Designers are selected for city project |

Designers are selected for city project

Susan Wood
The design firm suggested creating a more user-friendly lakeshore pedestrian path near El Dorado Beach.

A Mill Valley landscape architectural firm was selected to create a design to enhance the culture and recreation of 56 prime acres in South Lake Tahoe.

Royston, Hanamoto, Alley and Abey participated in a design competition organized by representatives of the California Tahoe Conservancy, El Dorado County and the city. Tahoe’s District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago and South Lake Tahoe Councilwoman Kathay Lovell serve on the CTC board.

“They got it. They brought up the things important to the community,” Lovell said Thursday during a conference call with Santiago, Ray Lacey of the CTC and project consultant Deb Vreeland.

Santiago said the designers “appreciated the environment in which we live.”

The firm apparently wowed the jury who judged the competition with its project experience, environmental care, collaborative potential and conceptual development.

The small-to-mid-sized firm is now working on eight active accounts. Its design work can be seen on Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park, San Mateo shoreline and to some degree Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

For South Lake Tahoe, the company proposed making the city-run Campground by the Lake year-round and sketched out villages of yurts and tents and a community firepit within the campground.

“That’s a potential increase in revenue for the city,” Lovell added. “The idea is more people using it for more types of events.”

That idea played into the firm’s other concept of creating a floating stage for entertainment at El Dorado Beach and a theater across Highway 50 in the forest.

Another concept outlined a community campus where the El Dorado Library off Rufus Allen Boulevard might move to a structure set where the Senior Center, Arts Building and South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce are located.

Jury representatives also liked seeing an idea to turn an environmental improvement project into an interpretative site. The firm proposed using a stream to channel stormwater since the $43 million Highway 50 curb-and-gutter will require erosion control measures anyway. That project is due to start in a few years. The concept calls for an interpretative trail along the stream for visitors to gain an education on the massive effort to protect Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity.

But it’s the locals who have long requested a sense of place and gathering spot that got representatives thinking about the site’s potential, Santiago emphasized.

“We are thrilled. We did our best, and we’re proud of what we did – even though all the teams did well,” RHAA principle landscape architect Manuela King said graciously. Out of 41 people working at the firm, she’s putting a team of a handful of designers – two full-time – to work on the project. The CTC may allocate more than $250,000 or up to $500,000 for design. The firms donated their time to the contest that took place a few weeks ago.

The CTC board will meet Dec. 8 to formally hear the city and county’s request for the grant funds to proceed with the conceptual design.

If Proposition 84 passes in November, the CTC may use some of the $30 million it stands to gain, but Lacey said the state agency isn’t banking on the water quality initiative meeting voter approval.

“We have the money for the phases we’re entering in to,” he said.

The expectation is the city and county may find the grant and bond funding to pay for the infrastructure plans that fall outside of water quality and other ecological improvements.

Residents representing a cross-section of the community such as senior citizens and parks supporters may apply November on a steering committee to be chosen the following month. Ideally, the first meeting will be scheduled in January.

The project may start construction in two years – but not before about a dozen meetings will be planned to gather community input.

With all the ideas shared in the process, the agency representatives stressed how difficult it was to select one firm out of RHAA, Design Workshop, EDAW and Foothill Associates.

“We were impressed with what we saw. They all hit home runs,” Lacey said.

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