Letter: Problems with proposed Loop Road MOUs (opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Letter: Problems with proposed Loop Road MOUs (opinion)

Scott Ramirez
Guest Column

Editor’s note: In discussing the memorandums of understanding (MOUs) at the Aug. 6 City Council meeting, City Attorney Heather Stroud said the MOUs do not extend to aspects of the U.S. 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project beyond the affordable housing element. Specifically, she said the MOUs “do not express the city’s approval or support for the project as a whole.” They are expected to come back to council at the Aug. 20 meeting.

The city of South Lake Tahoe will soon consider two MOUs with the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) for low income housing.

On the surface this would appear to be a good thing. The city of South Lake Tahoe is facing a housing shortage due to a lack of affordable housing, which is making it harder for local employers to attract new employees.

Unfortunately, the MOUs have a fatal flaw: they are a tacit agreement to move forward with the very controversial Loop Road II Project (the U.S. 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project).

This should not go forward until the city of South Lake Tahoe has agreed that this project should proceed and in what form that should be. The voters of the city of South Lake Tahoe have already clearly voted to have a say in this. Whether that vote is upheld or not does not change the very clear view of the voters. If the city agrees to these MOUs, as written, I believe the Loop Road II Project is all but a done deal.

The MOUs in question are two nearly identical agreements between the city of South Lake Tahoe, the TTD and one of two development companies (the Pacific Development Group Inc. and the Urban Housing Communities LLC). Both MOUs recognize the TTD’s ability to “implement transportation projects and programs within the Tahoe Basin.”

These MOUs go on to identify each development company as having rights to proceed with preliminary site designs, create budgets and seek grants.

What neither MOU identifies is any mechanism for the city of South Lake Tahoe to request changes to the already established plans. Furthermore, it potentially commits the city to identifying grants and other funding sources (no general fund is committed) to help fund the affordable housing project and to “work cooperatively” with each of the development companies, “in accordance with the TRPA Revitalization Project Permit, and also in as close proximity to the housing units displaced by the Revitalization Project as possible.”

The Regional Plan, the TRPA Revitalization Project Permit and these MOUs all identify the Loop Road II Project.

I believe signing these MOUs will ultimately lock the city into supporting the Loop Road II Project, gives the city no say in the project and commits the city to use city resources to help identify and find funding (grants) to support a part of the project as it is already defined.

If we look at the options for where the new low-income housing is proposed, they overlap where the existing road resides, where homes and businesses currently reside and can only happen if the Loop Road Project II Project moves forward.

These MOUs are a commitment to the city of South Lake Tahoe to not only help find funds for part of the Loop Road II Project but to work “cooperatively” to make it happen.

This is not a seat at the table, it is a place in the kitchen cleaning up the plates.

Scott Ramirez is a South Lake Tahoe resident.