Saturday, 25 May 2024

Lakeport redevelopment projects explained during Tuesday update

LAKEPORT – The community had the opportunity to hear the latest on Lakeport Redevelopment Agency projects in an hour-and-a-half-long meeting Tuesday night at city hall.


City Redevelopment Manager Richard Knoll led the meeting, which he said was meant to give an update on the agency's plans.


Knoll went over several areas during the meeting, beginning with a brief discussion about the $5.6 million in bonds the agency has issued since 2004 – which will be used to fund projects – and the agency's 2008-09 budget, which has just over $800,000 in operating expense and the bond proceeds.


The Third Street project, which also encompasses the city hall parking lot, is under way, and is the first phase in the downtown development program. Knoll said the second phase of the project will continue through downtown, and include new and wider sidewalks, landscaping, street lamps, bulbouts, street improvements, new pavement, street reconstruction and underground storm drainage.


Knoll showed the large audience a rough draft of a waterfront development plan, which so far hasn't gone beyond the staff level. It takes a “blank slate” approach, looking at several blocks along the waterfront as if there was no development in place, and considering what kinds of new development could take advantage of the close proximity to downtown and the lake.


The draft drawing showed a hotel development on the Dutch Harbor property and part of the Natural High land.


In-depth public discussion on the plan will be held at a later time, said Knoll.


Business owner Karan Mackey noted that the Natural High School property, one of the last undeveloped parcels on the shoreline, has been in public ownership since 1913, and she said she's like to see it continue to remain that way.


Knoll said he went to an Urban Land Institute meeting in Los Angeles eight months ago, and the message he heard from the group – which is mostly commercial developers – is that they've made mistakes in the past by eliminating open space, which they now acknowledge is critical to good development.


He said it's become clear to him how important the Natural High property is to the community.


During discussion with audience members Knoll also acknowledged that Lakeport Unified School District Superintendent Erin Hagberg has seen the plan, but that the school property has financing against it for the district's performing arts center. He said a lot of issues involving the school site “need to be resolved.”


Lakeport has an advantage in the amount of publicly owned land along the lakeshore, he said. The challenges are finding enough parking and boat access.


Regarding Dutch Harbor, Knoll explained that the Redevelopment Agency staff had suggested the agency purchase the property from the city, because the agency has a greater ability than the city to move the development project forward. An appraisal is currently under way.


If a purchase proposal were to take place, a first right of refusal the city has on the property with Boeger Land Development would need to be addressed, Knoll said.


Jan Bruns, executive director of the Lakeport Main Street Association, gave an update on efforts to attract new retailers to downtown. The association created an inventory of available retail spaces and are shopping them to possible clients.


“We're really aggressively looking for good retail to come downtown – things we currently don't have,” she said.


Knoll said the City Council also has decided to work on attracting a hotel developer as part of its business plan. City staff is working on a request for qualifications from a developer, who they hope will be interested in one of five sites – Will-O-Point, an area between Third and Fifth streets, the Dutch Harbor and Natural High land, a block between Fourth and Fifth and Main Street and lake, and an area between Dutch Harbora and Clear Lake Avenue.


If they get an interested developer, the city could then move to assemble a site, said Knoll.


Audience members asked about use of eminent domain. He said the Redevelopment Agency currently doesn't have that power, although adding it recently was brought up at the City Council.


“It will likely come back for discussion after the first of the year,” he said, adding that it would be a lengthy process of about nine months to amend the redevelopment plan.


Mackey said the Natural High property touches people in Lakeport. “I want the council to understand there's something about that property that needs to be reckoned with,” she said. Knoll said he agreed.


In other project news, a developer wants to do a project in the area of S. Main Street and Lakeport Boulevard, but the intersection needs to be redeveloped and there are other capacity problems in the area. Knoll said city staff is working on a request for proposals to look at options for developing either a roundabout or a signalized intersection.


An audience member asked Knoll the alternative to having a traffic light or a roundabout there. “I think you see it,” Knoll quipped about the intersection, which he said isn't modern and doesn't handle traffic well.


State law requires a five year implementation plan for the Redevelopment Agency, which Knoll said is under way. It has identified nine different projects – downtown improvement, facade enhancement, Lakeport Boulevard and S. Main, land assembly for retail, the hotel development, waterfront development planning, project area infrastructure, a new or relocated parking facility construction and a “shovel ready” development in which the city would build the infrastructure.


Knoll said a public hearing will be held on the plan when it's ready; his goal is to have the plan done in three to four months.


Jason Brenner, a senior associate with Ukiah-based Ruff and Associates, discussed the latest on the city's downtown facade enhancement program. The company has done design work on Ceago del Lago, the Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Saloon, and is working on the Soper-Reese Community Theater.


Knoll said the city will pay for the first $5,000 of design expense for businesses wanting to participate in the program; they'll also pay 50 percent or up to $50,000 for the actual facade enhancement work.


Brenner showed an illustration of a block of businesses between Third and Fourth streets on the east side of Main, with the buildings given new and colorful facades that hearkened to the area's original, early 20th century design.


He said the company is excited to be working with the community in Lakeport. “There's so much energy here, that's one of the exciting things about the project.”


Brenner said the project offers the chance to create a cohesive design strategy for the downtown area. The community partnership that has developed in Lakeport, he added, is fairly unheard of in such work.


The facade improvement area extends from Lakeport Boulevard to Clear Lake Avenue, and from Forbes to the lake. Knoll said business owners can contact him at the city if they want to participate.


The city also is reaching out to business owners throughout the city to stimulate development and property improvements, Knoll said.


Knoll said he plans to have another meeting on redevelopment issues in March; other meetings on focus redevelopment areas also will take place in the future.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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