Kings Beach hopes to become crown jewel of Lake Tahoe
March 18, 2010
KINGS BEACH, Calif. and#8212; For years, Kings Beach constituents have been confronting a challenging problem with the neighborhoodand#8217;s reputation. Locals outside the community between Incline Village and Tahoe City were not shy about describing the unincorporated town as a place to consolidate the regionand#8217;s affordable housing and the working class, rather than as a tourist destination for visitors to shop and stay.
And luxury hotel developments that garnered approval in nearby Northstar and Truckee and#8212; The Ritz-Carlton and The Avery Hotel and#8212; have put more pressure on Kings Beachand#8217;s leaders to improve the decades-old infrastructure, or lose ground on returning Kings Beach to where it was two decades ago and#8212; a viable and popular visitor and tourist area.
But all that is changing. The January approval of the $48 million Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement Project is altering the perception of what the area could be, said Theresa May Duggan.
and#8220;If you go through Kings Beach you can feel the energy and optimism about the project; itand#8217;s just palpable,and#8221; said Duggan, a board member for the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation. and#8220;For so many years itand#8217;s been hurry up and wait, and now itand#8217;s just hurry up.and#8221;
Perry Deas, owner of Lake Tahoe Specialty Stove and Fireplace, couldnand#8217;t agree more.
and#8220;Itand#8217;s not about getting from point A to point B, which is roughly a mile and#8212; itand#8217;s making people aware of whatand#8217;s in town here,and#8221; said Deas, adding that cars often drive past his shop at speeds of 40 miles per hour or more. and#8220;Businesses suffer when itand#8217;s like a freeway going through here. We have to slow the traffic down and#8212; people are just driving way to fast through town.and#8221;
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The project will restructure the communityand#8217;s downtown main street from a four-lane roadway to three lanes with roundabouts. Peter Kraatz, deputy director of public works with Placer County, said staff plans to begin the projectand#8217;s traffic management plan before the July 4 weekend and#8212; pending federal approval and#8212; to accommodate an anticipated influx of holiday traffic.
The proposed traffic plan, Kraatz said, would install seasonal speed bumps and speed-deflecting traffic circles throughout busy streets a block away from Highway 28.
and#8220;We still need approval … for federal compliance with environmental laws and that should be in the next month,and#8221; said Kraatz, adding that the Federal Highway Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, will work with Caltrans for approval.
In two months, Kraatz said the county hopes to have a design contract in place and final building permits from the Placer County Board of Supervisors for the entire three-lane project. The goal remains for the full project to begin May 2011 and finish in fall 2013.
Kraatz said he does not anticipate the last piece of funding and#8212; about $16 million and#8212; to be difficult and should come via stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
and#8220;Weand#8217;re still looking for funding, but Iand#8217;m confident once we get into the design details the money will become available to us,and#8221; he said.
Yet, not everyone is as eager to see the change.
Kathleen Langely, co-owner of Lucky Seven Tattoo Parlor, said she is opposed to traffic buildup during peak hours, and a loss of parking options for her customers.
and#8220;I think itand#8217;s going to hinder business because traffic is just going to be a pain,and#8221; Langely said.
However, she said she looks forward to having sidewalks installed and other community and roadside improvements proposed.
In the middle stands Alex Brambila, owner of Las Panchitas. Brambila said he feels wedged between the two sides, seeing positives to both arguments.
and#8220;Itand#8217;s kind of hard for me to say anything because I have so many good customers who like what theyand#8217;re doing and others who donand#8217;t,and#8221; Brambila said.
While he initially doubted the project in the beginning for a lack of parking, Brambila said he still has an open mind and will judge the project after itand#8217;s completed.
and#8220;… I think anything thatand#8217;s an improvement will be good for the town; thatand#8217;s the way I feel,and#8221; he said.
Dave Ferrari, owner of the Ferrari Crown Motel, said the traffic management plan and the restructured road will be safer for pedestrians and#8212; and help revitalize the communityand#8217;s downtown.
and#8220;Iand#8217;m feeling like for the first time in awhile thereand#8217;s some excitement because this is going to come forward,and#8221; he said.