My Turn North Tahoe priorities: Fire prevention over redevelopment | SierraSun.com

My Turn North Tahoe priorities: Fire prevention over redevelopment

Jerry Wotel

The Angora Fire has spawned significant discussion and public response as such a tragedy warrants. We now have a bi-state Blue Ribbon Fire Commission to look at all regulatory agencies and their policies and ensure that they are consistent; and that they do not prohibit anyone from creating defensible space. This is needed because there has been much finger pointing and discussion about who is in charge, and agency protection of their financial turf. So while the bureaucracy ambles on, once again it is up to the citizens to take immediate action, which they are admirably doing so.During and after the fire, citizens of the Basin and Reno graciously gave food, supplies, and money to the victims, to the point of overwhelming the distribution system. Now the fire is out, and fortunately no one died, and the cleanup and prevention effort is underway. Residents around the Basin are steadfastly applying fire prevention techniques to their property.In this prevention effort, the local fire districts are being overwhelmed by the quantity of materials requesting pick up or chipping. Citizens understand the urgency of the situation and are not about to wait on recommendations from a panel or committee. We have all known the answers for years. If you dont, ask your local fire chief.With a forest drier than kiln-dried lumber, time is of the essence. Forest thinning and debris cleanup is urgently needed, and beyond the ability of ordinary citizens. But again the finger pointing; who has the financial resources to implement this effort. I would like to suggest a source our tax money.Every year a portion of our tax dollar goes into a Placer County Redevelopment Agency (RDA) fund for elimination of blight and deteriorating conditions, revitalization, and to encourage private sector investment. At this point in time, we have a deteriorating situation approaching an emergency level to prevent the breakout of another catastrophic fire.Surely we would expend our tax funds at this time to protect our homes, possessions, animals, trees, and maybe our very lives, instead of an investment of $14 million for a new parking garage at the Tahoe City Marina complex, or more parking lots in Kings Beach.The use of RDA funds must be prioritized. The dictionary defines priority as the order of preference based on urgency, importance, or merit. Maybe I cant see the big picture here that a parking garage is more urgent or important than our fire safety, and someone needs to explain that to me.A report Economic and Redevelopment Strategies for Kings Beach and Tahoe City dated May 2007, by Economic and Planning Systems, (under contract to the RDA) on page 16 under Tahoe City Parking, is the following statement, There are numerous parking opportunities throughout the central business district. In addition, a new 137-space public-parking structure is being designed as a component of the marina expansion. This and the new Jackpine Street Public Parking lot are part of the approximately $26 million, 5-year commitment the Redevelopment Agency has made to Tahoe City and Kings Beach. Referring to a Sierra Sun guest column of May 16, 2007 by David McClure, the real gain in public use parking is only 51, after allowances are made for displaced spaces, roadway and marina needs.In any case, what good are parking lots if the area around them has been devastated by fire?The Auburn-based Placer County bureaucracy, for which the Angora Fire may be very remote, unlike us who face the danger every day, must re-evaluate their spending priorities and make a commitment to Lake Tahoe fire prevention, before another catastrophe occurs.Expenditure of RDA funds for fire prevention was mentioned at the recent Placer County Board of Supervisors meeting on July 23 in Kings Beach. The RDA said this was not within their scope. District 5 Supervisor Kranz directed the RDA to look into this funding issue.We could fund the fire department capital budget for a year or two in advance so they can use these funds to do fire prevention, and also fund the North Tahoe PUD in a capital improvement project for updating water mains and hydrants in the Kings Beach grid for flow capacity sufficient to fight fires. I request Placer County/RDA do whatever is necessary to target these funds to save Tahoe. A better use I cannot imagine.I encourage everyone who lives or owns property at Lake Tahoe to contact the Redevelopment Agency at 530-886-6890, or e-mail rjames@placer.ca.gov to make your feelings known. I also encourage the Sierra Sun to run one of their weekly polls to see if the community prefers fire prevention or parking lots.Therefore, Redevelopment Agency, time is of the essence. We dont know when the next fire will happen; just that it will unless something is done quickly. Figure out how to release our tax dollars to protect North Lake Tahoe and do it now. Jerry Wotel is a Tahoe Vista resident and president of the North Tahoe Citizen Action Alliance.