If one thing unites the residents of South Lake Tahoe, it is the idea that our community is more than just a doormat for Nevada businesses.
In recent years the City of South Lake Tahoe has embarked on a number of projects aimed at attracting tourists, supporting small businesses, and improving the lives of residents. As these projects have materialized, so too has a vision of South Lake Tahoe as a community defined and sustained by first-rate recreation opportunities. Bond measures widely supported by city voters, such as Measure S, have helped fuel this vision, funding maintenance of bike trails and construction of ball fields and the ice arena. Numerous projects funded by the city, El Dorado County, the state and U.S. Forest Service are also contributing to the development of a stronger economy, by creating new recreation opportunities, improving roads, sidewalks, and trails that access these recreation sites, and opening new doors for recreation-based businesses.
Unfortunately, bond measures alone are not sufficient to sustain the city’s role in developing South Lake Tahoe as a world-class recreation destination. The economic downturn of the past five years has hit the city hard, forcing layoffs of city staff and abandonment of major projects. One important lesson learned is the need for more diverse sources of revenue to secure the city’s ability to maintain its facilities, and see projects to fruition.
Introducing new revenue sources is never easy, often requiring difficult decisions on the part of elected officials. In December 2012 the City Council made one of these difficult decisions. They voted 4-1 to extend the city’s paid parking program to areas around popular recreation sites. The program, which charges people who decide to park immediately adjacent to recreation sites, is expected to bring in at least $240,000-$300,000 in annual revenue for the city, not including revenue that may be generated from parking citations. Discussions surrounding the parking ordinance clarified that revenue would be used to maintain and improve the sites at which paid parking has been introduced. This ensures that our capital investments in areas such as Lakeview Commons are sustained into the future.
Some opponents of paid parking have suggested the program should be eliminated because it has not been implemented effectively. It’s important to set this record straight. Parking kiosks at Lakeview Commons, Lakeside Beach, Bellamy Court and Transit Way became operational in June and July 2013. Since their introduction, kiosks have generated over $240,000 in revenue (see http://www.cityofslt.us/index.aspx?NID=743 for specific information). This exceeds the remaining amount owed for the kiosks by approximately $90,000. The program would, therefore, begin generating revenue in the upcoming fiscal year.
Moreover, in February, the City Council voted to amend the program to address citizen concerns while maintaining revenue-generating potential. In particular, the City Council decided to reduce the hours of paid parking, remove paid parking kiosks from Venice Drive, and introduce a “local’s pass”. In so doing, the City Council and staff have shown willingness to work with city residents to make this program work as an effective means of generating much-needed City revenue.
As much as I have enjoyed the conveniences of free parking at our City’s most cherished recreation sites, I am equally pleased to have rooted myself in a community that is coalescing around a shared vision as a celebrated destination for outdoor recreation. I am hopeful that we will achieve this vision. To promote diversification of the City’s revenue sources and to ensure the funds necessary for the maintenance and improvement of our most popular recreation spots, I urge you to vote “no” on Measure P on June 3.
Rachel Sigman is a member of the group called “Sensible Parking in South Lake Tahoe”.