEXT MILESTONE was the much-anticipated,---years in the planning grand opening of  Lake View Commons. Beach (EL Dorado Beach).  This beautiful facility was scheduled to open a year earlier but in true Tahoe fashion,  dysfunctional city staffers and Council members were in over their heads…..AGAIN. Seems even the city Attorney (soon to be gone…good riddence)  is incompetent. On Nov. 1 2010,  South Lake Tahoe officials and the City Council were given a written reprimand by the judge overseeing the Lakeview Commons contract dispute.. El Dorado Superior Judge Steven Baily put it this way:
"Though the outcome does not alter the decision rendered in court last month, the 30-page document explains why he sided with plaintiffs Clark & Sullivan. The construction firm sued to have work at Lakeview Commons stopped under the belief the bid was unfairly awarded to Reeve-Knight Construction. The court document is a blow-by-blow recount of how city staff practically held Reeve-Knight’s hand to get the documents in proper order. That's illegal. Despite much of this coming out during two summer City Council meetings, all but Councilman Jerry Birdwell agreed to go forward with awarding RKC the bid.'

LIKE A BLOCKBUSTER MOVIE that was poorly managed, waaay over budget and a year behind schedule, Lake View Commons had it's grand opening on June 20, 2012 and almost instantly became a great success story. Along with new landscaping that included a pick nick /bar-b-que area at street level and stabilizing the the steep, eroding dirt cliff  down to the beach by terracing it with granite slabs that created both stairs and seating for hundreds, a Gold level LEED certified boathouse (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) hosts a nice snack shop and bathrooms on the upper level and a boathouse for storage and rental of non-motorized watercraft below at the boat ramp. Chris Bracketts' business Tahoe Stand Up won the bid to rent all manner of of non motoized watercraft and  from Stand Up Paddle Boards (SUP) to kayaks and peddle boats. Chris his wife Jennifer along with their NINE children hustle to meet the demand. They host a Weddnesday evening SUP race series as well and it's sometimes hard to find a spot to watch or participate because it's so popular.
Every Thursday starting June 28 through Sept. 6 from 4-8:30pm a different band performed on a temporary stage built in the sand. Spectators can sit – for free – on the terraced area or up top where there are picnic tables.  A bicycle valet area was established because HUNDREDS of people showed up on their mountain bikes, cruisers and customs and that is a show in itself. A beer consession and booths are always busy on concert nights. Pretty soon, people started anchoring their boats close off shore toenjoy the free concerts. All of this is framed by the sun setting directly to the west creating a shimmering effect on majestic Lake Tahoe.

NEXT ISSUE WAS THE EVER CONTENTIOUS Loop Road proposal. As I've already written extensively about this, no more need be said for now other than several workshops were held to gather public  input and ideas, but just like the fight over the national fiscal cliff, agreement on how to proceed is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

I am brewing a plan that just might get enough support to achieve consensus but will wait until it has been further fleshed out to post it here. Stay Tuned!!!

ON AUGUST 21, 2012, the City Council voted to bring SnowGlobe back for another try. It was time to consider weather another such an economic shot in the general fund should be considered. This time much more stringent regulations have beeen put in place including: a serious reduction on both decibels and bass output. Producers were required to put up a $50K deposit to cover potential fines, clean-up costs or other unforeseen issues.. Sound monitors would ensure that limits are not exceeded. Many of us gave input and then just trusted in the process.

With another summer season  in the bag, we prepared for the slow fall season,  Gas prices were high in the summer and that most certainly affected visitation. Business in general was lackluster. At lease it was a beautiful Indian Summer and many locals and some visitors made the most of it.

WITH THE HOLIDAY SEASON now looming, we were excited to get early snow. To most everyones delight, we ended up with one of the the snowiest  Decembers ON RECORD  and ski season opened with a bang…….or a whooooosh.

SnowGlobe went off without the problems of last time and  even the frosty temps could not dampen the spirit of the music fest attracting 30K + people. A fitting way to close out 2012 and welcome 2013!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Loop Road plans advance

 Today the (LTN)  posted a notice of an open house hosted by the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) on Dec.13 from 4-6 pm at Harvey's Emerald Bay B  Room. The TTD will be presenting the top Loop Road alternatives that resulted from two fairly recent public workshops.

