Employees swept aside by redevelopment
Luis Flores is worried about losing his job.
But Flores, a kitchen manager at Bandanas Gourmet Pizza for 10 years, isn’t a disobedient employee or being edged out by new technology. His job is on the line for circumstances beyond his control – redevelopment.
Bandanas Pizza, along with other businesses within the Park Avenue Redevelopment boundary, will have to close shop this spring for demolition to make way for new development.
“We’re hearing that we’ll be gone by March 1 and that (date) changes every day,” he said. “I’ve got three mouths to feed at home and car payments to make. I had a dream to buy a house and that has all collapsed.
“We feel like we’re in limbo.”
While the city of South Lake Tahoe assists 38 households and 39 businesses in the relocation process, no help is available for the some 75 full-time employees in the area.
Bill Von Klug, the city’s relocation consultant, said the city helps the employees indirectly.
“Under the rules, (employees) aren’t eligible for anything, and in the 30 years I’ve been in business I’ve never seen this addressed,” Von Klug said. “But good relocation services minimizes the need (for assistance).”
Sandi Barker, a waitress at Bandanas Pizza for eight years, said she wants the city to do more.
“It’s all been about business owners and tenants but they should compensate the employees – unemployment (compensation) isn’t going to cover it,” she said. “They should retrain us for something else we can do.”
If the relocation process goes smoothly, Von Klug said the unemployment caused by the project will be minimal.
“The majority of businesses will be down for four or five days,” he said. “But there may be some business owners who are planning on coming back into the project area and they may elect to wait, and I would suspect that would take about two years.”
Two years is too long for Barker and Flores, who said they fear the future.
“We’ve worked our way to the top of the list,” Barker said. “Where ever we go, we’ll have to start at the bottom – we’ll be earning less money. We’ll be forced to work hours that we don’t want and our days off may change.”
Flores, who hasn’t filled out a job application in 13 years, said he’ll likely be demoted to cook when he takes up new employment.
“I didn’t understand ‘homelessness,’ ” he said. “But now I can see how that can happen.”
While Flores plans to stick through the relocation process to the end, some employees within the Park Avenue Redevelopment Project aren’t waiting at all.
John Thomas, owner of the Paul Kennedy’s Steak House which is scheduled for relocation this spring, said some of his long-term employees have already left his 30-year-old business for more secure environments.
“We’ve had people leave that have been here for years,” he said. “It’s sad to see them go but we understand that they have to fend for themselves – there’s no hard feelings there.”
Thomas said the most recent employees to resign were a cook, who has worked at his restaurant for 25 years and his son, an employee of the business for 10 years.
Judith Von Klug, the city’s redevelopment manager, didn’t deny that some hardships may be felt during redevelopment, however, she also said the project will create jobs in the area.
“The construction jobs alone may bring over 100 jobs and with the suppliers and inspectors there could even be more,” she said. “But the city didn’t do this to increase employment, we did it for a more stable economic environment – with increased, year-round tourism.”
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