It was in late 2004 that I first heard about the proposed changes for Kings Beach, and I immediately favored just adding sidewalks and a couple of traffic lights to the four lanes of Highway 28 but I didnt know why. And, I was somewhat disdainful of the idea of roundabouts and three lanes but I didnt know why. So, I attended a place-based planning workshop, the very informative Walkable Communities session conducted by Paul Zykofsky, a Main Street Program reporting session conducted by the North Tahoe Business Association and more recently, most of the community workshops moderated by the Sierra Business Council. I reviewed the traffic study, Caltrans Main Streets publication, and when it was issued, the major portions of the Draft Environmental Assessment/Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement. And, after listening to other members of the community and experts far more knowledgeable than me, and reviewing the documentation, I changed my mind. My initial reaction favoring four lanes was essentially instinctive. Why? The only thing I was really passionate about was sidewalks. But why a bias against three lanes? I was certainly not in favor of maintaining dangerous speeds through town, and I didnt want pedestrians to have to cross such a wide thoroughfare. I didnt really want traffic lights because most of the time we dont really need to have cars stopped and idling while waiting for opposing traffic that isnt there. Finally I realized my negative knee-jerk reaction was really about the parking. Weve all become so accustomed to on-street parking that its potential loss triggers an instinctive response. And, because I think much of the current commotion is really about parking, not the number of lanes in the road, I also think were actually closer to unanimity than some members of the community would lead us to believe. Why? Because there is room within the process to address and resolve legitimate individual parking concerns. So, before the lines in the sand are drawn more finely, lets first examine whats actually contained in Section 3.7 of the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement pertaining to parking: Currently, there are 1,968 existing parking spaces in the action area: 1,530 private spaces in developed lots; 202 spaces along SR 28 and 236 on the side streets. Each of the alternatives, except number 1, eliminates some existing public parking spaces and all three remaining alternatives eliminate the same 78 private spaces. Not all of the spaces lost need be replaced in order to satisfy Placer County and TRPA Standards and Guidelines for Signage, Parking and Design (1994). Alternative 3 (four lanes) eliminates 172 existing spaces (94 on SR 28 and 78 private), 112 are required to be replaced. Alternatives 2 & 4 (three lanes) eliminate 280 existing spaces (202 on SR 28 and 78 private), 220 are required to be replaced. New parking spaces will be provided so that the requirements for each block are met rather than the aggregate requirements for the entire action area because the area is too large to expect drivers to walk from outlying areas to areas of parking shortages. As a part of all alternatives, Placer County has committed to compensating for parking spaces lost by adding new spaces to the level of its own and TRPAs requirements. Three parking lots totaling 63 spaces have already undergone environmental review and will be built before the start of CCIP construction (Salmon Avenue, 22 spaces; Minnow Avenue , 21 spaces; and Brook Avenue, 20 spaces.)So, against that backdrop of factual information, where are we today? The ultimate result of the years-long process of seeking and articulating consensus is overwhelming community support for a three-lane, traffic slowing, pedestrian and bicycle friendly, aesthetically pleasing, economically benefiting solution. The ultimate validation of the process is that it produced, as it relates to parking, recognition and consensus that some parking issues affecting some individuals and businesses need to be considered and accommodated. The ultimate flexibility of the process is that it allows for hybrid solutions to legitimate parking concerns, for example some portions of the commercial core can have wider sidewalks while street parking and narrower sidewalks are utilized for businesses on the roadway outside the view corridor. The ultimate benefit of the process is that no final decision on parking has been or needs to be made at this point. The design phase of the project provides ample time for analysis, reflection and further consensus-building about the best solution for the greatest number of the community.I believe we are closer to unanimity than some would have us believe because even within the confines of the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement there is much room for flexible solutions for how we best address parking. And thats really what its all about. John Shuff is a Kings Beach resident and active community volunteer.
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