Affordable housing a focus of Tahoe’s South Shore Loop Road project (opinion)
Tribune Guest Columnist
Community revitalization is more than changing the course of a highway; it’s about realizing potential for how the community can be designed to effectively meet its current and future needs. Modern affordable housing is a major need and issue here at South Shore as well. By leveraging available opportunities within the U.S. Highway 50 Revitalization Plan, a solution can be realized.
The U.S. Highway 50 Revitalization Plan would realign the four lanes of U.S. Highway 50 along Lake Parkway East behind Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino, Montbleu Resort Casino and Spa and the Village Center (formerly the Crescent V), while converting the current artery through South Lake Tahoe’s business and Stateline’s casino corridor into two lanes with turn pockets. These thoroughfares would reconnect at Pioneer Trail in California. Depending on which of the five alternatives for the project is selected, the number of impacted residential units will range from 78-86 and the number of business from three to six.
The new Tahoe Regional Planning Agency regional plan — which altered some regulations to help promote affordable housing, including allowing mixed-use development and 70-percent land coverage in town, along with zoning changes in South Lake Tahoe’s local area plan — opens the door for opportunity to overcome many long-standing obstacles. Those challenges are limited availability of vacant parcels, expense of development rights, cost of utility hookups, difficulty in consolidating property, and the environmental and approval process.
For the past four years Tahoe Transportation District has held community and public meetings to gather opinions, and hear residents’ thoughts and ideas for the project. Housing and displacement of residents was high on the list of concerns. The TTD is actively working to create pathways within the project boundaries to construct affordable housing as part of mixed-use development sites. Within the U.S. Highway 50 South Shore Revitalization Plan area, the number of potential housing units exceeds the number of current units that would be acquired for road right of way. This means not just replacing, but creating, more affordable housing units than must be mitigated.
That brings about another leveraging opportunity — working with the private investment sector as a partner. By partnering with local land owners, local development investors and others who have constructed affordable housing developments at Tahoe City, in Kings Beach and within the city, their expertise and private-fund sources can be leveraged to create the kind of affordable housing and business services envisioned in the city’s local area plan. The private sector will be interested because the project secures the environmental approvals, covers the costs of the utility hook-ups, and finds the vacant parcels for development by leveraging public funds. It’s a win-win.
As the U.S. Highway 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project moves through the environmental review process, it is sending a message of support from local government, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the community to the financial community, both public and private. These pieces must fall into place before the project begins. The total cost estimate including construction, acquisition and relocation is approximately $75 million. As required by the federal funding guidelines, all funding for the entire project will be secured before construction starts.
South Lake Tahoe has already identified a need for more low-income, moderate-income, and senior housing. This message and this project will help accelerate those goals.
Carl Hasty is district manager of Tahoe Transportation District.