SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – After much discussion, the South Lake Tahoe City Council voted to sign Memos of Understanding (MOUs) with the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) and two developers to build affordable housing in the community.
Pacific Development Group and United Housing Corporation have identified properties, some which have already been purchased, to build housing for those who would be displaced by the proposed US 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project which would move the highway through the Rocky Point neighborhood off Pioneer Trail.
TTD brought the MOU to the City to memorialize an agreement to work together in a constructive manner. The three-way partnership was not needed as TTD and the developers could have worked together without the City. Councilman Cody Bass sits on the TTD board and got his fellow board members to bring the City in on the MOU, a move both Mayor Brooke Laine and Councilman Devin Middlebrook thanked him for.
“The MOU is our wanting to work together for affordable housing,” said Bass. “This is just the first step. We have a responsibility to be involved. For us to not be involved it is irresponsible. This puts us in the driver’s seat.”
Councilwoman Tami Wallace said she could not be part of an MOU that mentioned the US50 project in its verbiage ad wanted it strickly to deal with housing. She went through several areas of the agreement that she wanted to be removed or changed. The word “shall” was replaced by “may” in many areas as well as the option of a five-day notice to exit the MOU by any party. Bass also asked that the word “binding” be removed.
“It is very clear to me that it does knock down one of the dominos for getting the Loop Road built,” said Wallace.
The domino she spoke of is the self-imposed requirement of TTD to build affordable replacement housing for those who would be displaced when the US50 rerouting project (Loop Road) is built.
PDG starting researching property to purchase for affordable housing in South Lake Tahoe two years ago, long before the new requirement for replacement housing resulting from the US50 project was added.
On Tuesday, PDG announced the completed purchase of the Zehren’s Nursery property at the corner of Highway 50 and Ski Run Boulevard as well as two lots behind in. They previously tried to buy the Heavenly Valley Lodge, which is behind the lots, but that fell through.
Pacific Development Group (PDG)has a history in South Lake Tahoe having recently acquired and rehabilitated Sierra Garden Apartments, and they developed Tahoe Pines, Sierra Vista, and Evergreen I and II. Their specialty if workforce and affordable housing though they do have some other types of properties.
Through their lawyer Lew Feldman, PDG would charge $500 to $800 a month for the deed-restricted units, depending on size. He said PDG and other affordable housing companies need partners and associated subsidies on those types of projects as they aren’t cost-effective to build from scratch.
Wallace said she’d approve the MOUs with the adjustments in verbiage if she got the rest of the Council to back her on getting the US 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project in front of the voters. She said the voters should be able to have a voice in the project.
Carl Hasty, the TTD district manager, spoke to Council, saying his agency’s goal is 200 units of transit-oriented development and not just required 76 units of replacement housing. He said with the portions of the MOU Wallace wanted to be removed were reflective and explained what all parties were trying to accomplish.
“Housing is the focus,” said Hasty. “The removal [of recitals in the MOU] doesn’t feel as transparent.”
The TTD board will have the MOUs to vote on during their September meeting.
Several members of the public spoke during public comment about the MOUs, and several asked that Middlebrook not be able to vote on anything to do with his employer TRPA or TTD. David Jinkens, Scott Ramirez, Jerry Goodman, and Lou Perini all asked he recuse himself just as Councilman Jason Collin does on Loop Road issues.
“The city takes conflict of interests very seriously,” said City Attorney Heather Stroud. She said they put in requests with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for both Collin (who owns property in the development area) and Middlebrook.
The ruling on Collin hasn’t been received yet though he recuses himself on his own for now, and the City received the ruling on Middlebrook August 6. That said, per Government Code 1060, salaries are exempt from reasons for recusal. He could not vote on a contract that was directly with his department.
Another public comment came from Dominic Kichenside who lives on David Lane, adjacent to the proposed housing project. He said he and his neighbors don’t want affordable housing in this location as it would impact views, have a negative effect on their property values, and wanted them to look at lots with a lesser impact on neighborhoods.