TRPA discusses affordable housing component of Loop Road Project
Housing is the “keystone” to the Loop Road Project, said Carl Hasty, district manager of Tahoe Transportation District.
As the environmental document for the proposed project nears completion, Hasty and TRPA senior planner Shannon Friedman provided TRPA board members with an update on the five project alternatives — including the option of building nothing — at the Oct. 26 meeting.
While the project and its alternatives focus on directing traffic flow around the casino corridor and creating a more walkable and bikeable downtown area, the creation of affordable housing is at the heart of the project, said Hasty.
He views the US 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project as the first of many community development projects — extending beyond just transit benefits — that TTD can help facilitate through private and public partnerships.
“Looking at this all the more closely, we have recognized that at TTD we are committing ourselves to being a proactive partner on transit-oriented development,” said Hasty.
“If we are going to do this and become experts by the time we are done with this, why do it once? There is more to be done.“
Hasty showcased one of the options for replacing the aging housing that would be acquired and torn down to make way for the realignment of Highway 50.
“For the proposed alternative, if that were to become the preferred, that’s 76 units of residential use — 58 of which qualify under TRPA rules as deed-restricted affordable,” explained Hasty.
“What is now allowed in the local area plan, which we did not have available to us when we started the project, as part of your regional plan approval, is the idea of mixed-use, greater height, higher density [housing].”
Hasty said TTD is committed to providing relocation assistance for all qualified affected residents — the majority of whom are renters.
“This is largely a concentration of our Spanish-speaking community, also our Filipino community. We have interviewed these folks several times and done a relocation-assistance plan and what the needs would be and the cost,” he added.
“We are not going to remove existing development until we are ready to construct. The first place that’s going to be relevant to is housing.”
Hasty showed pictures of the existing housing conditions in his presentation.
“The majority of this is quite old and never intended for the density and the use that it has now. A lot of it was for summer recreation, and it has morphed over the years.”
TRPA board member Shelly Aldean questioned whether all property owners in the area are willing sellers, and if not, who the “condemning authority” would be.
“It is premature. That’s a bridge we will have to cross when we get there,” replied Hasty.
“The City [of South Lake Tahoe] has not been in a position of supporting eminent domain, and if we are going to take that tool off the table, then somebody better come up with some pretty good money.”
Hasty said the cost of construction of the road, right-of-way acquisition and relocation will total around $72 million.
“We are anticipating at least $20 million will be added to that for the housing. This is part of why public-private becomes attractive in this as a way of financing that component of it,” he expressed, pointing to additional funding options through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and California Strategic Growth Council.
“We have been approached by a number of local interests here on the private side with this idea. We’ve also been in discussion with companies that specialize in affordable housing and have a whole approach to financing.”
At present, TTD has acquired $6 million in federal transportation dollars for the project.
Cadence Matijevich, alternate for board member Barbara Cegavske, spoke up in support of the affordable-housing component of the project.
“I think it’s super important. Ten months after getting my seat on the board here and six months after having to give up on my dream of living in Tahoe full time because of housing affordability issues, I think it’s critical,” she said.
“I agree with you that the public-private partnerships are important and the affordable housing units are important, but I think there is another middle level in there of market-rate homes for the middle class that are critical to addressing some of the issues that we are working on.”
Matijevich urged Hasty to bring forward policy issues that TTD encounters as they develop the project so that local governments can help work through them.
Hasty agreed — and said it is an issue that TTD, as an employer, experiences as well.
“My employees are having difficulty finding housing. As an employer trying to attract qualified candidates to fill positions, I’ve lost a number of those because they get here and can’t find housing,” said Hasty.
“So if we can do something about it, we are committing ourselves to that.”
The draft environmental document for the US 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project is expected out in November, and will be available for public review and comment.