Tahoe City sidewalks may have new owners | SierraSun.com

Tahoe City sidewalks may have new owners

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun
Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunTahoe City visitors stroll past Dave's Board Shop on Tuesday. The blue sign in the foreground notifies the public that the land underneath the sidewalks could be deeded to business owners.
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Tahoe City property owners have a new real estate opportunity ” to own the land beneath the 7-year-old sidewalks that line the downtown area.

Not the sidewalks themselves, mind you. That’s another story.

Following a path decidedly less direct than the sidewalks themselves, the ownership of the land beneath them is a tale of many owners.

In 1998, the original owner of the land, Caltrans, transferred ownership to Placer County. Then, in 2004 the county deeded the land beneath the new walks to the Tahoe City Public Utility District, according to documents provided by the utility district.

Now, blue signs posted along North Lake Boulevard are notifying the public that during a Nov. 30 board meeting, the utility’s directors approved the district’s intent to transfer ownership to property owners whose businesses abut the sidewalks.

The transfer of deed is largely procedural and asked for by the property owners themselves, said district Assistant General Manager Cindy Gustafson. Because of a long-standing ordinance, business owners will still be required to clear sidewalks of snow and generally maintain the sidewalks.

“The only thing we do is pay for the electricity and pay for the light bulbs, the water for irrigation and the enforcement of the maintenance ordinance,” Gustafson said by phone of the district’s ongoing responsibilities.

Gustafson said it is unclear whether or not the transfer of ownership will affect the property value of individual businesses.

Business owners like Dave Wilderotter, who operates ski and snowboard shops, said ownership would allow businesses to pursue improvements to the streetscape.

He said because Placer County agencies require a specified amount of space between adjacent properties, he has never been able to install the signage or landscaping that he has always wanted.

“For me, it’s really nice to control my environment, as much as I like the PUD,” Wilderotter said by phone. “I work well with them, but if I want a dogwood [in front, then] I want to put in a dogwood.”

Wilderotter said it is reassuring to know that his ownership will start at the gutter and curb.

That does not, however, mean business owners can block the right of way for pedestrian traffic with a sidewalk sale or outdoor restaurant seating, Gustafson explained.

The utility official said if business owners want to have a special event that spills into the sidewalk zone, they will still need to apply for a written permit authorized by the district because of the existing maintenance ordinance rules.