BY RUTH CROSS
I care to preserve the charm and character of our historic downtown.
What is a “NIMBY?” Seems to me it’s pretty much anyone that disagrees with a developer, the Town of Truckee, and the Sierra Business Council. When I first moved to Truckee many years ago, it was my intent to stay a year and leave. But it didn’t take long for me to open an ice cream parlor and sell Dorothy Fordham’s pies, soups, and sandwiches in what is now the Truckee Hotel — and I never left.
It is my desire to see the heart of our downtown preserved. Adjacent to the historic district, but not a part of it, are new, large-scale developments, including Coburn Crossing along the freeway and the Artist Lofts at the Railyard. Now, this mass and scale of construction is threatening the historic downtown core with the proposed Avery Hotel and Residences at Jibboom Street.
Justifications for the size of the projects have included walkability, the need for high density housing, and the reduction of car use. While worthy goals, are they currently achievable in our harsh climate, existing infrastructure, and built community? Truckee is not safe to walk or bike in many parts of the community, especially in the winter. While fine for special events, public transit does not meet the everyday needs of residents and will not for many years to come. We have always had the Safeway shopping center (the “true” walkable area, connecting grocery shopping, laundry, schools, hospital, doctors’ offices, and sports). Meanwhile, our historic downtown cannot handle the mass and scale of the projects being proposed. Is all this environmental talk whitewashing the monetary gain of a few?
Many of our newer employees now own a home in Reno or Sierraville. They were happy to purchase a home and to them it is worth the half-hour commute to work. The bankers say that your mortgage payment should be no more than 28% of your income. Median household income in Truckee, according to Google data, is roughly $72,000 with two per household, or a maximum expense of $1,680 per month if you’re keeping housing expenditure to the recommended percentage of your income. Studio apartments are going for just about that at Coburn Crossing.
If you are a resident and have a project that needs to go before the planning department, they demand you follow the codes. Yet, if a developer comes before the town, codes are waived. How many more density and parking waivers can be given without a deep study of the impacts to our community?
Downtown parking is already failing. It is critical that new developments follow the existing codes and provide parking on their own site. And parking fees should be banned until there is a parking plan that solves the crisis. The new parking plan should follow input by the residents of Truckee. Several large projects have been both approved or proposed without required on-site parking: Coburn Crossing projects a 20% waiver; Artist Lofts has 75%
waived and no on-site parking for the Truckee Art Haus — Railyard Theater (which has a capacity of 378 seats); Hotel Avery proposes a 70% reduction; and the 83-unit Jibboom Street project proposes a 50% reduction. Additionally, the site is currently a parking lot that holds 100 cars, which will be displaced if the project gets built. There is still no free parking for downtown employees, which was promised when parking meters were installed. Parking for people who live downtown is nonexistent.
Finally, there is the architecture. New projects downtown should enhance the history surrounding them. Recently, an article in the New York Times claimed that “towers” are destroying the essence of small towns across America. If allowed to build as our current planners have envisioned, the downtown will look like the Coburn Crossing project on the freeway. If this is NOT OK with you, write a letter to the editor, talk to a council member, voice your opinion in a way you feel comfortable including responding to this letter with five words, “I am a NIMBY, too.” If you do nothing, we will have “towers” in historic downtown and the charm of Truckee itself will become history.
~ In 1972, Ruth Cross spent a weekend in Truckee and never left. She and her husband opened and ran Truckee-Tahoe Lumber Company until retiring. She remains active in the community.