The Placer County planning commission voted 6-0-1 at its May 28 meeting to deny the Kings Beach Lakeside Redevelopment project, a residential-commercial development, formally known as Laulima.

That decision is identical to the July 25, 2019 meeting, when the commissioners voted to continue the project discussion to an open date, requesting that the applicant and county planning staff work more closely with the community to overcome some of the Kings Beach residents’ concerns about the project — specifically, that it’s not a true mixed-use project. (Read Kings Beach’s Future Complexion Under Discussion; Community Battling Mixed-use Definition for background.)

County counsel summarized the commissioners’ reason for denial: “This proposed project is not consistent with the Tahoe Basin Area Plan policies requiring mixed use, specifically given its location in the town center; also the project would be detrimental to the peace, comfort, and general welfare of people residing and working in the neighborhood, since it doesn’t provide enough mixed use for the location and doesn’t promote public use of the lakefront; and also that the project is not consistent with the mixed-use character of the immediate neighborhood and specifically the existing use of the property.”

The Laulima presentation on May 28 was the exact same version as the one shared in 2019, despite a community meeting that took place Jan. 28, 2020, at which approximately 70 attendees were able to provide comment and ask questions. At this meeting, a conceptual boutique hotel was presented as a substitution for the current residential-commercial combination, per community members’ preference, but was found by Laulima project staff to not be financially viable.

While the applicant — Brian Helm, project manager for Paradigm8 — declined to comment further to Moonshine Ink on next steps, property owner and project developer David Bouquillon did share his current stance at the end of the commission meeting.

“I get it, that this is probably not the project that you were hoping to get,” he said over speakerphone, “but it’s unfair to say we haven’t been responsive to you and the community. We’ve demonstrated each time that we’ve had a request, to go back and look at something, and we’ve shown you why we can’t do it.”

Heather Beckman, senior planner with Placer County, explained to the Ink where Bouquillon and his team are coming from: “Obviously from their perspective, in terms of professional developers and what they feel they can and cannot do from a financial perspective for construction and the longevity of the project, they did come to the table, they did hear it, but they ultimately decided to move forward with their original design.”

The planning commission’s perspective, on the other hand, comes hand-in-hand with a broad community discomfort of the Laulima proposal.

“Petitions with almost 2,000 signatures have been gathered, agreeing that condos on the North Shore’s best beach is not the right fit,” said Megan Chillemi, Kings Beach resident and North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council member, after the May 28 meeting. “Redevelopment is needed, but it must be the right project that supports a balanced mixed-use designation. This project clearly did not meet the intent of the Tahoe Basin Area Plan.”

Chillemi and other Kings Beach residents who called in during the meeting’s public comment period expressed their desire to see a greater use of retail (perhaps the aforementioned hotel) on the property rather than the three commercial buildings and 10 residential units.

Three homeowners directly adjacent to the property are in support of the Laulima development, one of whom called in during public comment to express his thoughts.

“We collectively fully endorse the project as proposed,” said Tom Gordon on behalf of adjacent beachfront properties on Brockway Vista, the road that bisects the property. “… As we see the project as proposed at this moment, we feel it will provide attractive residential units as well as other commercial and community spaces. That leads to a regionally well-balanced development.”

Helm and Bouquillon have 10 days from May 28 to appeal the decision. This appeal must be filed if the applicant chooses to move up in the chain of command for approval, to the county board of supervisors.

“Then 30 days after that, they have to submit ‘here’s precisely what we’re appealing and why,’” Beckman said. “Within 90 days, we take it to the board. The board would then be the decision maker at that point. If the board made a decision, they (the developer) or anyone who’s commented on the project, if they didn’t like the board’s decision, it could then get litigated.”

Litigation has been the fate of many larger developments, Beckman continued — the Squaw Valley Specific Plan, Martis Valley West — so the Laulima development could still be built despite a large number of Kings Beach residents opposing it.

The future of the space is in the hands of the developer right now, Beckman said, and people — community members, the planning commission, the county — do want to see the property successfully utilized.

“I think we all really realize that Kings Beach and investing in our town center is key. How is it that we can best do that for the property owners as well as the community?” she told Moonshine. “[The applicant is] left open to continuing the conversation and trying to find a way to come up with a design that meets the needs of all the parties involved.”