Kings Beach Latinos bus to meeting to support affordable housing
In a room overflowing with Tahoe’s leaders, 20-year-old Ana Ramos stood at the podium to tell the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Governing Board about her very personal need for quality housing that she could afford.
Wednesday’s crowded and controversial Tahoe Regional Planning Agency meeting was Ramos’ first.
She told the 15-member governing board about two of her friends, who work hard just to provide for their families, but end up without much time to spend with their children. She described her own home ” a small space in Kings Beach where she lives with her seven-month-old son, Yahir, and her husband, who couldn’t attend the meeting because he was working.
“[My son] doesn’t have any space to play,” Ramos said. By the end of her speech, tears welled up in her eyes.
Ramos was one of 13 Latino Kings Beach residents who came to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency meeting to show their support for the Domus Development affordable housing proposal. Domus is one of nine projects the governing board invited to continue in the Community Enhancement Program on Wednesday.
“There are community members who care about where they live and how they live,” said Sylvia Ambriz, executive director of the family resource center.
Only a few of the 13 spoke at the podium, but a statement was made simply by their physical presence at the meeting.
“When you put faces ” when you can connect faces and see real people who are affected by [the issue] ” it’s powerful,” said Dennis Oliver, spokesman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “That’s how you get stuff done.”
The North Tahoe Family Resource Center and the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, among a handful of other local nonprofits and Community Enhancement Program applicants, sponsored a bus that cost $465 to take those 13 people to the meeting.
“[The Latino] voices aren’t being heard,” said George Koster, an affordable housing advocate who coordinated the bus ride. “Because they can’t afford to get to a meeting in the middle of the day.”
It wasn’t easy for those 13 Latinos to come to the meeting.
The family resource center provided additional childcare services on Wednesday and sent someone to pick up their children when school got out.
At least another 13 expressed interest in attending the meeting, said Blanca Barron, who spread the word about the bus.
But most couldn’t afford to take the day off from work to attend the meeting.
“I could have stayed at home,” said Gladis Marshall, on the bus ride home. “But I like to be involved in the community. And help the Hispanic community in every way I can.”
Marshall also gathered the courage to speak before the governing board for her first time on Wednesday.
“It’s our responsibility to provide to our children, healthy, safe and secure living conditions,” she said. “It’s a right that they have and it’s our responsibility to provide that.”
All nine proposals will continue toward inclusion in the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Community Enhancement Program, the agency’s Governing Board decided Wednesday.
Included in the nine that were invited to submit applications to the program are the five proposals for Kings Beach and JMA Ventures’ proposal for the Homewood Mountain Resort.
The CEP is designed to encourage the development of projects especially beneficial to the environment and the community through the issuing of certain development rights.
On Wednesday, the Governing Board followed an agency staff recommendation to reserve the rights, including commercial floor area and tourist accommodation units, for each of nine proposals, considered “preapplicants” by the agency.
The rights come from a special projects pool used for projects with the potential to make “big gains” toward achieving agency thresholds, according to agency legal counsel Joanne Marchetta.
“What this set-aside does is allow the applicants to plan on using that set-aside,” Marchetta said. “It’s no guarantee that at the end of the day that these projects will be approved.”
The “big gains” TRPA officials hope to achieve through the enhacement program have yet to be defined sufficiently for the agency to set aside extra density, floor space and other incentives for the projects, according to basin environmental groups.
“We are concerned the CEP does not go far enough to define substantial environmental benefits,” said Sarah Curtis with the League to Save Lake Tahoe.
TRPA staff, as well as board members, made assurances the proposals are in their initial stages and further review will be required before final decisions are made on the projects eventually included in the program.
“I think everyone needs to understand this is a baby step in a very long process,” said Norma Santiago, an El Dorado County supervisor who sits on the governing board.