Mitch Clarin: A more user friendly downtown would make Truckee a more valuable place to live
The Town of Truckee’s control over the proceedings of The Hotel Avery probably looks different from the public’s point of view than from the town’s point of view.
A member of the public requested “story poles” to depict the mass and scale of the Hotel Avery project to the general public. Story poles are a tool to allow the community to feel and see the scale of projects submitted for approval.
The Historic Preservation Advisory Commission specifically required the use of story poles in order for the public to get an accurate, live feeling of the project as is proposed. Town staff decided to use balloons instead of story poles and only required them to be displayed for one hour to allow photos to be taken for further discussion immediately following the removal of the balloons. In contrast, the commission has required story poles, not balloons, in the past which had to be left on site for two weeks.
There are a few issues at play here, the first being lack of transparency and less obviously directing the public process to approval. As an example of the latter, the commission was not given the history of this property which had a single family residence on it for over 50 years. I sent the following email to town staff and the members of Historic Preservation Advisory Commission with virtually no response:
“At the last HPAC meeting involving the Hotel Avery the discussion seemed to mention that ‘we are used to seeing this property vacant’ however this is incorrect. The Kautz report shows a home much smaller in mass, scale and usage than the current application. According to the report this home was built somewhere in the 1940s or 50s meaning it most probably was a prominent structure (high visibility corner) for at least 50 years.
“In fact, this report was NOT included in the background report given to the members of HPAC. As I understand it, the H in HPAC stands for Historic and the P for Preservation. Seems the members of HPAC would need ALL the history of any particular property to fully understand that history and to make the most informed, historically accurate decision possible. Additionally the applicant shows numerous pictures of structures on OTHER properties, however NEVER shows a picture of what was ACTUALLY built on the property in question. Disregarding the Kautz report greatly favors the applicant who wants to build a much larger building in mass, scale & usage not to have to defend itself against this smaller historic home now conveniently removed.”
The second and larger issue at play is downtown parking. Traffic congestion in the downtown area has grown worse over the years with no real answer in sight. Hotel Avery, The Jibboom Street housing project, The Railyard, and the possibility of a large outdoor deck dining area being added to the 1882 restaurant all have the same issue. Lack of on-site parking that codes dictate are necessary. Seems if the parking spots are not allocated, the public will hopefully ride bikes or take alternative means to get to town. Which would make sense if wide scale public transportation is in place. Assuming more people will bike downtown is unrealistic. Especially in winter.
The commitment to overcome climate change is laudable, however granting exemptions allowing less parking will create more carbon while people drive around the surrounding downtown areas searching for illegal places to park. One would think the Hotel Avery, being in the heart of downtown, would alleviate this situation however it has a large restaurant that will attract tourists and locals alike to its restaurant, exasperating the parking and carbon situation.
As a citizen of Truckee I rely on codes to make choices on where I live, work and play. Codes dictate mass, scale, usage, parking etc. on all our properties. Allowing gross exemptions of these codes — i.e, allowing the aforementioned projects to go forward without the required parking allotments — defeats the purpose of having codes. Many of us would make different life choices if the codes are not enforced.
My solution is to develop a parking garage on the outskirts of town, possibly on the vacant property south of Glenshire Drive just east of the Glenshire Drive/Truckee Way intersection financed by a transportation grant, sales tax or property tax with free electric shuttle buses coming to and from the parking garage and circling the entire downtown area enabling people to get on and off at every corner.
A more user friendly downtown would certainly make Truckee a more valuable place to live.
Mitch Clarin is a Truckee resident.