City Council approves Heavenly parking, traffic management plan

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — City Council on Tuesday approved the Heavenly Neighborhood Parking and Traffic Management Plan.

The plan, which was presented by the city’s public works director Anush Nejad, will focus on mitigating traffic caused by Heavenly Mountain Resort guests parking along Ski Run Boulevard and neighboring streets, and will be put in place in November 2023.

More immediate changes include larger and more visible signage, adding more no parking and tow zones, increasing fines, and implementing permitted parking. Long term solutions include building a new parking structure with a shuttle service and increasing safety by separating vehicles from other modes of transport with a pedestrian/bike path on Ski Run/Needle Peak.

To inform of the changes/plan, a public forum was held at Heavenly’s California Lodge in mid-May to capture concerns and suggestions from impacted residents. 

During the community meeting, city staff took notes on the discussion of parking overflow impacts on residential streets, traffic congestion, as well as safety and sanitary concerns.

Impassibility for emergency service vehicles as well as complaints of people urinating and defecating in front yards and in between cars were among the written comments left at the meeting.

During the meeting, Alan Masters, a resident of Saddle Road, said, “We need a person with authority because people don’t pay attention to signs.”

“Heavenly’s paid parking plan has the potential to make the issue worse,” Councilmember Scott Robbins said. “They’ve made no announcement with a list of improvements they will be making but did publicly announce they’re going to make money on the issue.”

Overall, it comes down to enforcement, according to Robbins.

“People want to park where people want to park,” Nejad said and asserted if there was a physical person, perhaps funded by Heavenly, it would lend to accomplishing the overall goal. 

Chief of South Lake Tahoe Police David Stevenson said his department would continue to discuss options and support the needs of the community, but he also set some boundaries for the safety of his department.

Stevenson said towing is equally challenging during heavy snow. Tow companies, for the same reasons he is unwilling to send officers into unsafe conditions, refuse to send trucks up the hill. 

Unsafe conditions due to weather were often made worse this winter when ill equipped vehicles would bypass chain control and cause multiple car pile ups, some of which went viral this winter. 

“It’s better to have an officer at the bottom of the hill than to have to go up there and untangle a mess,” Stevenson added.

One of the unresolved issues is adequate chain control compliance. 

“People who come up to be in a snow event in a two-wheel drive, during a snow event in an ill-equipped vehicle are not the brightest bulb,” Councilmember Tamara Wallace said and added chain control is a concern.

To which Robbins added, “the not so brightest bulb folks who should be putting on their chains before they drive,” would end up somewhere else without a place to put on chains, potentially blocking traffic to install chains despite best efforts by enforcement.

Nejad said Assistant City Manager Lindsey Baker is looking at what can be done with city services, fixed route transit and other options to discuss with Heavenly to provide additional solutions.

“It’s an incredibly important component of the overall parking plan,” Baker said of the ongoing conversations with Heavenly.

“As a city we are committed to working with not just Heavenly, but also South Shore Transit Management Authority Tahoe Transportation District and Tahoe Regional Protection Agency to identify mobility solutions and options to improve by leveraging these larger parking lots in the city whether that’s the ‘Y’ or LTCC.”  

Short term solutions would increase fines, implement a chain control area at the bottom of the hill and establish no parking/towing zones effective between Nov. 1 to May 1 only, according to Nejad’s presentation. 

Among the mid-term solutions the director proposed within two years to implement a Residential Parking Permit Program, improve transit service through the city/TTD encourage Heavenly’s efforts to improve transit services between the resort and existing lots in the city.

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