Developers agree to amend Round Hill project
Concern over releasing low-income families onto the streets of South Shore without anywhere to live has prompted the proponent of a large Douglas County project to amend its plans.
Falcon Capital LLC, project’s applicant, agreed Wednesday at the regular meeting of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to either find a location to build more residential units on the Douglas County portion of the basin or upgrade existing low-income housing in South Lake Tahoe.
With that change, the Governing Board of TRPA agreed to allow Falcon Capital to move forward with an ambitious project. It includes building a 138-unit time share in Round Hill, demolishing the Lake Park Apartments on Kahle Drive, building stormwater retention basins at that location and building an affordable housing complex off of Kingsbury Grade.
The new affordable housing complex, Lake Vista Apartments, is to be built to offset the number of lost residential units at the Lake Park Apartments. However, the controversy stems from the fact that the Lake Park Apartments have 187-units; the new apartment complex will hold only 67 units. Douglas County’s residential vacancy rate at Lake Tahoe is only about 3 percent. Because the residents of the apartments likely are low-income families, some people at the meeting expressed concern that the displaced residents still would have trouble finding housing.
Hal Cole, the city of South Lake Tahoe’s representative on the board, expressed concerns that the proponent’s plans would not adequately address the problem.
“I don’t think there is any real way I can assume these people won’t go across the state line and use our over-burdened housing stock,” he said. “I don’t want to force people to live in one jurisdiction or the other. I just don’t want to take the opportunity to choose away from them.”
Lew Feldman, representative of Falcon Capital, said the proponents may be able to build an additional 70 residential units in Round Hill. If that doesn’t work, Falcon Capital will restore 70 units in South Lake Tahoe, bringing them to more livable conditions.
The problem with finding another location in Douglas County, Feldman said, is that there is no available land suitable for the project. The only possible solution will be building on a 9-acre parcel in Round Hill belonging to Falcon Capital. But to use that, it would take a revision to TRPA code, which restricts where urban development can occur.
The governing board will discuss the issue at a later meeting, but there is significant opposition to that idea.
“The single most important thing you do to protect water quality is protect the urban barrier, preventing sprawl from urban areas into areas not being developed,” Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, told the board.
The League urged the governing board not to approve the project, claiming it raised many questions that still needed answering.
The Lake Park Apartments complex has only about 75 percent occupancy, and the average length of tenancy is about 11 months. Feldman said the proponent plans to demolish the building in phases over a two-year period, and natural attrition of residents will help minimize the impacts to the families. The final 67 units of Lake Park Apartments will not be razed until the new Lake Vista Apartments are completed.
Additionally, as residents move out, Falcon Capital will pay families $300 to help them move. If they stay at the complex, while portions are being razed, every seventh month of rent will be free.
Feldman said the project’s proponent was willing to do everything possible to help the residents who will be displaced.
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