Board OKs potential changes to downtown
August 16, 2013
The Board of Supervisors approved the downtown-revitalization plan presented by the business group Downtown 20/20 on Thursday after Supervisor Brad Bonkowski told the group that "no part of your plan is set in stone."
The group, started by Doreen Mack and headed by Dana Lee Freund, laid out an extensive list of proposals to make the downtown corridor more attractive and more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, and hopefully draw more locals, tourists and businesses.
On Carson Street, they said, that effort includes creating wider sidewalks and reducing traffic to one lane in either direction, in part to slow traffic.
Freund assured the board that 20/20 is open to different ideas about how to implement the plan.
The proposal is at such a preliminary stage that there was almost no discussion about how the city would pay for infrastructure and other improvements. City Manager Larry Werner said there are three options: the one-eighth-percent optional infrastructure sales tax Carson has available, a special assessment district or a commercial revitalization assessment.
Even detractors at the three-hour meeting approved of many of the ideas included in the proposal. Their main bone of contention involved narrowing traffic to two lanes from four to make room for parking on Carson Street.
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Bob Lamkin, who owns the Shell gas station, said he has signatures from people involved with 90 businesses "from Winnie to Stewart" who adamantly oppose the lane restrictions. Narrowing the lanes would just drive more people outside the downtown corridor, he said.
Lamkin added that he not only supports efforts to beautify downtown and give many of he old buildings there a facelift, he would be willing to consider paying a tax to help make the infrastructure improvements.
Mack said the extension of the freeway bypass south to Fairview Drive already has reduced traffic downtown. When the bypass is completed and connects with U.S. Highway 50 west to Lake Tahoe, she said, even fewer vehicles will pass through downtown.
Daryl Reedy, who runs Arby's south of the central corridor, said his business already has taken a hit because it is orth of the bypass. He urged the board not to further reduce that traffic flow by cutting the street to one lane in each direction.
But Mack said attracting more businesses would help restore the number of potential customers and that parking on Carson Street is key because those businesses "aren't going to come in until customers have access to their store."
Jeff Moser of 20/20 said the plan includes promoting biking and safe walking through the corridor. He said it includes creating more public gathering places, pocket parks and wider sidewalks to help create a more café-like atmosphere.
Bonkowski and fellow Supervisor Karen Abowd — who, together, called on 20/20 to develop a downtown plan — said they also are talking with business operators to the north and south, as well as on the U.S. Highway 50 east corridor, and want them to come up with plans of their own. They said planning should be expanded to include the whole community, not just downtown. They added that the downtown plan should move forward given that it's much further along than any other potential plan.
Supervisors Jim Shirk and John McKenna said they wanted to be assured the city isn't committing itself to anything, especially funding, by approving the plan in concept.
Werner said the motion before the board would simply instruct his staff and him to review the plan and all of its components and make recommendations for the board to consider — including how to fund it.
The approval vote was unanimous.