My Turn – Get real: Wisdom has prevailed | SierraSun.com

My Turn – Get real: Wisdom has prevailed

Richard Leon

In your recent editorial calling for the examination of “TRPA’s decision making process must be examined” (Sierra Sun June 30) there is an underlying assumption to your criticism of the board’s vote on the Kings Beach Core Improvement Project.

The assumption is that only the proponents of the lane reduction with roundabouts represent the true interests of the community at large. This could not be further from the truth. Your paper continues to be the pawn of a few key staff leaders of Placer County and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency that control information released to the Sierra Sun, rather than doing your own research of the environmental documents (EIS/EIR).

The Sierra Sun is perpetuating the biggest propaganda campaign ever directed against the citizens of any Lake Tahoe community. You condemn the TRPA Board for not voting to degrade the environment and then question their representation of the “public will.” You take Tim Leslie’s valid comments out of their original context, and then generalize and judge what you see as an unfavorable decision, but only for the lane reduction proponents.

The TRPA Governing Board public hearing on June 25 at 10 a.m. was attended by many more supporters of the four-lane improvement alternative. Some had to leave by noon to go back to work since the actual public comments did not begin until about 12:30 p.m. There have always been many more citizens in favor of retaining the four-lane capacity (consistent with the Kings Beach Community Plan), keeping on-street parking for local businesses, installing wide sidewalks and pedestrian safe signalized intersections, without any degradation to the surrounding community. For responsible reduction of the roadway capacity to be feasible would require traffic volumes to actually decrease significantly. The general welfare of the broad community and the environment of Lake Tahoe were both protected by the TRPA board decision in a display of democracy and clear reasoning.

The environmental benefits were avoidance of degradation due to increased traffic congestion, state highway traffic diverted through residential neighborhoods, and reduced levels of service for mass transit. These negative impacts are clearly stated in the EIS, and only occur due to reducing the lanes from four to two through Kings Beach. This position was clearly and publicly stated by Tim Leslie (Sierra Sun July 2) and Bruce Kranz (Reno Gazette Journal July 10). Mike Weber included the rationale that the decision to reduce the lanes is irreversible at Tahoe leaving no room for error.

The Placer County and TRPA staff leadership has been orchestrating this lane reduction campaign for at least the last five years. They have falsely claimed that this lane reduction is a prerequisite for economic revitalization of Kings Beach and is the only way to slow the traffic through the town. Every justification for the lane reduction compares its benefits to the existing undeveloped highway and ignores the four-lane improvement alternative that achieves the benefits without environmental degradation.

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The “public process” that needs examination is how the Placer County staff leadership, using public funds, conducted an elaborate propaganda campaign to “sell” their predetermined lane reduction idea. The usual tools were employed including half truths, exaggeration of benefits, ignoring negative consequences, misapplying general planning theories, and “pounding reiteration” of their slogans (traffic always flows in roundabouts, the four lanes is responsible for Kings Beach’s current economic condition, we want traffic to go to Kings Beach instead of through it, etc.). Facts were constantly spun to make lane reduction appear to be workable and absolutely the only option. Control of the media, the Sierra Sun in particular, was necessary to influence what is read and debated in the community.

The charade is over. The special interests and narrow self interests of a few activists and property speculators have failed to override the facts of environmental impacts and persuade the ultimate decision makers responsible for the general welfare of the community at large. Common sense and wisdom has prevailed.

Now the Placer County staff has been directed to detail the four-lane alternative and move ahead with this much-needed and long-awaited improvement to the Kings Beach community. Whether the staff will truly be public servants and judiciously use public funds to produce the best improvements to enhance pedestrian safety and mobility, beautify the commercial core, slow traffic, and install water quality improvements in a timely manner remains to be seen.