Guest View: Renewal should be at hands of locals
What is blight? Blight is a personal opinion. Some see blight in the way South Lake Tahoe is an assimilation of diverse styles of the periods which give it its history. Favoring a cookie-cutter, look-alike Alpine mountain motif, interspersed with the requisite corporate trademarks in dining, lodging, retail, etc., they find comfort in sameness from Stateline to the “Y.” Others embrace the different styles of Tahoe that establish its uniqueness, in its structures as well as the varied businesses they contain. Historical links to Tahoe’s past can be declared as “blight,” some see Ed Wright’s Tahoe Valley Motel or David Latshaw’s Fireside Lodge as obsolete and inefficient, while the majority of residents and visitors see them as well preserved examples of our past, which add to the Tahoe experience.
Consultants are paid to find blight and most people realize that consultants find what they are asked to; they serve their masters well if not honestly. A prime example of this is the preliminary findings on blight presented by consultant Ernie Glover of GRC, who in his document presented to the city’s Planning Commission on Oct. 11 shows buildings as existing, which were torn down and replaced with beautiful new buildings two years before. He also shows pictures of thriving businesses taken from obscure angles and claims they are abandoned, he crops pictures to represent them as having inadequate frontage or separation from the roads that front them. He edits pictures removing business signs, shows graffiti on buildings that was removed the day after it was applied, as well as other questionable practices to prove blight as asked.
Our corridor needs to renew, but it deserves to be done at the hands of locals who have invested their lives, fortunes, and futures in and for our community. They have the desire and ability to do it. The many new buildings and businesses along the corridor prove it. They were done despite the roadblocks local government and the agencies throw in their way. What would our corridor look like if the city and agencies tried as hard to facilitate improvements by locals as they do for out-of-town developers? When was the last time the city spent $7 million on locals as they did for developers of the Park Avenue project at Stateline?
Has the city done such a wonderful job with redevelopment in previous attempts? We were told how Ski Run redevelopment would open a view corridor to the lake from Highway 50. All that’s seen is an ugly, view-blocking monolith of a hotel. What about the hole at Stateline? Developers only had enough money to tear down existing businesses, build a foundation, and pray for a sale to major corporation which will only pay minimum wage and take its profits out of our community. Has the city or TRPA ever worked with or attempted to make it easier for local citizens or businesses to renew or succeed? Have they ever walked from shop to shop or business to business to find out what’s wanted or needed?
How could any individual, group or council in good faith advise the citizens it represents into another redevelopment zone when the existing one is stalled, costing millions in lost TOT, sales tax and eminent domain lawsuits? Or hire additional employees for redevelopment positions when the state, county, and other cities prepare for massive budget shortfalls due to the downturn in the economy? Our city government has become top-heavy with directors, managers, advisors and consultants. We need more attention on maintaining the infrastructure (roads, snow removal, sidewalks, police, etc.), more people doing, less people directing.
We have chosen to stay and suffer at the hands of the current city and redevelopment managers and city council members elected to represent us, who continue to ask for our time and opinions, but once they’re given ignore them, doing as they think best, for they know better than we do ” after all, who are we, the residents of South Lake Tahoe, and what do we know?
We moved here because we loved and respected this land and lake. We chose to live our lives and make our livelihoods here. We will be here long after the developers and bureaucrats have packed up, moving to new opportunities, and greener pastures. Now, we must come together and stop this 1,900-acre travesty, before this town and area we love is leveled, changed beyond recognition, its beauty and uniqueness existing only in our memories. We must ask the hard questions: Why now? Why 1,900 acres? Why in the middle of a downturn in the domestic economy, while the federal, state, county and other municipalities are cutting budgets and downsizing in preparation for dwindling funds? Why not facilitate locals rather than create another bureaucratic quagmire that cost millions in city funds and diminishes city revenues?
Please attend the public meetings to be held at city council chambers at 2 and 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, to make your feelings known.
” John W. Runnels is president of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Government.
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