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Novel ideas at city design workshop

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Four design-firm teams opened up a world of possibilities for South Lake Tahoe, sharing objective, no-holds-barred ideas to make the Ski Run Marina area more user friendly.

The teams, which toiled over the puzzling dilemma for three days, wowed about 40 people assembled in City Council chambers Friday to see the results of the “design charette.”

The design contest involved a brainstorming session geared toward meeting a common goal.

The city and California Tahoe Conservancy — which spearheaded the design charette with the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce — held two public forums to gather input.

The prospect seemed daunting: create a design that opens access to Lake Tahoe, makes the Ski Run village and surrounding area more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, ensures the economic viability of the merchants, addresses parking concerns, considers the sensitivity of the lake’s environment and designates a village square.

The teams were instructed to “think outside the box,” and they obliged.

The Design Workshop, the one firm with a local office at Stateline, proposed a village pier over an underwater viewing room “to give a different perspective to the lake,” designer Deanna Weber told the crowd.

“When we thought about what would be a draw to get them to the Ski Run Marina, we came up with a visitor and interpretive center,” she said of another design feature.

This would provide the history of the lake and educational programs on the importance of lake clarity.

In addition, an outdoor amphitheatre on the pier could be a spot for locals and tourists to gather in a civic space to show movies and host food and wine festivals, Weber added.

When the discussion of the Bijou Center emerged, the idea of removing Smart and Final came up because it blocks access to the lake and provides no vegetation.

Beyond making space for a pier and civic space, the firms proposed a bicycle path leading out of the marina and meandering through neighborhoods and over conservancy lots and easements.

The proposed path also could be used by in-line skaters, walkers and wheelchair users.

A few firms considered the California Department of Transportation plans for installing a bike lane along Highway 50 in the next few years for bike commuters –another user group.

But the vision of restoring streams in the Ski Run region dominated EDAW’s presentation. The idea revolved around giving the harbor more of a lagoon feel.

EDAW even “jumped outside the box” of the appointed design zone, touting the idea of creating a series of ponds in wetlands across from Highway 50.

The walking experience along the major thoroughfare that gives the South Shore its strip-mall layout was anything but enjoyable for designers from Glanville and Associates and Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey — both from the San Francisco Bay Area. They toured the grounds last week to get a sense of what a walker would experience.

“When you walk on that sidewalk, you can barely hear yourself think,” said Barbara Lundburg of Royston Hanamoto.

In its design, Lundburg said her team decided to take parking out of the equation.

She objected to the “sea of cars” now seen at the Ski Run Village parking lot.

“You don’t get the idea there’s even a lake out there,” she said.

Instead, her design dictates much of the village area would be designated as meadow that would serve as a village green.

Public versus private access represented a huge issue for Dick Glanville of his so-named firm. He called the prospect “mind boggling.”

“To me, it seems to be a God-given right to walk out there and enjoy the lake,” he said, adding that the city may face obstacles from private property managers.

But Glanville of San Anselmo created corridors in his plan designed to move people from one end of the marina to El Dorado Beach.

In the village area, Glanville thought a long floating public pier would line up with the Ski Run Boulevard axis.

All the firms who donated their time received nods of support from organizers and from those in the audience, who stayed long after the presentation to peruse the designs covering the walls of the chambers.

The city and Conservancy hope to have a firm selected by a subcommittee by July–one which would represent a cross-section of the community. Then, the conservancy hopes to plan a strategy of grant funding with the city to pay for the massive endeavor.

Refining the design concept from the chosen firm would take about a year, Conservancy Program Analyst Bob Kingman said.


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