Guest column: The Loop Road — a bad kitchen remodel (opinion)
Last week the city of South Lake Tahoe held a public meeting to discuss the already approved plan to re-route U.S. 50 through a bunch of small businesses and a whole neighborhood, around the backside of Harrah’s where half of the existing Loop Road now sits.
This plan was concocted by the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) with little input from the community and the near absence of participation by our former city leaders.
Residents could have left their jobs to attend little known meetings about this project, but that is the extent of the community engagement offered by the TTD and the TRPA for this plan that will remove businesses and homes in our community.
Plainly including stakeholders that might not view this project favorably was not a high priority. The TTD and TRPA continue to move forward with their “father knows best” school of thinking and has so far acted as if the city of South Lake Tahoe does not exist.
The meeting was opened by a representative from the TRPA presenting the plan, which the TTD and TRPA have agreed upon despite voters having already voted to have a say in this decision. City Council member, Mr. Collin, was of course absent given he has property in the area and has a conflict of interest (this was not apparently enough to stop his previous action to block the outcome of the public vote against this project moving forward).
The public was then invited to make their comments while the remaining City Council members sat and listened. That this meeting was happening after the fact and the project is likely little more than a foregone conclusion did not escape those in the room. People spoke both in favor and against this project moving forward with the usual suspects taking their established positions.
Business interests spoke to how the project will be a great improvement and spoke to the many unsubstantiated potential benefits. Residents spoke to being excluded from the process and the impacts to those being tossed out of their homes and businesses as well as the potential real costs of moving forward. No conclusion came from this meeting with only promises of consideration by our current city leaders being offered.
We have had a full helping of lip service with no action yet on the table by our city leaders.
The Loop Road has become a bad kitchen remodel. The TRPA and the TTD would have us believe they can not finish the project that was planned and started so many years ago. Rather than use the existing routes that would require some road widening and traffic rerouting they have decided to start from scratch with a massive development plan.
Conveniently, this new project routes traffic away from the former route, adjacent to Edgewood, to the mountain side behind Harrah’s casino and through a blighted residential area that many would like to see removed. Using the highway as an excuse to pave over areas the city is ill equipped to redevelop through normal means while also routing traffic away from the sacrosanct Park properties.
The plan as it currently stands is little more than a beautification project that is an excuse to pave over a blighted area no one seems capable of otherwise managing. There are no studies as to the impacts to travel through this area during our busiest times and no admission to the fact that this project specifically targets low income residents and small businesses who are unable to defend their homes. As always, local small businesses will be removed in favor of larger outside interests.
The city leaders have basically three options. They can hold a bunch of meetings to placate residents and move forward with a project they neither have the money for nor the support of residents. They can tell the TRPA and the TTD to come back with a plan that does not remove a whole community and displace small businesses as the original plan would do. Or, they can let the voters once more have their say on moving forward with this bad kitchen remodel.
I will not be surprised to see further public meetings announced to discuss the already approved plan. After all, father knows best around here.
Scott Ramirez is a South Lake Tahoe resident.