My Turn: Tahoe City garage: Not just about parking | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Tahoe City garage: Not just about parking

Mike Dunsford

I attended the forum hosted by the Tahoe City Downtown Association on Thursday March 22. And I have read several Sierra Sun articles prior to and following the forum.

In theory, and in fact, additional parking is recognized by everyone as dearly needed in downtown, and supported by an initial Placer County study in the early ’90s, and updated in 2003. That’s over 15 years to make a site selection and develop a plan. And there’s a lot of affordable opportunities that have passed under the bridge. Time is money and lost opportunity.

A three-story garage in the planned location largely benefits private interests. The proposed 137 spaces, replacing 40 spaces, nets 97 spaces in my book. If an additional number, in addition to the grandfathered 40 spaces are “reserved” in some form for marina customers as planned, that leaves 75-plus or minus spaces for public parking without restriction. At a projected $14 million, each residual space then costs $187,000 each for the benefit of small businesses in the immediate vicinity, and commercial row. How can anyone in their right mind justify that investment for so little net gain?

The legality and/or prudence of such an investment of RDA funds is another issue and a challenge to follow.

Then there’s the impact for a year due to construction staging for the project. Maybe a loss of 50 percent or more of current parking. That could be the kiss of death for small business. This should be a major consideration when selecting a site. This is potentially a “cost” not factored in this budget.

There’s a bigger picture. As a resident for 35 years, I have witnessed the downhill slide in the Tahoe City economy for that period of time, with a few periodic exceptions. Small business has always had a struggle for a number of reasons. And this is in spite of the more recent Commons Beach and Downtown Core Improvements, both excellent investments and attributable to a lot of volunteer and sincere efforts to better the immediate village.

What’s missing is master planning ” a downtown specific plan. We’re not engaging all interests and influences and collectively deciding upon a direction to reverse the state of our local economy. The vacancy signs attest to this. Flat revenues of surviving businesses attest to this. The economy is very fragile.

I asked Placer County if they have targeted other potential public parking sites for acquisition and improvement to compliment this initial effort. The answer was “no.” What you see is what you’ll get for another 15 years? That’s not acceptable.

Is the best we can do for the 64 acres is provide a park setting and a transit center? How does this benefit our downtown economy? And has this proposed project taken into account a much-needed bypass to better channel traffic to and from the West Shore? Can’t we jump rope and chew gum at the same time?

And lodging; lots of beds and warm bodies. This goal should be in the mix. A continuing effort should be made to attract private lodging development as just one component of a master plan to revitalize our town. It will take a lot of work to amend current codes, ordinances and policy. It’s too bad we didn’t start many years ago.

Truckee has done it. South Lake Tahoe has done it. Crystal Bay is heading this direction.

Tahoe City: Get a life.

Mike Dunsford resides in the Truckee-Tahoe area.