TRPA counters housing project protest |

TRPA counters housing project protest

Andy Bourelle

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency officials say the concern over the first affordable housing project planned for the Douglas County portion of Lake Tahoe is without merit.

Despite many nearby residents’ beliefs, the project will not increase crime, reduce property values or hurt the environment, officials say.

“There’s a natural reaction from people to say ‘not in my back yard’ and create issues (about affordable housing projects) – factual or not,” said Don Miner, Douglas County commissioner and appointee to TRPA’s governing board. “I haven’t seen any factual issues yet.”

The Governing Board of TRPA is scheduled to consider approving the project Wednesday. The project meets Douglas County requirements and likely will not go before county commissioners.

The 67-unit complex, called Lake Vista Apartments, is tied into a larger project. Falcon Capital LLC, which owns several commercial and residential properties in the lake portion of Douglas County, plans to demolish the Lake Park Apartments on Kahle Drive, build stormwater retention basins at that location and build a 138-unit time share in Round Hill.

Another company, Mountain Ventures LLC, plans to develop Lake Vista Apartments. The complex, on Market Street adjacent to Kingsbury Grade, is supposed to help offset the loss of homes for the residents of Lake Park Apartments.

However, that part of the project has drawn some criticism.

“I am familiar with low-cost housing projects, and they are full of crime and soon they are run down and derelict. … We do not need another slum area at Lake Tahoe,” stated area resident Keith Benton in a letter to TRPA.

A letter from resident Susan Davis stated: “Are you willing to take the responsibility of ruining the property values and the environment of lower Kingsbury Grade?”

Lyn Barnett, TRPA planner, said those concerns are unfounded.

“I really don’t believe that is going to happen,” he said.

The city of South Lake Tahoe in recent years has had success with affordable housing projects, and officials expect the same results on the Douglas County side.

“We haven’t had any problems like that,” said Patrick Conway, housing coordinator for South Lake Tahoe. “I’ve heard some of the comments made about Lake Vista, and I think they’re really ill-founded. They aren’t crime-ridden areas. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about public housing.”

The construction of the 28-unit Tahoe Pines Apartments in the Bijou community and 45-unit Tahoe Senior Plaza near Barton Memorial Hospital, and the rehabilitation of the 70-unit Tahoe Valley Town Homes near the city offices are examples of affordable housing projects in South Lake Tahoe.

“If anything, they have been assets to their neighborhoods,” Conway said.

A drug-free designation, a posted crime-watch area and a tutoring program and computer lab for children are some of the characteristics that will set the planned Lake Vista Apartments apart from the historical perspective of crime-ridden affordable housing, said John Nisby, an affordable housing specialist and a development coordinator for the project.

Affordable housing in the 1990s has all the “bells and whistles” of a market-rate project, he said.

“The benefit of all these is that it changes the dynamics of the property and the relationship between the management and the residents,” he said. “It sways residents from other activities we don’t want them being involved in.”

Additionally, many of the Lake Park Apartments residents may not be able to afford to live in the new facility.

“Now you have one, two and three families living together in one unit (at Lake Park Apartments),” Miner said. “The management of the new facility will not tolerate that.”

However, some residents have different concerns.

“The low-income housing isn’t so much a problem to me. It could be 67 units of multi-millionaires,” said nearby resident Tony Clark. “It’s too many people for that area.”

Clark said he is concerned that workers will have to remove numerous trees. Also, the project could develop traffic and noise impacts that he feels haven’t been adequately investigated.

“There’s a lot of issues. I hope they don’t rush this. I’m sure they could figure it out, but if they rush this they could make a mistake. They could miss something,” he said. “This is nature. They could do irreversible damage.”

However, proponents say all of the necessary studies have been completed.

“The project meets all our regulations for land use, land coverage, height, density. It’s an appropriate project from a code perspective,” Barnett said.

Said Miner: “It is a disturbed site. It is zoned commercial (which allows multi-family dwellings). It could be used as a diesel fueling yard, but it’s not. It’s planned to be a low-income affordable housing project, which will be a good, quality establishment.”

Construction on the affordable housing complex and Round Hill Vacation Resort could begin as early as this summer, as well as some of the demolition at Lake Park Apartments. Construction of the stormwater basins, which has to wait until the apartment complex has been demolished, will not begin for at least two more building seasons.

What: TRPA meeting

When: Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. (1:30 p.m. for Lake Vista Apartments project)

Where: Tahoe Seasons Resort, Saddle Road at Keller

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