My Turn: Tahoe City garage plan is a fishy one | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Tahoe City garage plan is a fishy one

Ron Grassi

Several months ago the Placer County Redevelopment Agency (RDA) held a public meeting and proposed that it finance the construction of a three-story (up to) $14 million garage to be located roughly between the Roundhouse Mall and the rear of Wolfdales Restaurant. The need for this structure was allegedly to provide parking in downtown Tahoe City so that more shoppers would come into Tahoe City to spend their money at the local stores. The argument was that these shopkeepers were otherwise in financial distress and many were going out of business.Funding for this structure was to come from us, the public, in the form of a $14 million bond that we, over time, would pay off. We were told that the Tahoe Marina would donate for free the land upon which the garage would be built.At that hearing, many people present questioned 1) why public funds were being used in the first place, 2) why up to $14 million was being spent to achieve a net increase of just 80 spaces 3) why the cost could be a record-breaking $175,000 per space 4) why many trees and a significant lake view would be lost 5) why we couldnt just buy a half dozen environmentally friendly buses to bring people in from all over the North Shore, running regularly throughout the day and evening.After the hearing I received a call from an informed resident who had been following this project. He had learned that there was much more to the story. The Tahoe Marina was not just donating the land for the garage, but was in fact satisfying a condition imposed on it by Placer County and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, that it could not expand its marina without an additional 27 parking spots.Somehow, this is where it starts to get fishy, the redevelopment agency came to the marinas rescue and offered to build a $14 million garage, thereby creating the necessary parking spots. We should all have such friends in high places. However, the redevelopment agency would have to claim Tahoe City was a blighted area, the general requirement for the agency to redevelop. However the Oct. 9 issue of the Sierra Sun reported that Tahoe City racked up the highest sales tax revenues on the North Shore for last year. So much for the blighted area argument.If this sweetheart deal goes through, one might guess that 80 new slips could yield the marina roughly, if not more than, $500,000 a year indefinitely (80 slips x $6,200 a year) including put in/haul out, repairs, cleaning, etc. Or, it could sell the slips, as one slip owner was doing this summer, asking $699,000. At an average selling cost of just $400,000 for the 80 slips, that comes to $32 million. At $300,000 a slip were looking at $24 million. As a result of these facts, which the redevelopment agency or the Marina may dispute and to which we reserve the right to respond, the Placer County Grand Jury is now investigating the situation.My question: Does something seem inappropriate about this project? If you think so, why not plan to attend the next hearing before TRPA currently set for Jan. 27 at the Kings Beach Conference Center.Ron Grassi is a retired attorney and Tahoe City resident.