UCD receives flack over building plans | TahoeDailyTribune.com

UCD receives flack over building plans

Melissa Vinitsky, Tribune News Service

Lake Forest residents and a state assemblyman butted heads with planners of the new University of California, Davis research center last week at the fish hatchery.

The two sides are at odds over the facility’s proposed site on state park lands and its lakefront location.

“It is very hypocritical for agencies here to protect Lake Tahoe to join together to scratch each other’s backs, to do something they would never permit a private party to do,” said Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City.

Leslie is referring to allegations that the California Department of Parks and Recreation approved the building’s location on state park land in exchange for free office space.

But UC Davis and park officials say the proposal, which would allow park resource management staff to use 3,000 square feet of office space and 10 parking spaces, will benefit the lake in the long run.

“We are all working toward the same goal,” said Sid England, an environmental planner at the university. “This will help the entire lake.”

By being housed in the same facility, park officials say, scientists and park staff can better work together on projects and share information.

“The synergy of research staff working with the resource management staff of state parks is going to be great,” said state parks’ Ken Anderson. “It will be a collaborative effort.”

University and state parks officials also tout the benefit to taxpayers.

UC Davis raised $13 million from private donations to pay for the new Tahoe Research Center. With the parks department only responsible for maintenance and operations costs in the new building, proponents say taxpayers could save up to $1 million in rent.

“It is all being paid for by a private fund-raising campaign by UC Davis,” said England. “In effect, taxpayers get the benefit.”

Another criticism of Leslie echoed by community members centered on environmental concerns. Opponents say the new building would sit too close to the shoreline and could cause the very destruction the university is trying to stop.

“The purpose of the building is to determine how development at Lake Tahoe damages the lake,” said Leslie. “To put it on the lake side of the highway is wrong.”

But university officials say no substantial evidence has arisen that indicates the project could negatively impact the environment. The building would be constructed as far back from the shore as possible — 600 feet, which is farther back than any existing neighborhood structures — and would take up only 25-percent of the site.

The area is designated by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency as high-capacity. Even the League to Save Lake Tahoe came out in favor of the location.

“We don’t oppose it,” said the league’s Jon-Paul Harries. “It’s a much more desirable site (than the campground site). It will not be visible from the lake, and it’s on highland capability.”

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