This process is very important as the Loop Road / Hole issue present us with the most significant opportunity to plan and undertake a massive redevelopment project that is vital to updating the dated bed base portion of town that currently sports an almost 11 acre hole where a failed project has left a fenced off concrete forest.  It is absolutely VITAL for us to move forward with this project as the tourism model of the 21st century demands better facilities that are in harmony with their surroundings. We don't currently meet that standard and will continue to "lurch from crisis to crisis instead of recognizing the opportunities and challenges of the future"  as voiced by futurist Alvin Toffler.. Some other favorite Toffler quotes:

"Idea-assassins rush forward to kill any new suggestion on the grounds of its impracticality, while defending whatever now exists as practical, no matter how absurd."
"Knowledge is the most democratic source of power."
"Knowledge is promiscuous. It mates and gives birth to more knowledge."

 I feel very strongly that a community sourced and honed plan to reinvent the area between Mt. Bleu / Horizon on the NV. side and  roughly between Pioneer  Trail / Hwy. 50 and Ski Run Blvd. /Hwy. 50. in CA. will benefit the lake, the economy on both sides of the stateline, the community and our future.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

And now for some good news.

Nice to have news of actual  progress to report on. The Sat. 12-1-12 Tahoe Daily Tribune reports that  El Dorado County and the city of South Lake Tahoe have jointly developed the Parks, Trails, and Recreation Master Plan — or at least a plan to make a plan which is to be a blueprint for expanding recreation at  South Lake Tahoe for the next 10 years.

This is a crucial component in transforming the Tahoe economy from a steadily declining gaming based economy to an outdoor recreation, health & wellness, green innovation and high altitude research and training center based economy.
 Read the full article here:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A good old house cleaning

Nothing like a good old house cleaning to shed some light in the musty corners of city politics. In the past week it was announced the South Lake Tahoe City Attorney Patrick Enright will not seek to have his contract renewed. Following a string of questionable and ultimately expensive (for the city) decisions made  by Mr. Enright, this opens the door to bring in someone with a more focused and nuanced approach to guiding the city through the challenging but rife with opportunity times ahead.

On Nov. 28 it was reported in the LakeTahoe that the newly minted (4 mos.) city finance director Michael Nakama will be leaving at the end of the year. Seems Mr. Nakama has never worked in the public sector and just didn't "fit". here. Would love to know the exact reasons for his departure.

Candidates for both these key positions can now thoroughly vetted and interviewed by a newly configured City Council and our sharp as a tack city manager Nancy Kerry. Time to shake of mantle of mediocrity and get busy with the task of transforming ourselves into the type of resort destination worthy of it's stunning environment.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Environmental community schism

Please take a moment to read the following article which appeared on the Lake Tahoe website on Nov. 16. Please pay particular attention to the posts by Stephen Frisch as they are germane to the critical issue of finding solidarity behind a plan. Interesting how at this writing there are 16 posts on this topic and 26 posts about the demise of Twinkies. I weep for the future.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Poor voter turnout in SLT

Well, the stats are in: Less than 53% of eligible voters in South Lake Tahoe actually bothered to vote. This is a sad commentary on citizen involvement. Are so many people just fed up with the mistakes of the past that they don't bother anymore? Do we now have a new demographic that is too self-absorbed, lazy or "busy" to familiarize themselves with the issues and vote? In any case, a very small majority made the decisions for the entire city. If you didn't vote, don't even THINK of complaining about the outcome if it's not to your liking!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Loop Road contiinues to dominate discussion

Well, the Loop Road issue continues to dominate the discussion on as evidenced by the number of posts on the subject. It is also becoming a bit of a flashpoint in the City Council race in the up-coming election:


As I re-read past posts on this issue going back to June of this year, I see the discussion becoming more focused and solution-oriented. This is EXACTLY what needs to happen as the community of South Lake Tahoe continues to weigh in and strive to find consensus behind a plan. It gives me hope that we as a community are making headway on achieving solidarity on how to move ourselves and our region into a model of sustainable tourism. The link to the following article is a good example of how the discussion is evolving as it continues to inform and shape peoples understanding of how we got to this juncture and how we might best proceed:


I look forward to continuing this discussion and taking part in the democratic process of soliciting for community sourced ideas on designing a sustainable future for our region.     Tom Wendell

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Where do we start?

“For the times they are a-changin.” These words and the complete lyrics from Bob Dylan’s 1964 anthem about the need for and inevitability of change have proved to be prophetic as they are even more relevant today...almost 50 years later:

“Come senators, congressmen please heed the call. Don’t stand in the doorway don’t block up the hall for he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled.....for the times they are a-changin.”

Stalled is perhaps the best way to describe the past decades of slow creep towards sustainability here in the Lake Tahoe Basin. While many resort destinations have been moving forward in great leaps to transition to a future that absolutely must be based on the principles of sustainability, Lake Tahoe is still wobbling along unsteadily taking only baby steps. As one of the worlds’ heritage places and a designated Outstanding  Natural Resource Water under the Federal Clean Water Act,  Lake Tahoe should rightfully be on the leading edge of the movement toward environmental and economic sustainability.....but it’s not.

