SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – It’s been over three decades in the making. The US50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project, also known as the Loop Road, is getting closer to becoming a final plan and its implementation.
The South Lake Tahoe City Council heard a presentation by Tahoe Transportation District (TTD), Lew Feldman and John Hasty of Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) on Tuesday, outlining what has been accomplished and what is left to be done.
“There are significant opportunities to make South Lake Tahoe better,” said Lew Feldman who has been involved with South Shore redevelopment projects for many years.
The project involves the realignment of US 50 and moves it behind Raley’s at Crescent V, Harrah’s and MontBleu. The plan will create a new main street from Nevada to Park Avenue in South Lake Tahoe, one that will be more walkable, bikable and have the ability to shut down for special events.
The road will come back to the existing US 50 via a roundabout near MontBleu and Edgewood Tahoe.
Between Park Avenue and Lake Parkway, existing US 50 will be reduced to one lane in each direction with landscaped medians and left-turn pockets at major intersections and driveways. Stateline Avenue between the Chateau and Harveys could also be widened.
The presentation included photos and discussion of what the area used to look like before redevelopment tore out old and rundown motels and t-shirt shops and brought in the two new Marriott timeshare hotels, the gondola and Heavenly Village. The stretch of road had no sidewalks, untreated stormwater and motels built in the 60s when South Lake Tahoe grew to accommodate the tourism increase created by the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Exact plans have not been created and the project is at the stage called a 30 percent plan. The basics are coming together but exact streets to be impacted through the neighborhoods have not been firmed up. That will come at the next stage.
There are still many opportunities in 2019 for the public to participate and provide feedback to Tahoe Transportation District, the lead agency on the project. Since inception there have been close to 200 public meetings where the plan has been discussed, from TRPA and TTD board meetings to outreach sessions in local venues.
After the outreach meetings and further planning, TTD will bring back what is known as the 60 percent plan where more details have been hammered out.
There is concern from some citizens that the project will adversely affect a portion of the Hispanic and Filipino community that currently lives between Pioneer Trail and Montreal Avenue near Chonokis and Moss roads. They live there due to proximity to places of employment and lower rents than what can be found elsewhere in the community.
Replacement affordable housing must be created before the project can begin and there is a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with Pacific Development underway to build some of them. Property at Ski Run Blvd. and Pioneer Trail could be the site for some, along with property at the Y near the high school. 76 will be built before the new highway is built. 33 more afterwards and a possible addition of 91 following those. At this time it looks like 64 units will be displaced with the current plan, so replacement housing covers more than the required number.
Many that would be displaced are looking forward to the new housing the project will bring according to Bill Martinez, executive director of the Family Resource Center, a hub and community liaison for Hispanics. Martinez said most want to stay living in the Ski Run to Crescent V area due to location and need the same rents as they are paying now. He said many of the units that could be torn down are substandard and not nice places to live.
TTD has done a preliminary audit of how many units and what type of housing will be needed, but since building is still far away that information can change due to people moving and living situations changing so a new audit will be performed close to move dates, Carl Hasty of TTD said. Each person that is relocated will financial relocation assistance as well as a new home.
Martinez is part of the committee working on the revitalization project.
The project will also bring transit enhancements and other community amenities. The plan would bring more of a one-community approach to the South Shore, and not a California or Nevada issue. Douglas County has already implemented a gas tax increase to help fund improvement of their side including a convention center on the parking lot of MontBleu. Even though in Nevada it would bring lodging, dining and shopping revenues to the California side while beautifying the eastern entrance to the corridor.
So far $4.25M in federal funding has been used to get the US50 Revitalization plan to this point.
Many of those both for and against the project spoke up during the City Council meeting. Some question the need for the project while others think the citizens have a right to vote on where a federal highway can be placed in South Lake Tahoe. Councilman Cody Bass said he’d like to see the project move to the north side of Highway 50 closer to the lake. Hasty said they have looked at many scenarios over the years and through the environmental review process and the current plan displaces the fewest businesses and residents and keeps the lake more protected.
“If the project doesn’t go through, the money goes away,” said Councilman Devin Middlebrook. All funds for the project come with requirements, and funds to fix city streets and neighborhoods on their own are not available.
One area that can change with the project funds is the Rocky Point area that will be affected with the loop road. A neighborhood park, street lighting, sidewalks and a transit will be added as will improved access to shopping.
The plan’s basic scope cannot change without going back to step one of the environmental review process. But how the plan could work to best meet the needs of the community can still be adjusted if within that scope.
“There are real problems with this project,” said Councilwoman Tami Wallace. She said she wants the community to be listened to and for their concerns to be dealt with.
There are some perception problems on many elements and the City hopes to clear those up during a community discussion on Thursday, March 14, 2019 at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The center is located at 3050 Lake Tahoe Blvd. The public is invited. Drawings and details will be at the meeting for viewing along with a chance for dialog with the South Lake Tahoe City Council and TRPA.