Housing project would be geared toward disabled
South Lake Tahoe may be poised to get its first disabled housing project when city and federal officials are expected to close in a week on property at the “Y” with a Minnesota developer.
The concept for the $5.7 million Sky Forest Acres – due to go in at 750 Emerald Bay Road – has accumulated 55 people interested in one of the 18 units during its five years of development.
That was three years too late for Catherine Carter, who recently moved from Monterey into one of four Tahoe Senior Plaza units with a roll-in shower to accommodate wheelchair-bound tenants. Carter said she does not get around in a wheelchair, but she has trouble stepping up with a bad hip.
It took Carter two years to get into the Senior Plaza on Third Street. She contends there’s a need for more housing features that cater to the disabled.
In the proposed housing project for the physically disabled, Accessible Space, Inc., the developer, plans to install roll-in showers, lever handles to easily pull down on, 3-foot-wide doorways, low-cut carpeting, roll-under counters and wheelchair access around the building. A bus stop is planned one block from the project.
The 2000 Census indicates 2,000 disabled people live on the South Shore and 25,000 in El Dorado County.
“We’re excited. It’s been a long time coming,” said Rhea Paralas of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Delays have occurred from the construction schedule and high bids to a technicality with the application and building concessions to meet Tahoe Regional Planning Agency guidelines. A call for cedar siding turned into a cedar-like material. One building gave way to two structures when the original design exceeded the TRPA’s height restriction, HUD spokesman Jason Dongses. TRPA granted the permit in July.
Since the proposal first came into view, Keith and Denise McCarthy have wondered how the project would come into fruition. They live on Glorene Avenue directly up the hill to Gardner Mountain in line with where the project is due to go in.
“At first, we thought they could have found a better spot. But it’s their property,” he said.
She added that the architecture of the complex should serve as an improvement on Highway 89. The parents’ concerns revolved around the safety of their two children if those with mental disorders lived so close by. Plus, the complex may add traffic to Roger Avenue.
Applicants must have a qualifying disabled and consent to a background check. HUD – which will offer housing subsidies – will accept applications from physically challenged individuals only.
“Anything that helps the disabled sounds good. And if I don’t get my knees done, I may end up there,” said Veronica Welenchenko, who just moved into a house on Roger Avenue.
Subsidized housing brings up tricky issues in most neighborhoods when complexes are introduced – right down to using taxpayer dollars for such a venture.
Former City Councilman Bill Crawford, an advocate of less government subsidies who’s running for a seat in November’s election, said the project has its merit if it falls within the 20 percent allocation for housing redevelopment funds.
“That’s OK – but above and beyond that, we’d have to look at that more closely,” Crawford said, referring to cost overruns. “That’s become a hot topic.”
With 117 housing projects in 28 states under its belt, the St. Paul, Minn., developer expects to get interested parties from all over the country. And with that, apparently the South Shore job market will support the venture, according to David Kelly of the Tahoe Area Coordinating Council for the Disabled.
“There are many jobs – from Safeway to the casinos – who offer jobs to the disabled,” he said. In many cases, employers must look beyond the physical impairment to see the desire to work, Kelly added.
Groundbreaking is set for September.