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PC-2 analysis is too narrow

Robert Johnston, Ph.D, Guest columnist

I have read the proposal for the economic analysis of PC-2. It is a narrow analysis of only PC-2’s impacts on only existing commercial firms in Truckee.

It is so brief as to not permit one to fully understand what is to be included. The outline does not even identify the data sources to be used or the time periods of the analysis.

This is an important study, as the buildout and composition of PC-2 may drastically affect the downtown and other businesses in Truckee.

When many people were asking the council to provide for growth phasing for commercial development in the General Plan, the council refused to adopt phasing, instead substituting this study to ensure that the downtown would not be harmed. The credibility of the council and the integrity of the planning process in Truckee will be affected by this study, as a strong downtown was one of the central policies in the plan.

Omissions

The study appears to omit two important items:

1. The phasing of PC-2’s land uses over the next 10 or more years must be studied, in order to project the impacts on existing and proposed commercial firms in Truckee. Because PC-1 (Teichert at Coldstream) is planned for this same time period, it also must be evaluated. Because the 267 Bypass is about to be given final approval, the effects of the bypass on the downtown businesses must be included in the study. The approval of the bypass will also allow PC-3 (shopping near the Best Western) to go ahead into planning, and so this project must also be studied, as it may commence within the time period of buildout for PC-2. Finally, the commercial development potential in Martis Valley must be included, as it may come on line within the same time period.

2. Likewise, any credible study must include the growth in the market over the next 10-15 years, and so has to look at population and tourism growth in North Tahoe, Martis Valley and Truckee. This is not mentioned in the study outline.

Given our General Plan allows quite excessive commercial development over the next 15 years, there is a real danger that outlying projects will damage the downtown and also prevent the Old Mill Site from being developed. Such an outcome would be very unfortunate and make Truckee become more like a regular suburb with auto-oriented shopping centers and no strong downtown. The likelihood of large commercial projects in Martis Valley only makes this danger more evident. All over the nation we have seen outward growth kill off downtowns, over the last 40 years. Can’t we do better here? Isn’t this why we came here?

A detailed analysis of commercial supply and demand is quite simple now with nationwide datasets available for individual firms’ sales in 1995, by street address, and for households by income by census tract, all available in a geographic information system format. The planning department could do this study with these data, for a low cost and own the data and geographic software at the end. Given the importance of this study, the consultant should be required to expand the scope of this study.

The modest extra costs can be put onto PC-1 and PC-3. A properly broad study will be of great value to all of us, as we decide soon on whether we really want a strong downtown or not. You can’t have both an oversupply of shopping centers and a nice downtown.

Robert A. Johnston is a professor with the University of California Department of Environmental Science and Policy.


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