Design teams develop ideas for public land |

Design teams develop ideas for public land

Susan Wood

Imagine what the mid-section of our town described as where the highway meets the lake would look, sound and feel like with a major urban design overhaul.

Think of it – a paving stone-lined Harrison Avenue serving as a retail center leading to a promenade of sorts where you could see and be seen. A kayak school at El Dorado Beach. Highway 50 split in two to reduce the noise with 500 feet of park land and festival grounds between the lanes and a cultural center on the inland side.

Perhaps, a sunken highway around Lakeview Avenue with a pedestrian bridge overhead.

Those are a few ideas four design teams are working on or thinking about for 56 acres of South Lake Tahoe’s prime public property over the next few days in a design contest organized by the city, El Dorado County and California Tahoe Conservancy.

The latter has chipped in $500,000 for planning of the process called a “design charette.” To turn the plans into reality, the state agency expects to tap into a $36 million windfall out of the ballot box this November if Proposition 84 passes.

The idea is to come up with recreational and cultural enhancements to the 56 acres anchored by the city-run Campground by the Lake and bordered by Highway 50 and Rufus Allen Boulevard west to east and Lake Tahoe and the boundary of the Recreation Center from north to south. The majority of the land – deed-restricted to those uses – is owned by the county and leased to the city under a 55-year agreement signed in 1968.

“Think about the relationship (of the project area) to the highway for some of the best real estate in town,” said Ray Lacey of the Conservancy during a site walk Wednesday with the 30 team members and stakeholders from the city, county, CTC and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The group strained to hear each other talk at the corner of Rufus Allen Boulevard and Highway 50 as the roar of the traffic consumed the discussion.

A stroll next to the El Dorado County library eliminated the noise, a phenomenon TRPA planner Lisa O’Daly chalked up to the trees.

“And the pine nuts are edible,” she quipped with them as the group weaved through the Jeffrey pines to the public library.

“This is where the heart is,” Tahoe’s District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago said. “There should be trails linking these facilities.”

It was field-level brainstorming research – with city Parks Superintendent Steve Weiss providing a tour of the campground, Ice Arena and Recreation Center.

“This (facility) is well maintained but outdated. I’d like to see it ripped out and turned into a city complex,” recreation advocate Les Wright said on the tour.

The gathering wound around the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center and Chamber of Commerce and crossed the highway west of Lakeview Avenue.

“This is beautiful. This could be a wonderful pedestrian and bike friendly promenade,” designer Dave Maglaty of Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey. “Look at the color of that water.”

TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub smiled at the thought of the lake before fresh eyes. He explained to the group dodging safety barriers at El Dorado Beach the regulatory agency is trying to stop erosion at the lake. The erosion is so bad at that popular picnicking spot that the bluff is sloughing off into the sand.

The teams were given few guidelines to allow the creative juices to flow. Among them, the city – which owns 15 of the 56 acres – wants to keep its new ice arena and campground intact. The latter alone generates $360,000 annually for the city, while city officials expect the former to break even by next year.

About five years ago, the conservancy and city organized a similar contest for an area from El Dorado Beach to the Ski Run Marina. But the ideas were never implemented because the CTC failed to get buy-in from the private property owners.

“This is critical this time that we’re only dealing with public land,” Lacey said.

Jacinta McCann of EDAW – one of the four teams competing with Design Workshop, Foothill Associates and Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey – remembered that time as a disappointment. Her firm had won the coveted job.

But McCann went straight to work again, while tucked in a small room at the Senior Center sketching wildly with her team Wednesday afternoon to meet Friday’s presentation deadline.

“The most striking thing we walked away with was how to improve the connections to the lake,” she said.

Steve Noll, who runs the Design Workshop in Stateline, saw the opportunity to compete as an important one for his firm as well as the South Shore given the Pathway 2007 process to come up with the regional plan.

“It’s like the rebirth of Tahoe,” he said.

If approved and funded, an overall concept may be incorporated into the city’s parks master plan.

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