 The history of development in the Lake Tahoe Basin set the stage for todays challenges. Unregulated and poorly planned development and transportation infrastructure during the 1950‘s and 60‘s led to much more stringent regulation from the 70’s forward.  However, in such a heavily regulated environment, the myriad of entities involved in the crucial role of restoring,  protecting and managing Lake Tahoe’s physical environment have frequently been at odds with one another. This has resulted in cumbersome, conflicting and even illogical regulations.....and lawsuits. Decades of these often counterproductive rules, regs and litigation have stifled investment and actually hampered some recent efforts to improve the built environment and lessen it’s impact on the lake. (Current research suggests that upwards of 70% of the sediment that impacts water clarity comes from urban runoff). This has left communities like South Lake Tahoe stuck in a time warp of sorts with a built environment that is largely dated, deteriorating and severely out of sync with its’ stunning setting.

 BUT WAIT!!......To be fair, positive developments are taking place on many fronts because --in fact--‘the times they are a-chaingin’!  After years of endless, repetitive, planning with little to show for it, a tipping point has at last been reached.  It’s FINALLY become clear to all the players (agencies, governments, business and environmental interests) that we have arrived at a critical juncture where cooperation, collaboration and CHANGE are the only reasonable options left.  The challenge now is to find consensus on what shape that change takes and at what pace it will occur. Some advocate for small, incremental steps while others believe, as I do, that in order to move our infrastructure and economy into the 21st Century before we fall further behind, a major transformation must take place-----especially (but certainly not exclusively) in the Tahoe Basin’s largest community and only incorporated city-----South Lake Tahoe (SLT).

In 2007,  a coalition of  Chambers of  Commerce and  all six of the Tahoe Basin’s local governments collaborated in securing a grant that ultimately produced the Prosperity Plan document in Fall 2010. Authors of the Prosperity Plan translated community input into a vision of the region that states, “The Lake Tahoe Basin is a world class center of innovation and green tourism, green building and sustainable design, scientific research and applications for environmental resource renewal and management, renewable energies, and health and wellness.” Emphasis of the Plan is on transforming Tahoe into “a sustainability powerhouse”. This is a great vision but it my humble opinion...take a massive effort and  major transformation to achieve that vision in time to save the lake and its’ economy to create a sustainable, world-class destination resort

There have been some recent on-the-ground developments that are inching us closer to becoming a resort destination worthy of Tahoe’s stunning physical environment. In SLT, the Lakeview Commons project is a good example, as is the passage by voters of Measure R which updated the way money can be spent on bike paths and ball fields. New multi-use paths will soon improve non-motorized connectivity, older ones will be repaired and ball sports tournaments will bring economic benefit.  Sustainable Tahoe, a non-profit formed to promote geotourism in the region recently held it’s second Tahoe Expo, a geotourism showcase. The Sustainability Collaborative is also working basin-wide to help implement the Basin Prosperity Plan. Compost Tahoe is a collaboration between several South Shore restaurants, South Tahoe Refuse and Full Circle Compost to collect food scraps for composting for later use in community gardens. These positive developments came about after much public outreach and input from the community and thus garnered wide support. This trend must be continued and greatly accelerated.

That brings me to the purpose of this blog. This blog is intended to be a magnet, repository and resource for community sourced ideas for finding solutions to the challenges facing the Lake Tahoe Basin. I envision this blog as a place where any project, proposal or challenge that exists anywhere in the Tahoe Basin can be discussed and civilly debated by those most familiar with the specific issues.* From Loop Road proposals to Homewood Ski Area expansion to proposed bans on plastic shopping bags, all issues relating to change (or lack thereof) in the Tahoe Basin can and should be exposed, discussed and solutions suggested. Here you have a forum where your ideas can be shared, debated and honed until they find consensus within the community. Any plan, large or small MUST  have public input and support to move forward. Solidarity amongst those who live, work, play and pay taxes here is not’s essential. I believe that this is a far more democratic and cost-effective method of visioning and planning than relying on agency dictates and paying for outside consultants...a practice that has cost us taxpayers far too much money for far too little return on investment. It’s also easier, not to mention more environmentally  friendly, than driving to endless meetings. A massive brain trust exists in the form of those who live in and visit the Tahoe Basin, are familiar with the issues and concerned about Tahoe’s future. Let’s tap into this wealth of knowledge, experience, expertise and passion to find solutions that are crafted and endorsed by WE THE PEOPLE!

