An affordable neighborhood
November 21, 2008
KINGS BEACH ” Two dark-haired girls sit beneath the duct-taped windows of Kings Beach home, coloring worksheets from school for social studies class. An ice cream truck drives by, playing “America the Beautiful” in the background.
“I like living here,” said Victoria Lezo, a 13-year-old North Tahoe Middle School student. “We have a better life here. We’re closer to the school and stores and there are more jobs here.”
Her 9-year-old kid sister, Susana, grinned in agreement.
“What she said,” the Kings Beach Elementary School student added.
The Lezo sisters live in the mobile home park in Kings Beach near Fox Street and Brook Avenue. It’s a cluster of mismatched homes, some more cared for than others. Many with tarp shielding the roofs.
Up the street a new home is under construction. Beach-colored wood outlines the future two story home, on a lot with enough space for a large backyard.
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In the North Shore Trailer Park, also called the Trails by some of its residents, children play soccer in the makeshift streets. The space between the homes is sometimes barely 6 feet.
“It’s very different when you cross the street,” said Alli Berry, who was taking an evening walk with her baby and husband David. “One house is very cute and on the other side it’s not so cute. You’ll see trailer homes.”
The contrast reflects a larger Kings Beach challenge, where area leaders are trying to increase the value of the town while keeping it affordable to the workforce upon which the region depends.
Juan Luis Cervantes lives one of the homes at The Trails with his mother Mo Trinidad Angel.
He said his family moved to Lake Tahoe from Frias, Mexico, for many of the reasons visitors come to the basin each year ” the crystal blue waters.
Most of his family lives in the Truckee Meadows area, from Carson to Reno to Tahoe Vista to Truckee.
While he likes the lake and being close to his family, he said his family doesn’t like living in Kings Beach because of the crowded streets and some dilapidated buildings.
The Trails has been home for four years.
“We’re not comfortable, but it’s more cheap than a house or an apartment,” Cervantes said.
Lots at the mobile home park are $420 a month, said property manager Gonzalo Garcia, although maintenance is up to the renter. Most of the trailer homes have two to three bedrooms and house full families, he said.
“All the places everywhere are more money,” Garcia said. “Even the least expensive apartments cost a lot.”
Classified listings showed two bedroom family homes in the Kings Beach area renting for upwards of $1,150 a month.
“There is a tremendous housing need in the Kings Beach community,” said Jim LoBue, assistant director of the Placer County Redevelopment Agency. “There is a lot of overcrowding.”
He spoke of families living in small vacation cottages or converted motel rooms.
“People live there because the community does not have enough newer affordable workforce housing, despite the fact the area’s economy depends on people working in the service sector who need housing and transportation,” LoBue said.
Placer County Redevelopment Agency is working with San Francisco-based Domus Development to develop 74 units of family rental housing in Kings Beach.
“It is a key part of our effort,” he said.
Mobile home parks in the Tahoe Basin are governed by a number of agencies ” from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to the State of California to the county. Each government has different rules and areas they can govern.
For their parts, the TRPA and Placer County handle the zoning of mobile parks.
In the Kings Beach area, new mobile home parks are not allowed under the community plan’s code but existing parks can be can be grandfathered in, said TRPA Spokesman Dennis Oliver.
“There isn’t an enforcement thing where you would go out and red tag this structure because it was nonconforming,” Oliver said. “There’s no war on trailer parks. They’re going to be there as long as the tenants and the property owner wants them to be there.”
As for the property maintenance and the construction, compliance and use of the individual homes, that falls under the State of California’s Department of housing and Community Development.
The department will investigate an area in response to complaints or the observations of its inspectors, said Division of Codes and Standards Chief of Operations Chris Anderson. After that, it will cite the owner of the property and the homeowner for gross healthy and safety risks like fire hazards and raw sewage.
Under state law, the department has more leeway for enforcement when it comes to less immediate infractions like spacing between homes or appearance.
“There are a lot of things you need to look at with these older parks,” Anderson said.
“People who live there are usually low income and are renting the space and the home. They have no where to go. There is a social issue. We can’t consider it, but we can’t deny it. We have to work within it.”