Housing plan has opposition | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Housing plan has opposition

Andy Bourelle

A proposed affordable housing project likely will go before the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for approval later this month, and already it is drawing criticism from nearby Douglas County residents.

“We’re doing research to try to find out if we have any chance of stopping the project,” said Peter Greil, who lives near the proposed location. “I just don’t know how to go about it.”

Lew Feldman, who represents the project’s proponents, said opposition is expected.

“I’ve never known an affordable housing project without some kind of opposition,” Feldman said. “It’s hard to please all the people all the time. This is a good site for affordable housing.”

The 67-unit complex, called Lake Vista Apartments, is tied into a larger project. Falcon Capital LLC, which owns several commercial and residential properties in the lake portion of Douglas County, plans to demolish the Lake Park Apartments on Kahle Drive, build stormwater retention basins at that location and build a 138-unit, time-share in Round Hill. The affordable housing to be built on Market Street, adjacent to Kingsbury Grade, is supposed to help offset the loss of homes for the residents of Lake Park Apartments.

The decision by TRPA to allow the proponents to raze Lake Park drew some criticism earlier this year. Although not classified as affordable housing, many low-income families live there. There was concern that many people would be left without a place to live. One hundred eighty-seven units were to be destroyed; 67 were to be built.

However, Falcon Capital addressed that issue at the March TRPA meeting. The company committed to creating 70 more units by either finding a suitable location to build additional affordable housing in Douglas County or build more – or upgrade existing – affordable housing in the city of South Lake Tahoe.

That would provide 137 total units to offset the demolition, which officials see as appropriate because of the high-vacancy rate at the 187-unit Lake Park Apartments.

However, the proposal to build the initial 67-unit building likely will draw criticism when it goes before TRPA’s governing board. The bistate regulatory agency tentatively is scheduled to hear the item June 23.

“If there is opposition to the project, you can bet they’ll be there with bells on,” Feldman said.

Greil likely will be.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years. I know what’s gone on down at the Lake Park Apartments,” Greil said. “They want to transfer that slum up here into our neighborhood.”

Tony Clark, a nearby resident, said many of his neighbors are concerned about the project.

“I think about 300 trees there will have to be cut down. It’s a small area. It will be densely populated with cars. There will be air pollution, noise pollution and the trees will be gone. They are getting rid of the natural habitat of a lot of animals,” he said. “They are trying to come off like they’re doing something great for the community, but it’s all about money. It’s a bunch of bologna.”

Feldman said there are trees on the site but wouldn’t describe it as “wooded.”

“I think it’s a good place for this project. I would be extremely disappointed if we don’t get approval,” he said.

The benefits of the location include its proximity to the casino core. Just like at the soon-to-be-razed Lake Park Apartments, many of its occupants likely will work at the casinos. Also, helping to avoid the typical not-in-my-neighborhood attitude people take to affordable housing projects, the proposed site only abuts one neighborhood.

“It would be great if we found a site with no neighborhoods, but we play the cards we’re dealt,” he said.

Ken Konchalski, another area resident, said, in addition to the environmental concerns, he objects to the project for several other reasons, including a belief that crime will increase and property values will be depreciated.

According to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, public safety personnel responded to the Lake Park Apartments complex 332 times in the last year, 281 specifically for law enforcement assistance.

“It’s no different than any other community. When you have affordable housing, you’re going to spend a lot of time there on law enforcement issues,” said Sgt. Lance Modispacher.

No other complex in the county requires as much law enforcement time and resources as the Lake Park Apartments, according to the sheriff’s office.

“In my opinion,” Konchalski said, “that’s what they’re bringing right up here to our neighborhood.”

However, Feldman said this is not a typical affordable housing project. Concerns about bringing down property values and safety are without merit. While many low-income communities may appear run-down and decrepit, Feldman said, this one will be well managed and not hurt the aesthetics of the community.

No other location currently exists in the Douglas County portion of Lake Tahoe where affordable housing can be built. The only possible scenario for building the other 70-units in the county will be on a 9-acre lot in Round Hill belonging to Falcon Capital. But to use that it will take a revision to TRPA code, which restricts where urban development can occur.

A proposal to amend the urban boundary may later come before TRPA’s governing board.

Falcon Capital plans to demolish the Lake Park buildings 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.

Construction on the affordable housing complex and Round Hill Vacation Resort could begin this summer, as well as some of the demolition at Lake Park Apartments. One building already has been vacated. Construction of the stormwater basins, which has to wait until all of the apartment complex has been demolished, will not begin for at least two more building seasons.

The stormwater basin part of the project is considered by TRPA as a major environmental improvement project.

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