Backlash simmers on Kings Beach roundabouts |

Backlash simmers on Kings Beach roundabouts

Despite a public endorsement of traffic roundabouts in the planning for the Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement project, some in the North Shore community are lobbying for traffic signals on Highway 28.

The North Tahoe Business Association was among those who endorsed roundabouts and large sidewalks at a hearing in Kings Beach last week of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board. A week earlier, participants at a public workshop favored both proposals with roundabouts and three traffic lanes over the alternative with four traffic lanes and signal-controlled intersections.

But some who attended the bistate agency meeting last week complained of bias in the planning process in favor of roundabouts, saying their views had been overlooked. Sue Daniels told the governors that frustrated Kings Beach residents and business owners had formed the Kings Beach Business and Citizen’s Alliance to lobby for a highway with four lanes and stoplights.

The group supports the improvement project’s Alternative 3, which was eliminated at the last workshop in a Monopoly-inspired investment exercise that narrowed down the four alternatives to the two most popular. Alternatives 4 and 2 received the most game-money, $86,000 and $62,600 respectively, with Alternative 3 trailing at $46,400.

Alliance member Tamara Blanco said some of the group’s 60 members were unaware of the importance of the straw poll.

In an interview after the TRPA meeting, Daniels said pedestrian safety, on-street parking and traffic flow should be the top priorities in the Kings Beach makeover. Daniels said roundabouts would gridlock traffic in downtown Kings Beach during the peak season, diverting drivers onto back-streets, and increase the risk for pedestrians, especially around the elementary school and the Boys and Girls Club. Additionally, small business owners need on-street parking year-round for their survival, and are also concerned about sidewalk maintenance, she said.

“I’ve come to feel really sympathetic to what these business people are saying,” Daniels said. “I feel that they should be heard.”

A Kings Beach resident, Daniels is a Tahoe City real-estate broker and a director with the North Tahoe Public Utility District.

She said alliance members are speaking with traffic specialists, studying the Environmental Impact Report and circulating a petition in favor of Alternative 3. The group has gathered more than 300 signatures so far, Daniels said.

Other alliance members suggested that planners slanted the process for roundabouts and did not acknowledge support for Alternative 3.

“You get the feeling when you go into these meetings that the people who are running it are trying to be nice, but they’ve kind of already got some of these ideas in their head,” said Deborah Crosby, a business owner in downtown Kings Beach.

Workshop organizers denied the accusations. Program Manager David Polivy of the Sierra Business Council, which organized the workshops, said participation was open to the entire community.

“The workshops have been open, equitable and inclusive of all who wish to participate, and that is evident by the approximately 300 people who attended workshop two and over 175 who attended workshop one,” Polivy said. “For [the alliance] to feel that they were not involved is unfair to the other people in the community who made an effort to be involved.”

The Business Council’s Steve Frisch denied any bias toward one alternative over another.

“I can honestly tell you we went into this workshop with nothing but a desire to help identify what the wishes of a majority of the people in the community were,” Frisch said.

Alliance members met with Placer County and Sierra Business Council officials Thursday to air their views. They complained about the lack of opportunity to make their case for Alternative 3 at the public workshops, but Polivy said that was not the purpose of the public forums.

“All of the public meetings … have been meant to reach community consensus,” Polivy said. “Therefore no one person and no single group has been allowed to address the larger groups during this process.”

Frisch said he encourages advocates for Alternative 3 to continue expressing their opinions to the governing agencies and at public workshops.

Ken Grehm, Placer County’s director of public works, said participants in the public planning process share an important goal.

“There’s two fundamentally different thoughts, although they all want what they believe is best for Kings Beach,” Grehm said.

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