New kink in Harrison Avenue plan: Additional funds to pay for improvements might require sacrificing parking |

New kink in Harrison Avenue plan: Additional funds to pay for improvements might require sacrificing parking

Adam Jensen
The city of South Lake Tahoe, business owners and the Conservancy are still trying to find the best redesign of Harrison Avenue. / Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Harrison Avenue, with its pothole-punctuated asphalt, drainage problems and “choose-your-own-adventure” style of parking, has long been overdue for a makeover.

“It doesn’t really work from a lot of standpoints,” said Duncan Sennott, owner of Sno-Flake Drive-In on Harrison Avenue. “When it rains you see lakes all over the place; aesthetically, it’s not very pleasing, and it really doesn’t promote business in the area.”

Improvement of the street, which runs as a frontage road along Highway 50 south of Regan Beach, has been included as an area for improvement in city documents as early as 1995, but the funding for implementing a project has never materialized.

“All along that has been an issue,” said Teri Jamin, South Lake Tahoe’s community development director, last Thursday. “Funding has always been a critical component.”

City consultants, working with Harrison Avenue business owners, developed a plan including a bike path, landscaping and sidewalks along the street this past spring.

Money for the improvements is available from the California Tahoe Conservancy, which funds a range of projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin, including those promoting public access and recreation.

By including the minimum-width bike path available for California Tahoe Conservancy funding — 8 feet wide with 2-foot buffers on each side — the plan retains some on-street parking along most of Harrison Avenue.

Under the arrangement, the conservancy could pay for up to 30 percent of the approximately $2.8 million the plan would cost to construct, according to Ray Lacey, deputy director of the conservancy.

Significant investments by the city and private interests would likely be needed to fulfill the financial requirements — funds that have yet to be committed.

“No one knows how it can be implemented,” Lacey said last Thursday. “We cannot for the life of us figure out where the rest of the money is going to come from.”

In a move that could bring more funding to the project, the City Council on Oct. 2 accepted $38,750 from the conservancy to fund the development of an alternative design.

A new design could potentially bring more conservancy funding to the table, but would require expansion of the public design features, such as the bike path.

But some property owners are unhappy with the potential change and its impacts on parking.

At the least, a wider bike lane would decrease convenience for customers of Harrison Avenue businesses; at worst, it would remove Harrison Avenue completely, according to John Cefalu, owner of the property housing Al Tahoe Laundry Center.

“That doesn’t leave any parking,” Cefalu said last Thursday. “It would be detrimental to the business community, absolutely … absolutely.”

While the possibility of eliminating Harrison Avenue is one aspect consultants may look at while drawing up a new design, Lacey doubted the City Council would approve such a plan.

While acknowledging the concerns of business owners, Lacey said development of an additional alternative will ensure California residents get the most from their tax dollars.

“When we invest public dollars in a project of this magnitude, we have an obligation to pursue the best possible project,” Lacey said last week.

The option developed in collaboration with the business owners remains on the table, according to Jamin.

Details of the new plan will not be available until January at the earliest and it will ultimately be up to the City Council to choose the new design for Harrison Avenue.

If You Go:

What: Meeting of the 56-Acre Steering Committee

When: Today, 4 to 6 p.m.

Where: Lake Tahoe Community College, Aspen Room in the Library Building, One College Drive, South Lake Tahoe

A proposed design for 56 acres of land that are home to Campground by the Lake, the South Lake Tahoe Branch of the El Dorado County Library and the City of South Lake Tahoe Recreation Complex is scheduled to be revealed at a public meeting tonight.

Project designers will seek input from the 56-Acre Project steering committee after presenting their preferred alternative, which has been developed from ideas generated over the past eight months, according to Deb Vreeland, the project’s manager.

While public comment will be accepted at tonight’s meeting, a public workshop is scheduled for Oct. 25. The time and location of this workshop has yet to be announced.

Project designers are expected to incorporate input from the steering committee into their master plan for the project, scheduled to be completed in December.

An environmental review process will follow approval of the master plan.

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