My Turn: Stop marina parking garage madness
In two recent guest columns on the financial justification of the marina parking garage project in Tahoe City, both authors concluded that $10 million to $14 million was an unjustified public expenditure of redevelopment funds. Their data was based on how the Redevelopment Agency was selling the project to the public; that is, the structure itself proposed 137 spaces but is built on 45 existing spaces, yielding a net of 92 spaces for general “public use.”–
The truth is that the numbers are much worse. Beginning with the original Tahoe City Marina Expansion Master Plan in 2000, one gets a clear picture of what the marina envisions for final buildout including parking requirements. In the final EIR/EIS documents of the Master Plan, a modified Phase I was approved by the TRPA and Placer County supervisors in concept only. The Redevelopment Agency is now actively spending our redevelopment taxes pursuing the parking garage (originally estimated at $2.5 million) of the Marina’s Master Plan, even though their estimated cost is now $10 million to $14 million.—–
How many net, on-site parking spaces will be available after the garage is complete and the marina finishes its Phase I expansion? The county’s executive office doesn’t willingly reveal the truth, but the numbers are in documents available to the public. There are 90 spaces today for the marina and the adjacent Roundhouse and Boatworks Mall. According to the final EIR/EIS on page 3-21, “Overall parking utilization was observed to reach as high as 95 percent on summer weekdays and 104 percent (reflecting illegal parking outside designated areas) on a summer weekend day. Full utilization was observed on a typical summer weekend day between noon and 8 p.m. (Walker Parking Consultants 2000).”
The parking structure is proposed to contain 137 parking spaces but would displace 45 current spaces due to the actual footprint. However, the roadways throughout the project must be modified for the traffic, taking another 12 spaces. That is a total of 57 existing spaces that will be lost due to the garage. In addition, Phase I of the marina expansion can proceed once the garage is built, requiring 29 new parking spaces. The bottom line is only about 51 parking spaces being added to the inventory of parking for “general public use” (137 – 57 – 29 = 51).–
Placer County proposes to spend an estimated $14 million of Redevelopment funds for about 51 net public spaces, which amounts to $274,510 per space.-
Why are Tahoe City leaders so quiet about the greatest fiasco of public funding ever in North Tahoe? In a public comment on the EIR/EIS the League to Save Lake Tahoe writes, “Ultimately, it appears as if this ‘public’ parking garage is being developed to provide the parking for a private expansion.” Further comments, “the League questions if public money is being illegally used to directly support a private expansion project rather than serve the public interests.”-
As if this wasn’t enough, there’s more. The original Marina Master Plan proposed a waterborne transit/taxi terminus as part of Phase I, which required 32 additional parking spaces. In the Master Plan EIR/EIS it is addressed as follows (page3-40), “The TCM Master Plan includes a new pier that could serve waterborne transit (e.g. ferries and water taxis) and excursion vessels (e.g. tours and charters). Also, the proposed public parking structure could be used by waterborne transit users and lake excursion clientele.”-
But the absence of any formal proposal for a waterborne terminus in the EIR/EIS eliminated the 32 additional parking spaces of the 51 left in the parking structure.-
There’s momentum for this waterborne service and federal dollars to promote it. I doubt Tahoe City will want to be left out of the loop on this lakewide project. If this were acted on in the near future then the parking garage would only have 19 spaces net to the public.-
Is it any wonder Tahoe City has a shortage of parking when the math and the tactics are so deceptive? The Redevelopment Agency tries to convince us that by labeling the parking structure as “public,” and receiving a dedication/easement/ownership to Placer County that it suddenly makes all 137 spaces new and available.-
Just because you say it is doesn’t make it so. The current 90 spaces are maxed out during the summer, and the marina expansion will need additional parking. No private business would close their parking to customers just because they own the land. The necessity and justification of having the garage be in public ownership is simply contrived.-
Finally, there are questions about the estimated cost of $10 million to $14 million. I know of two independent experts who have reviewed the specs for the garage and both claim that as written the costs could easily be 20 percent to 30 percent higher. We know how most public projects run over budget, and the RDA has no construction experience.-
It’s time to stop this madness; this is an absolute misuse of public funds and an abuse of the public’s trust.
Again, from the League to Save Lake Tahoe EIR/EIS public comments December 2001, “It is infuriating, however, that Placer County has determined it should be the public’s responsibility to pay for the construction of this boondoggle of a project and its environmental documentation when it is clearly the responsibility of the marina owners.”
David McClure is a Tahoe Vista resident.
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