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!