Guest column: City of South Lake Tahoe ignoring reality in crafting VHR policies | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Guest column: City of South Lake Tahoe ignoring reality in crafting VHR policies

I read with great interest Mayor Sass's recent editorial of how he and Wendy David have been living, sleeping and eating the VHR issue for over two years. I internalized these words and reflected how we, as responsible vacation home rental managers, have been dealing with inept City Councils and city management for over 12 years.

Back in 2003, our industry was blindsided by an ordinance that was drafted and conceived by a half-dozen locals and a city attorney meeting in secret ready to set upon our legitimate tourism industry. We immediately organized and, together with prominent business owners and chamber members, sought input to legislation which could have destroyed our livelihoods. After months of stakeholder meetings, an ordinance was crafted which attempted to placate the anti-VHR crowd and allow our commerce to continue.

A permit fee of $50 per year was required to cover administration of the ordinance. Now it is as much as $800 in many cases. Fines have gone from $250 to $1,000 under the current proposal.

For years our industry requested that citations be given to any disrespectful tenants who broke the rules of the ordinance, but the city and the police department said they couldn't unless the reporting party would sign a complaint, as a police officer could not have his peace disturbed.

We did not feel that it was fair to a home owner/management company to penalize them when they had used "best efforts" to prevent unruly behavior by the renters.

Finally, after 10 years, the city figured out a way to cite the tenants, but they were still intent on punishing the owners even though they have obtained proof in writing that the guests were informed of the rules about city regulations.

The South Lake Tahoe Police Department never did take the ordinance seriously for over 10 years as they didn't even do the basics in informing the owners or management companies of unruly tenant behavior. In the numerous rewriting of the VHR ordinances, there was never a year reported by the city that VHR complaints exceeded 200 per year. This is an extremely low figure, as over 20,000 calls per year are received by police dispatch.

The latest number reported by the police department indicates that only 33 citations were given in the previous 13 months involving verified VHR violations.

Mayor Sass and other council members agreed to a "socio-economic study" to assess the seriousness of the problem at the urging of the VHR industry. The report came out this spring resulting in a "made as instructed" report by the city. It was seriously flawed as the consultants failed to perform the economic study due to "their inability to obtain reliable statistics" as quoted by the consultants.

The data used in their study on reported violations was in error by 400 percent based on a computer program glitch. Verified noise complaints per year are 2 percent of the total vacation rentals, approximately 1,500 total rentals in the city.

The mayor, city manager and city attorney are totally into their genius mentalities as they have discovered the Googling art of finding ordinances created by "similar" cities such as Santa Monica, San Diego, etc.

They are now trying to intimidate our two newest council members into approving the "knee-jerk" proposals suggested by any member of the public who has an opinion. They include occupancy restrictions from 25 to 50 percent without any analysis to actual citations and disturbance complaints. A saturation model was proposed without any study of the actual geography involved. There was no discussion of the crazy sensitivity of neighbors who are disturbed by the sound of suitcase wheels on the sidewalk.

The current city manager, mayor and mayor pro tem want to create a verdict before any trial has occurred. They want to deny permits to any property owner who has never been given a chance to manage his or her vacation rental by imposing a moratorium on future permits. They also want the denial of permits to the unfortunate owner who happens to be within 250 feet of an existing permitted rental.

The city administration raised permit fees by $500,000 to add two community service officers to the police department and in more than two years we are only able to hire one individual to handle less than four calls per week year-round.

The vacation rental industry provided approximately $2.8 million to the general fund of the city last year.

The city is already in a deficit due to mismanagement of retirement funds and exorbitant benefits provided by prior councils.

Don't you think the council has an obligation to know the economic impacts of serious restrictions in one of the only growth industries in the city?

Again, we ask the question, "who owns the all year playground?"

Maybe it is the citizens of the world and not the few locals who accumulated enough money to buy a piece of the lake and keep it all to themselves.

P.S. Mayor Sass has said that there is a group ready to put this issue on the ballot and if this happens then it will get very ugly. I have more confidence in the level headed citizens of South Lake Tahoe than I have in the misguided views of two council members. We don't believe that an election would destroy one of our greatest tourism attractions. I say "bring it on" as the VHR detractors will never accept any compromise until they get their chance to destroy our legitimate industry at the ballot box.

Jim Morris is a 30-year resident and president of Lake Tahoe Accommodations, a company producing 10 percent of the total VHR Transient Occupancy Taxes to the city and managing 80 city properties without a VHR fine in 14 years.

League to Save Lake Tahoe column: Celebrating 20 years of stewardship, restoration

A healthy forest equals a healthy Lake Tahoe. Tahoe's forests have been hit hard over the years by logging, wildfire, development and drought. They need our help to restore them as natural pollution filters for Lake Tahoe. It's the kind of hard work that is best done on a cool fall day in Tahoe, surrounded by friends and neighbors.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe invites the community to join us on Sept. 23 for the 20th annual Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day and celebration.

