Parking in Tahoe City remains a concern for many, and even a plan to provide an increase in spaces has some shaking their heads.
The Tahoe City Downtown Association hosted a community forum Thursday for Placer County and the Tahoe City Marina to share details related to the marina expansion project and proposed new parking garage.
Plans for a parking structure in the Tahoe City marina area have been in the works for years, said Jim LoBue, Placer County Redevelopment Agency program coordinator.
But now the plans are starting to take shape.
The 3-story garage will hold 137 parking spaces and is slated to begin construction in the spring of 2008. The garage should be up and running in 2009, Rae James, deputy director of the Placer Redevelopment Agency, said in a previous interview.
Parking has been pinpointed as a priority for the Tahoe City community, spurred in part by a 2003 parking study that said the town was short by about 170 spaces, said LoBue.
“Parking is something that’s very important to the success or lack of success of a business,” he said.
The first phase of the marina expansion and the parking garage have already been approved by Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Placer county, said Tahoe City Marina general manager Jim Phelan.
The agencies approved the environmental documents in 2005 and in March. The various projects are now in the permitting process.
The marina expansion will include 81 new boat slips, the rebuilding of the harbormaster building and construction of the parking structure.
The Tahoe City Public Utility District is also working with the marina to relocate a pump station into the new harbormaster building.
The parking garage is considered a Redevelopment Agency project because the marina donated the land for the structure to aid Tahoe City’s parking deficit, Phelan said.
The redevelopment agency is now responsible for construction and will own, operate and maintain the garage when it is completed.
The agency has budgeted $14 million for the project, though the current estimate is closer to $8 million, said LoBue.
“In this case we’ve gone really conservative and padded the excess,” he said.
Compared to the project approved by the county and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, architects have modified the design, in part due to the view obstruction to longtime Tahoe City restaurant Wolfdales.
The height of the structure has been lowered to 25 feet, with about 6 feet below ground. Additionally the third-floor entrance has been moved to the east side of The Back Country.
“In talking to Wolfdales we came to the decision it was going to block their views,” said Placer County senior redevelopment specialist Candace Rousselet. “[The parking structure] will impact them but not nearly as much as in the environmental document that went through in 2005.”
Wolfdales’ owners Kathleen and Douglas Dale said that Tahoe City indeed needs parking, but that the site and the size of the garage is all wrong. But they’re working with the county to influence as best they can details of structure height, aesthetics and times of construction.
“At the moment [the garage] seems way too beneficial only to the marina. I’m not convinced yet it’s for the members of the town,” Douglas said. “But we’re trying to keep the communication lines open. We’re trying to speak up with a smile.”
The view corridor, funding source and impact of construction are at the forefront of reasons why some critics don’t want to see the Tahoe City Marina three-story parking garage constructed.
But others say parking is indeed a priority and the new garage will address the deficit.
“I do believe we have a shortage or parking in Tahoe City, especially during our peak summers when we need to accommodate our tourists. This won’t solve all our problems, but it’s one step towards the bigger picture,” said Carol Hester, owner of Geared for Games in the Boatworks Mall.
Garwoods owner Tom Turner agreed that everybody will be impacted by the mess of construction, but that the structure will ultimately benefit the business community.
“What we need is parking right now,” Turner said. “What Tahoe City needs is parking.”
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A chance of rain and snow for the high country later this week will disappear by Wednesday night, only to return for the weekend, the National Weather Service said.