    *    Any  applicable topic can be populated with ideas, suggestions and critique by those who wish to contribute their knowledge and experience in a CIVIL and SOLUTION ORIENTED manner. As administrator, I will not tolerate personal attacks or foul language on this site. The demeanor of this blog is to have civil, fact based, data-driven discussions that are solution oriented. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. If you want to rage and spew....please go elsewhere.

To start the discussion, I’d like to begin with two large, separate but inexorably linked and potentially transformative ‘projects’.  I’m talking about South Lake Tahoe’s Loop Road proposal and “the Hole”. For background on these projects, please visit the following media sites and type those topics into the search box:

The Loop Road and hole debacles actually represent an opportunity to massively transform our town----and ourselves----from a has-been resort town with extremely polarized politics to an example of green, high-tech resort living with a consensus driven citizenry. In order to move forward, we must have community solidarity on how we view our future before any entity will consider the massive investments needed to bring us into the 21st century.  From my perspective, any Loop Road project MUST include a solid, funded plan for the hole. Since both are located in the core of our bed base and are currently adversely affecting our economy and quality of life, both need to be addressed simultaneously. Additionally, the the 12 acre hole area is integral to to the loop road as a place to relocate the few viable businesses that may be sacrificed to make room for the Loop Road.

First, the Loop Road proposal. I have long suggested an east-bound west- bound split of Hwy. 50 around a newly configured walkable, bikeable, transit served core zone on both sides of the state line. That means utilizing the current Loop Road  / Lake Parkway S. to the south and Lake Parkway N. and Pine Blvd. to the north. The road width for such a split largely exists both north and south of the core although some deviation from their current alignments would be necessary  to properly intersect with “old” Hwy. 50.

 No matter which Hwy. 50 re-alignment option (if any) is chosen, some current businesses would have to be retired or relocated to accommodate reconfigured intersections, snow removal, runoff treatment infrastructure and landscaping. Many (if not most) of the aging lodging properties surrounding Stateline are running well below occupancy rates necessary to make them financially sustainable. Also, recent data presented by Carl Ribaudo through SMG demonstrates that South Lake Tahoe has excess low-end lodging capacity which is driving down occupancy and room rates. Even if they had or could borrow the money, owners of these struggling properties are rightfully hesitant to upgrade due to the many uncertainties in the general and local economy, a complicated permitting system and a lack of a clear plan for the area. It would be easy to identify the poorest performing properties and offer the owners fair compensation. I would suggest that a percentage of those owners would like to retire or move on and would welcome a buy-out. Properties that are financially viable that need to be relocated could be offered space in the 12 acre hole area where they would become part of a new, green built center for lodging, food, entertainment, education, recreation and conventions.

To create an alignment that is purely data driven and free of any political considerations or NIMBYism, I have suggested using a CAD program which uses an aerial photo of the core area along with all the current traffic data to create a preliminary alignment. Then to refine that rough draft, we further factor in the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) data as well as data on service calls to law enforcement, emergency responders, building dept., and any other entity that provides service to those core zone properties.  This will give a more complete picture of how a realignment of Hwy.50 through the core zone would achieve the objective of freeing up space for a more walkable / bikeable / transit served center while eliminating financially underperforming and problem properties.

For the hole, I envision a mixed-use, food & lodging, entertainment, convention and educational center. Imagine a place where not only new businesses and those relocated for Hwy 50 realignment can thrive, but also a HUGE, green constructed, high-tech multi-purpose building that could be configured for everything from conventions to large music, entertainment or educational events. I envision this building to built mostly below ground level with a ‘living roof’  above creating a park-like setting and perhaps even a geodesic dome greenhouse providing fresh produce year-round to surrounding restaurants. Inside, the walls would be hi-tech screens that could project any scene from real-time outside conditions, to the Grand Canyon to the moon. That would give us a one-of-a-kind venue that would attract conventions, concerts, seminars, etc. If we ever hope to reinvent our economy while protecting our environment, we have THINK BIG to have any chance of catching up with and surpassing other destination resorts that are currently out-competing us in attracting the 21st Century visitor.

Getting people around the area efficiently is a major problem here. Limited transportation options are a serious roadblock to sustainability and are FINALLY being seriously addressed. Everything from water taxies to expanded walking / biking infrastructure to coordinated traffic signals are at long last getting more serious attention. Along with the deplorable state of such a large number of our structures, our entire 60’s vintage transit system is keeping us mired in the mediocrity of being a second rate resort destination located in a world class environment. A properly done loop road  / hole project would improve traffic flow and greatly enhance walk/bike-ability in our bed-base.  The debate about how we go about changing that is both necessary and fruitful.
 I look forward to hearing YOUR ideas!