If you have never attended Tahoe Forest Stewardship Days before, this is the year to join us — we are planning our best restoration event ever, with a huge celebration to follow. Together, we'll pitch in for a morning of volunteer work to help restore the forest in the Angora Burn area, and then all participants will gather to celebrate nearby at South Lake Brewing Company.

In 1998, the League to Save Lake Tahoe hosted a hands-on day of environmental restoration — the first Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day. As the effectiveness of environmental restoration depends on repeated attention to damaged areas, the League has organized successful Tahoe Forest Stewardship Days each year ever since, in locations throughout the Tahoe Basin.

And each year, the community has thrown itself into the work: stabilizing stream banks, repairing trails, planting trees and shrubs and helping native trees thrive following forest fires.

Perhaps no single location is more associated with Tahoe Forest Stewardship Days than the swath of burned trees along Angora Ridge and Tahoe Mountain. When firefighters extinguished the last of the flames from 2007's Angora Burn, a scar remained on the landscape and on the community.

Weeks later, hundreds gathered for the 2007 Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day at the burn site to begin the long work of restoring both our environment and our community. We came back to the Angora Burn in 2008 to continue planting trees and spreading seeds of native plants.

In 2016, community members returned again, lugging heavy tools deep into the burn area to thin brush crowding out native trees that had been planted in 2007 and 2008. By giving each tree more exposure to daylight, the volunteers hastened the recovery of the returning forest. By returning this year, we can further ensure the success of past volunteer efforts and continue to heal the landscape that was so damaged in 2007.

We invite you to visit keeptahoeblue.org for more information on how you can join us on Sept. 23 for the 20th annual Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day.

There is no more fitting way to cap off this summer's remembrance of the 10th anniversary of the Angora Burn than by pitching in as a community to restore our precious forest habitats with hard-but-fun work. And we look forward to celebrating together afterwards at South Lake Brewing Company, where we'll provide lunch and refreshments to all volunteers.

Together, we can Keep Tahoe Blue.

Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD, is the executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, also known by its iconic slogan "Keep Tahoe Blue." Watch a short video about Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day at keeptahoeblue.org/tfsd.

Tahoe Prosperity Center column: Disasters highlight importance of community and business resiliency

Wildfires in the West. Hurricanes in the South. There are a lot of natural disasters occurring in our world right now. You have seen the devastation on the news and it is heartbreaking that so many have lost so much.

If you have the means, please donate to one of the many organizations working to help communities and families in these areas. There are a variety of nonprofits to choose from and a great place to find out more about a charity before you donate is Guidestar.org.

A few years ago, the Tahoe Prosperity Center (TPC) joined forces with the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) on the AlertTahoe fire camera system. These cameras have views of our forests and mountains to watch for smoke and fire.

The TPC raises funds for the cameras, while UNR manages the network, builds the camera systems and monitors them along with the help of local fire agencies. When we first started this campaign, there were some who asked why the Tahoe Prosperity Center would get involved in this project.

The reason was simple — protecting Tahoe's communities from wildfire, protects our environment, community and economy. To us, this was an easy project to champion and in the past two summers, has already proven its value with 49 fires stopped before they got out of control. Obviously stopping a disaster before it occurs is the best option. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible.

What can we learn from the hurricanes, wildfires and floods hurting many communities right now? The most important thing is resiliency. The Small Business Administration estimates about 25 percent of small to mid-size businesses do not reopen.

It is hard to imagine a quarter of Tahoe's small businesses never opening their doors again. One could be your favorite restaurant, your hairdresser or your day care provider. Regardless, the best way to ensure your business is resilient after a disaster (be it a wildfire, flood or the heavy snow load on a flat roof as we had this past winter) is to have an emergency plan in place.

The Tahoe Prosperity Center urges you to prepare a simple emergency plan — here is a simple one for residents.

For businesses, you need to not only plan for your employees' safety, but for your future business resiliency. That means thinking about your backup file system, your customer communication needs and knowing your insurance agent. Here is a site with a variety of checklists depending on the issue.

We hope to keep Tahoe from another devastating Angora Fire with the help of the AlertTahoe camera system, but there is no guarantee. What we can do is encourage business owners and residents to have a plan in place before a natural disaster.

My family put our important papers (birth certificates, etc.) in a small fire safe in our house. We also boxed up our photo albums — two easy things to grab and go if we have enough time in the event of an evacuation. Disaster planning will help our local small businesses reopen. This also keeps our economy and community prosperous.

Please check out the links and create a plan. Because no one really wants to lose their favorite restaurant, hair stylist or babysitter!

Heidi Hill Drum is the CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, a Tahoe Basin-wide organization dedicated to uniting Tahoe's communities to strengthen regional prosperity. She has expertise in collaborative governance and is a 21-year resident. Heidi and her husband John are happily raising their two boys in Lake Tahoe.

Ask Tessie: How do I get my stolen bike back?

Dear Tessie,

Someone stole my bike right off my porch last week. The police aren't having any luck finding it, and I'm really bummed out. What should I do?

Sincerely,

Dude, Where's My Bike?

