Harrison Avenue project debated | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Harrison Avenue project debated

Harrison Avenue businesses will work toward a solution for that area that will include the formation of a business assessment district.

South Lake Tahoe officials didn’t think there was going to be the two-thirds majority vote from the businesses to form the district, but, after meeting Monday morning, the businesses involved said they’d try to work together.

Gabby Barrett, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency chief of long-range planning, told the business owners that the TRPA must move forward with a plan to improve the Harrison Avenue area.

Barrett wants a letter from the city stating the city and property owners are on a private/public partnership to improve the area. Business owners agreed to support the letter and said they would meet soon, without city officials, to hash out their differences.

One solution for parking issues offered by City Manager Kerry Miller may be to abandon a portion of San Francisco Avenue and make it into a parking lot. Business owners at the meeting seemed to like this idea more than other options, which included a land swap for a California Tahoe Conservancy-owned parcel next to the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

The lot, which would be swapped with city-owned environmentally sensitive land, would be paved over for district parking. However, business owners near El Dorado Beach say the lot is too far from their businesses for their customers to use. Those business owners don’t like the idea of paying for the assessment district when they are losing parking but businesses at the other side of the proposed district will gain parking.

The first plan called for a revamp of the area with new curbs and gutters, a bike trail running along the highway and a decrease in parking with only parallel parking spaces. It was part of the city’s Bijou/Al Tahoe Community Plan and it had the support of the TRPA.

Barrett said the TRPA must meet requirements for water quality improvements and scenic improvements thresholds in the Harrison Avenue area. He said both the original plan and the assessment district plan would get TRPA support, but the TRPA likes the original idea better because of the bike trail.

The assessment district plan would include a bike trail on Riverside Avenue, a trail that the California Tahoe Conservancy won’t fund.

Business owners didn’t support a decrease in parking, and the idea of a business assessment district was formed. Under this concept, the businesses would be responsible for paying for improvements to the area, but they would have more say in how those improvements were conducted.

John Cefalu, a Harrison Avenue business owner, said the city should have learned from past mistakes that close-proximity parking is a must for successful businesses in Tahoe.

Cefalu pointed to the problems the city is experiencing in trying to provide parking close to the Ski Run Marina.

The city has paid to pave the site for parking where the Blue Lakes Motel used to sit, about two blocks from the marina, but businesses at the marina have complained that the parking is too far away and insufficient. The city is now looking into alternatives and the Blue Lakes lot seldom has a vehicle parked in it.

“For the most part, the project is not viable because of a lack of parking,” Cefalu said. “Now the city is throwing around its wallet trying to solve the problem. Can’t we learn from our mistakes?”

Cefalu said the area would lose one half to two-thirds of its parking if business owners didn’t form the assessment district.

Also speaking to the issue of parking, Duane Wallace, South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce executive director, said he had to abandon a “Y” area business venture when parking for his business was decreased by 10 spots.

He said the Harrison Avenue business owners need to figure out how much each space is worth and match that to the amount they are required to give to the assessment district.

Mary Kay McLanahan, the city planner working on Harrison Avenue plans, said she will provide the business owners with further information regarding city parking studies.

McLanahan had said prior to Monday’s meeting that the city would not support any more modifications to the assessment district plan, but she agreed Monday to try to modify plans one more time.

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