Affordable housing project OK’d by TRPA
Lake Tahoe regulators Wednesday approved what could become the first affordable housing project in the Douglas County portion of the basin.
The Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency heard more than two hours of testimony for and against the project before voting unanimously to allow a 64-unit, multi-family apartment complex in the Kingsbury Grade area. Ten of the board’s 14 voting seats were filled.
“It’s my personal belief, (learning about) the project over the last couple months, it is supposed to be an excellent project geared toward those who need it,” said Don Miner, the Douglas County commission’s representative on TRPA’s board.
A “fair-share” affordable housing study conducted in 1996 revealed that the Douglas County portion of Lake Tahoe had a shortage of about 1,400 affordable housing units.
Brooke Laine, who attended on behalf of the city’s usual representative Hal Cole, said rent-restricted affordable housing was long overdue on the Douglas side of South Shore.
“It is time for Douglas County to step up to the plate and assume the responsibility of creating and maintaining an appropriate amount of affordable housing stock,” she said.
The 67-unit complex, called Lake Vista Apartments, is tied into a larger project. Falcon Capital LLC, which owns several commercial and residential properties on the lake portion of Douglas County, plans to demolish the 187-unit Lake Park Apartments on Kahle Drive, build stormwater retention basins there and build a 138-unit time-share in Round Hill.
Another company, Mountain Ventures LLC, plans to develop Lake Vista. The complex, on Market Street adjacent to Kingsbury Grade, is supposed to help offset the loss of homes for the residents of Lake Park.
While not designated as affordable housing, Lake Park is home to many low-income residents.
Sixty-seven units had been proposed for Lake Vista. However, that would make the apartments too dense for the area, according to TRPA requirements, and 64 was settled upon.
Nearly 20 members of the public commented on the proposal.
Many residents who live near the proposed area said they believed crime could increase in the area and property values would go down. They also were concerned about traffic impacts and environmental degradation to the area they said would accompany the construction. Additionally, 10 apartment buildings and 99 parking spaces would occupy and area now vacant. While much of the lot is disturbed, at least part of it has trees and rocks in it.
“I want the peace we have right now,” Hannelore Greil, a nearby resident, told the board.
Another resident, Tony Clark, said he was concerned the project was moving forward too quickly without the adequate research having been completed.
“Please do not rush this through for the sake of getting it done,” he said.
Based on Douglas County regulations, the project will not go before the board of county commissioners. The developers have not applied for a permit yet. However, when they do, and after the permit is issued, the opponents have the option to appeal it to the county planning commission. The appeal can make its way to the county commission level.
Several South Shore officials, however, told the board that the residents’ concerns were without merit.
Although a contract has not yet been negotiated, Professional Apartment Management Inc., which manages several South Lake Tahoe affordable housing establishments, is expected to run the complex.
“We have really found (South Lake Tahoe’s affordable housing areas) are assets to the community,” said Patrick Conway, housing coordinator for South Lake Tahoe. “In fact, most of our affordable housing projects out shine our market-rate apartments.”
John Nisby, an affordable housing specialist and a development coordinator for the project, said this project would include several characteristics not normally associated with affordable housing. Those include a tutoring program, computer lab, a posted crime-watch area and a drug-free designation.
Iliana Arballo, a resident of the soon-to-be razed Lake Park Apartments, said she was happy with the opportunity of moving to a better-managed apartment complex.
“Most of us are so happy,” she said.
Some of the Kingsbury area residents opposed to the project urged the developers to raze the Lake Park Apartments, rebuild an affordable housing complex there and find another location for the stormwater treatment system. However, with 187 units Lake Park Apartments packs residents too densely into a 4-acre area to meet TRPA’s current requirements. Lake Park is about 40 units per acre; Lake Vista will be about 15 units per acre.
Ron Pierini, sheriff of Douglas County, said the density on the property was one of the main reasons Lake Park has more crime than most similar-sized areas of the county. He said his deputies respond there on almost a daily basis.
He agreed that management, such as that in South Lake Tahoe, was the key to keeping low-income housing from becoming run down with increased crime.
Kingsbury area residents expressed concern that the management could switch hands, and the new owners may not follow the strict guidelines the developers were promising. Therefore, TRPA amended the project to specify that the guidelines accompanying the proposal would apply no matter who owned or managed the property.
Another amendment gave the soon-to-be-released residents of Lake Park first right of refusal to live in the soon-to-be-built Lake Vista.
Construction on the affordable housing complex and Round Hill Vacation Resort could begin as early as this summer, as well as some of the demolition at Lake Park. Construction of the stormwater basins will not begin for at least two more building seasons.
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