City council approves hiring consultant |

City council approves hiring consultant

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Dr. Steve Leman walks the property Tuesday where he would like to see a park.

The South Lake Tahoe City Council hired a legislative consultant whose duties and experience include finding money for public improvements like parks – but the scope of his job could be expanded.

Lining up for his services was Dr. Steve Leman, a member of the Tahoe Valley Community Plan Team, a group of citizen stakeholders responsible for revamping the “Y” area on the west end of town.

The team has met for two years, developing a host of ideas that range from segmented commercial districts and a community activity center to park benches and attractions. The design plan for the gateway area – which could turn into a redevelopment site in the coming years – may come before the City Council for review within a month.

Leman wants to take a 3.5-acre parcel and possibly $475,000 from the California Tahoe Conservancy to build a community park. The cost will be much higher than that, but no one yet has come up with an amount.

There’s also talk of a dog park as part of the community plan in the empty parcel next to the Council Chambers at 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd., but nothing has materialized.

“Right now, we have no park space where we can sit under a tree and read a book. We have a window of opportunity to potentially fund an open-space area for the Tahoe Valley Community Plan,” he told the City Council before meeting with consultant Doug Houston of Sacramento.

At a consultant rate of $2,250 a month for up to six months, the city will tap the 15-year legislative lobbyist to find funding for public improvements that run the gamut in this town.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed to public improvements in his recently addressed strategic plan as priorities the state would support.

The governor has entered into discussions with lawmakers over a $1.2 billion proposal that may appear on a 2006 election ballot – $200 million may be dedicated to park plans that “address critical facilities” such as environmental restoration, said H.D. Palmer, deputy director of the state department of finance.

Ray Lacy of the CTC said the concept would be something it “may want to partner in,” if it serves a broad-based audience and can serve as “an urban trailhead” of sorts. The CTC builds bike trails, and one it’s working on is proposed to run from Meyers to Stateline. Apparently, a little-known bike path exists next to the 3.5 acres.

City Economic Development Coordinator Camden Collins brought in the consultant with the idea his services would focus on recreation – although there are no such limitations.

“(The assignment) used to be much broader, but I tried to tighten it up,” she said. Otherwise, the choices for finding funding resources – including the Highway 50 Improvement Project or showers for Campground by the Lake – may be too numerous to concentrate on.

The 56 acres of the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Area in which the city-run campground is located comes with a wish list of infrastructure opportunities. City Parks Superintendent Steve Weiss said the park master plan calls for new restrooms, showers, a campground general store, an interpretative visitor center, laundry facilities and an entrance from Highway 50 “to bring them in safely.” Park goers now use the Rufus Allen Boulevard entrance.

In surveys, newspaper letters, phone calls and public testimony, South Shore residents have long said they would like their local government to make public improvements a priority.

In other action, the council unanimously decided to:

— Delay chipping in $50,000 the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency was requesting from the city as its portion of local government support for the Pathway 2007 plan, which may go into 2008.

— Continue disbanding the Tourism Promotion Business Improvement District and explore other uses for the $49,000 the city agreed to kick in for the marketing efforts. It may bridge a cash shortfall related to installing a traffic light at the Heavenly Village crosswalk or for funding special events in the city.

— Proceed with the Sierra Garden Apartments plan for a $4 million remodel as one in four redevelopment housing projects the city is overseeing.

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