South Lake Tahoe City Council and members of Tahoe 4 Tahoe are trying to negotiate an agreeable end to their standoff over the city’s paid parking program.
Appointed to negotiate with the group, Councilwoman Brooke Laine said Thursday she is hopeful.
Discussions are focusing on getting Tahoe 4 Tahoe to drop its ballot initiative in exchange for the city putting its own measure on the ballot for voters to decide the fate of paid parking in November.
Laine praised Tahoe 4 Tahoe’s initiative as bold, well-executed and something that has had positive consequences for the community. But it also is overly-broad and likely flawed because of California law stating the initiative process cannot be used to overturn municipalities’ paid parking programs, she said.
“Rescind it and we will put a ballot question before the public in November. That’s what we’re trying to agree on,” Laine said, adding that she is a supporter of Tahoe 4 Tahoe.
“There’s some distrust and that’s unfortunate because we are all in this together. My intention is to be very transparent, very honest. To give this community a chance to voice its collective opinion, up or down.”
Bruce Grego, a member of Tahoe 4 Tahoe, said the two parties are talking but must agree about what the city would place on the ballot. The group wants to be faithful to people who signed petitions and ensure any ballot language would sufficiently curtail or eliminate paid parking, Grego said.
Tahoe 4 Tahoe over several weeks gathered more than 1,000 signatures to put its proposed initiative on the ballot. If placed on the ballot and approved by voters, the measure would prohibit the city from charging for parking in city parking lots and on all city streets except Ski Run Boulevard south of Pioneer Trail.
“I think the initiative has had a positive effect and caused the city to take notice that a good number of citizens are not happy with this program,” Grego said.
The signatures were certified by El Dorado County Election Department in late January. Confronted with that fact Tuesday, the City Council had only three options. It could put the group’s initiative on the ballot, refuse to put it on the ballot, or order a fiscal impact study.
Council members chose to pay up to $25,000 for the study, which must be done within 30 days, and also appointed Laine and Mayor Hal Cole to negotiate with Tahoe 4 Tahoe.
Laine said she and Cole are challenging the group to make a decision about withdrawing its initiative by week’s end. That would leave time for the impact study to be called off.
“We don’t want to spend money on the study. We never wanted to. In a way our hands were tied,” Laine said. “On one hand we don’t want to lose any days getting it done. On the other, if we put it on the ballot and they rescind, then we don’t need to do the study.”
The far-reaching initiative Tahoe 4 Tahoe proposed would do more far than just remove paid parking kiosks at Lakeview Commons, Laine said.
Any possible outcome still would have to be approved by the full South Lake Tahoe City Council. Grego said Tahoe 4 Tahoe will meet Friday evening to discuss options.
“I think everyone would like an ending to be mutually agreeable. The question is what that is,” he said.
Meanwhile, there remains a Feb. 18 meeting for City Council to review the paid parking program. That meeting has been set for months for council to consider possible changes with input from the public and city staff who have studied the issue.
“One option is to do away with it. We asked staff to give us a number, if we abandon this program what does that look like financially. If we tweak the program, change the hours, change the rate, or remove the kiosks from certain areas,” Laine said. “I don’t think a majority of the council is prepared to do away with the program, but I think there is a majority that believes it can be done better.”