Residents voice concerns with Loop Road project
Officials hoping to build consensus on the Highway 50 Loop Road project could have an uphill road to travel with property owners in a South Lake Tahoe neighborhood.
From complaints about insufficient information to questions contemplating whether the project can be stopped, property owners and residents at a meeting April 30 made it clear they are not all on board with what is commonly referred to as the “Loop Road” project.
“Why is this happening?” asked Gustavo Adolfo, a Bay Area resident who has owned a cabin in the Rocky Point neighborhood since the ’70s.
Adolfo’s cabin, which he hopes to one day leave for his grandchildren, is in the proposed path of demolition, he said pointing to a map.
The meeting was organized by the city of South Lake Tahoe, which has taken a more active role in the project since the election of a new City Council in 2018. City Manager Frank Rush Jr. explained the meeting was targeted at residents and property owners in the Rocky Point area.
Based on the input, some residents still have plenty of concerns.
“I don’t want to lose the home,” Adolfo hold the Tribune.
The Loop Road project proposes realigning Highway 50 behind the casino corridor and the Heavenly Village area. The newly aligned highway would cut through the Rocky Point neighborhood to connect back into the current alignment just west of where Pioneer Trail meets the highway.
A bypass around Stateline has been envisioned since the approval of the casinos, with Nevada building its portion. However, California blocked construction on its side, leaving regional traffic to pass through the casino corridor.
That new path will ultimately lead to the demolition of residential and commercial properties.
In total, 76 housing units could be destroyed, according to project documents. Agencies facilitating the project have committed to building 109 units of replacement housing — 102 of which will be deed restricted for low-income people, while the other seven will be deed restricted for moderate-income people.
However, as Tahoe Transportation District Manager Carl Hasty explained, the environmental plans approved by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency last fall represent a “worst-case scenario” with regards to the property acquisitions.
The actual design work will determine the number of properties that actually need to be acquired, Hasty said.
Still, the issue of what will happen to property owners and renters weighed heavily on some people’s minds.
One man asked what will happen to owner-occupied properties, to which Hasty responded they will be bought out and have the opportunity to purchase a new property in Tahoe or elsewhere.
That led one audience member to exclaim that those people will simply move off the hill.
Another woman who identified as a renter asked if she’ll be able to rent a home.
Hasty said renters will have a choice of receiving money over the course of 42 months to subsidize rent or they can move into the replacement housing units that will be built as part of the project.
Asked if those replacement properties will be an actual home or apartment unit, Hasty said they will most likely be apartment units in order to meet the demand in a geographically limited area.
He clarified the replacement housing will either be built within the project area or the Ski Run Boulevard area — not at the Y, as was suggested at one point.
Still, the question on some residents’ minds was: Can the city stop the project?
The question sparked a brief back and forth between two members of City Council in the audience.
Councilor Tamara Wallace said yes, arguing the city could refuse to relinquish rights of way and refuse to take on the responsibility of maintaining the current U.S. 50 alignment, which would became a walkable main street-like area.
Councilor Devin Middlebrook fired back, saying Caltrans could simply keep maintaining the current U.S. 50 alignment and opt not to act in coordination with the city.
Rush, in responding to the audience member’s question, said the project could be stopped “if you have the determination.”
The city plans more meetings going forward.
Speaking at the May 7 City Council meeting, Mayor Brooke Laine described the meeting with Rocky Point residents as “a good first step.”