Project to remove 13 blighted cabins near casino | TheUnion.com

Project to remove 13 blighted cabins near casino

Ryan Hoffman
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Work at the site of the famous Cal Neva resort is set to start following the purchase of the property by a Silicon Valley billionaire earlier this year.

Crews plan to start demolishing a series of blighted cabins east of the former hotel and casino located on the California-Nevada state line this month.

The project, which is limited in scope to the removal of the cabins, will both reduce fire risks and lead to environmental improvements.

"Hazardous materials" are being removed from the site before the demolition and removal of 13 cabins and a wooden trestle footbridge, according to the Cal Neva project team. It also will involve the implementation of erosion control, per Tahoe Regional Planning Agency requirements, and will include construction best management practices.

"Since January, the new owner has worked diligently with the Fire District to remove hazards and make the property both fire and life safe," Mark Regan, fire marshal for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, said in a statement. "It has already proven to be a great benefit to the nearby residents and surrounding community with the cabin removal being the next step of that safety process."

The new owner Regan referred to would be Lawrence Investments LLC, a venture capital investment firm headed by Oracle Corp. co-founder Larry Ellison. The firm purchased the property via bankruptcy proceedings.

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The announcement regarding the cabins is the first publicly made statement regarding plans for the property. So far those connected with the purchase have been quiet on details.

An attorney who represented Lawrence Investments in the bankruptcy proceeding declined to comment on the firm's plans for the property, including the resort.

A phone number listed online for Lawrence's office in Walnut Creek — which previously declined requests for comment from other media outlets — rang several times before reaching a dial-up tone.

Another attorney representing a different party in the bankruptcy proceedings declined to comment on any matters not contained in the public record, adding that she did not know if Lawrence discussed its intent in court proceedings.

Despite reviewing dozens of court documents, the Tribune could not confirm if Lawrence intends to finish renovating the hotel and casino.

The owners have obtained the necessary approval from the TRPA to remove the cabins and other hazardous materials, according to Tom Lotshaw, public information officer for the agency.

TRPA has not received applications for additional projects, which would be required in order for them to proceed.

"In terms of other work, there's no permit application or anything like that that has been submitted to TRPA," Lotshaw told the Tribune.

The Cal Neva project team, the name for the group involved in the current project, did not provide additional details on whether the cabins will be rebuilt and other information beyond the demolition of the cabins.

"At this time, we do not have this information as the project team is currently focused on the Nevada side cabin removal and site revitalization efforts," the team stated in an email.

If the new owner decides to renovate the hotel and casino, it could have a less daunting task.

The Cal Neva Resort & Casino was purchased in 2013 by Criswell Radovan, a Napa Valley-based real estate firm, as previously reported by the Sierra Sun. It closed the resort that same year for a well-publicized, multimillion dollar renovation.

However, the renovation reportedly hit several roadblocks and funding dried up. The owner filed for bankruptcy in the midst of the renovation in 2016.

According to court documents reviewed by the Tribune, the renovations were 70 percent complete when work ceased in December 2015. The matter of upkeep was debated in court proceedings, according to a transcript.

One incentive to complete the renovation and reopen the resort could be history. It was once owned by Frank Sinatra and reportedly frequented by famous guests such as the Rat Pack and Marilyn Monroe.

As for the current work removing the cabins, project officials anticipate that work will be completed by the end of the fall season. It is using a team consisting of Marlette Environmental Consulting, LLC, Midkiff & Associates, Inc., Basile Management Practices, and Cruz Construction.

Additionally, an information website (TheCalNeva.com) has launched to provide updates about the cabin removal and site revitalization effort.

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