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Downtown is the Heart of Truckee

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By STEFANIE OLIVIERI  |  Truckee

My friends have asked why I decided to join a lawsuit challenging the Truckee Town Council decision to approve a Raley’s grocery store on the edge of town. The answer is simple. The council decision is about much more than where we buy groceries. The decision is about what we want our town to be and what our community values are.

I am troubled by the ramifications of the decision by the town council to approve the Soaring Ranch plan.

The town council should have required Soaring Ranch to build workforce housing concurrent with any commercial development.

Truckee faces a housing crisis. Young families are unable to live here. Lower-income residents are forced to move, and employers are unable to attract employees. This harms the entire town. Approving any amount of retail development at Soaring Ranch without requiring concurrent workforce housing to serve its employees simply makes no sense. Every other large development has been required to build workforce housing at the same time as its other construction. This is true of the Railyard project. This is true of the Grocery Outlet project.

The promise of building workforce housing in the future is not enough!

Unless Truckee incorporates solutions to its housing crisis in each of its planning decisions, we will continue to drive working families out of our community.

The Soaring Ranch project approval is inconsistent with our commitment to downtown.

Downtown is the heart of Truckee. Downtown is the asset that creates Truckee’s sense of authenticity, place, and community. Downtown is the driver of economic diversification, new business development, and increased visitation in the region. To expand and improve downtown is to expand and improve opportunity in all of Truckee’s other districts and neighborhoods. We are all lifted by a vibrant downtown.

Over 20 years ago, Truckee confirmed our commitment to its downtown in our very first General Plan and Downtown Specific Plan. We reconfirmed it when we made the redevelopment of the Railyard the key strategy to assure that the downtown is the centerpiece of our community, both now and in the future. And we continue to reconfirm it every summer Thursday when we gather to celebrate community.

Truckee secured or committed more than $20 million in grant and public funding for the Railyard, and encouraged the Railyard owners to put another $20 million into infrastructure improvements to improve parking, circulation, and pedestrian access, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With the approval of Raley’s, Truckee risks failing to realize the full potential of the Railyard project. A grocery anchor tenant that generates consistent local visitation is critical to a vibrant downtown.

The case is simple. Multiple economic analyses, including Raley’s own analysis, shows that our community can only support one new full size grocery store in addition to Safeway and SaveMart. Yet after the Town approved the development permit for a full-size grocery store at the Railyard, it then approved Raley’s and Grocery Outlet. Because no updated analysis has been done of the impact of too many grocery stores on the Railyard or our other commercial centers, the planning commission and the council voted without the best available information. This denied the public and decision makers the ability to fully understand the effects of overbuilding on the entire community.

This is about our community values. Do we value housing for our working families? Do we value good public process with all of the information on the table? Do we value vibrant, walkable, low-emission communities that reflect the future vision of our residents? Will we keep our commitment to the downtown and the Railyard?

I joined this lawsuit because Truckee deserves a second chance to have this discussion openly, fairly, fully informed,and without rancor or recrimination. We need a second chance to do the right thing.

~ Stefanie Olivieri is a lifelong resident of Truckee, born in Tahoe City. She is the chairwoman of the board at Cabona’s Inc., a 100-year-old family-owned business in downtown Truckee.

 
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September 13, 2018