Opinion: Together, we can make Kings Beach new again
On October 20, I attended a community information meeting regarding the Crown Redevelopment Project. While public apathy reigns supreme in many parts, I am happy to report that civic engagement is alive and well in Kings Beach.
This is one of the attributes of our town that make it such a wonderful place to live; people care. While I don’t make it to that many meetings, I do care about the future of our town.
I could be mistaken, but I got the distinct feeling that our new land-owners and would-be-developers are drawn to our town, not just because it represents another place to make a buck, but also because they genuinely feel it is a really special place to live and to be doing business.
Our new neighbors from out-of-town are beginning to understand the nuance and potential impacts of their proposals. The process they are using to gather ideas from the community (before they fully commit to a development strategy) is encouraging.
The number of key Kings Beach properties Laulima Partners has acquired allows them to have a dizzying amount of leverage to influence the future of our town. Their decisions have the potential to change the look and functionality of our town, and ultimately whether or not people just drive through Kings Beach or decide to shop, recreate, vacation, reside or perhaps even open a business in our town.
Kings Beach is a wonderful little funky town with a world-class beach. In fact, for quite a few decades, it was getting funkier every year. It has been getting harder and harder to adapt the modest old buildings to modern business standards.
Landlords are having an increasingly difficult time finding businesses that can make the available spaces work. We have quite a few vacant properties, especially hotels. Many of those hotel rooms were converted to lower cost housing, and now some of those are no longer viable.
While we have gained countless vacation rentals thanks to VRBO and AirBnB, along with their drive-everywhere-only-shop-at-Safeway culture, we have lost most of our traditional stay-in-town/spend-in-town visitors.
There was a time when the hotels in Kings Beach were shiny and new and the businesses were cranking. When I was a kid, there was a restaurant in town with a 3-hour wait every weekend; things were busy. Then the Village at Northstar and the Village at Squaw became the shiny new places to be. We somehow kept the traffic, but lost the business.
To make matters worse, eastern Placer County and the town of Truckee are being bombarded with development proposals that increase the proposed number of visitors and the number of cars on the road.
We don’t need to look far into the past to see what happens when development projects fail to deliver the promised community benefits or worse yet, fail to be completed at all. It’s no wonder that the locals are wary of all of the currently proposed projects.
With that in mind, I am very grateful that Kings Beachians are keeping a close eye on not only what Laulima proposes, but how they propose to complete their projects.
At the moment it does not yet seem like they have all the parts and pieces arranged in a way that will be a net benefit the community. However, there are a few attributes which separate the Crown Redevelopment Project from the others.
Given the developer’s community outreach and thus far open process, and given that they are not actually trying to expand our community, but rather proposing a replacement of the aging core of our town with a much needed infusion of investment and energy, I believe it is in our best interest to provide them with the information and support they need to make the right decisions for a beneficial town renovation.
We won’t all agree on every detail, but we should agree to come together in a proactive and encouraging manner to see if we can get the broken and worn down components of our town refreshed, hopefully not with cheap construction, but rather with something that will withstand a longer run this time around, something that is worthy of the fantastic postcard setting that is Kings Beach.
For those who are afraid of change, please remember that buildings start out shiny and new, and then gradually over time, despite our best efforts, they slide into disrepair. Unless they are made of stone, eventually they need to be replaced. It’s a normal process, and the new stuff doesn’t have to look exactly like the old stuff.
In fact, we might even have some room for improvement in that department. We have a fabulous opportunity to make a part of Kings Beach new again. Let’s get it done and get it done right.
Carina Cutler is a Kings Beach resident.