First off, my condolences, bro. I'm sure you've had many epic mountain biking experiences — and definitely no dicey rides home from the bar — on that baby.

Have you tried writing a threatening post to this unknown thief on a community Facebook group? The key is to come off as unhinged. Don't worry about punctuation, spelling or properly using the English language. Just get your threat across in the most disturbing way possible. If your bike does not magically reappear on your porch the next day, it's time to move on to Plan B: vigilante justice.

Grab your four best buds, binge-watch a bunch of episodes of "CSI: Miami" and "Cops," then begin investigating this string of bike thefts. I want the wall of your living room to look like you're in search of the Zodiac Killer. After locating the scum bag with the garage full of bikes using your sick detective skills, you and your crew will ride through the streets returning them to the many gracious residents, who will dub you Robin Hood of Lake Tahoe. They may even add your likeness to the statue they are going to unveil at the end of the month in Champion's Plaza.

Now, on the slight chance this rise to fame does not actually work out, how about you grab one of those 5,000 bikes the Burners left in the Black Rock Desert and be done with it all?

Tahoe Tessie is a humorous take on the standard advice column. It is produced by the Tribune staff, and it is not meant to be taken literally. Have a question you want to ask Tessie? Send it to tahoetessie@tahoedailytribune.com.

Nothing but good things to say about the team at Barton Hospital

I wanted to express my sincere gratitude to Barton Hospital and their amazing staff. My sister came to visit me from South Jersey and unexpectedly ended up having a medical emergency that resulted in three surgeries and spending 19 days in ICU at Barton, 3000 miles away from home.

From the moment she was seen in ER to the day she was released 21 days later, the staff at Barton were amazing. The nurses in ICU were caring, communicative, positive and skilled. The surgeon (Dr. Eyre) and doctors literally saved her life and continued their top level care until my sister's release date. My brother-in-law and I spent a lot of time at Barton and were consistently asked if we needed anything and were given consistent updates on the plan to care for my sister.

Our input was considered and valued. We were touched when someone working on the elevator asked if they could do anything for us seeing that we were emotionally drained. It was a true act of compassion.

All areas of staff treated us like family and continuously asked what they could do to help and if we needed anything. Our sincere thanks to Pastor Dan Wilvers, whom I casually mentioned to that my sister was in ICU and he came to Barton and offered spiritual support and guidance unsolicited and out of kindness.

I can only comment on my own experience, but the staff of Barton Hospital treated my sister and brother-in-law exceptionally well and the care and professionalism of the ICU/surgery team exceeded our expectations of a small hospital. A final thank you to our neighbors and community who offered sympathy and support throughout the journey to recovery.

Leslie Edmonds

South Lake Tahoe, California

Tahoe Mom Talk: Family friendly activities for the fall

I will admit, fall tends to be my most favorite time of the year here in Tahoe. The changing leaves, the chill in the air and the warm, cozy layers all create the perfect ambiance for an ideal autumn season.

It should also be noted that fall in Tahoe is no longer much of a shoulder season. There are plenty of events to keep you busy as well as outdoor activities to enjoy. Here is a list of some of my favorite family-friendly fall activities:

Sample the Sierra: Happening today (Saturday, Sept. 16) from noon to 5 p.m. at Bijou Park. This farm-to-fork festival is the perfect way to kick-off the fall season with an abundance of food and beverage vendors to delight your pallet.

I love the concept of regional farmers providing produce for our local restaurants to pair along with a regional winery or brewery. This event is kid-friendly and is all outside to allow for plenty of strolling and booth perusing between tastings. For more information, including who is paired up with who, visit SampletheSierra.com.

Fire Fest: This event is a kid's dream come true: fire trucks, helicopters, fire hoses, oh my! Bring the kids along to interact with our local public safety officers, get their face painted, witness a live fire and car crash demonstration and more. The event takes place in the back parking lot at Hard Rock Hotel on Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It's free and open to everyone.

Fish Fest: Formerly known as the Kokanee Salmon Festival, this special event takes place at Taylor Creek Visitor Center and provides a unique opportunity to see our fish swim upstream to spawn. The bright red colors of the salmon and spectacle alone of the fish fighting the rapids are worth the visit alone, but there are plenty of activities for the kiddos to partake in over the two-day event as well. Look for it Oct. 7 and 8 starting at 10 a.m.

Oktoberfest: Once you've scoped out the fish, take a stroll over to Oktoberfest, where the whole family can enjoy! Yes, there is plenty of beer and brats (the food, not the children), but there are also a ton of fun activities for the kids, like a pumpkin patch, live polka music, balloon animals and more. Be sure to mark your calendars for Oct. 7 and 8, which is the same weekend as the Fish Fest.

Apple Hill: One of our favorite fall traditions is taking the drive down to Apple Hill. I love seeing the changing colors along the way and always enjoy the warmer temps off the mountain. Our favorite stops are O'Halloran's Apple Ranch for pumpkins and apples, Boeger Winery, which is surprisingly kid-friendly with their tractor-filled sand pits, and Rainbow Orchards for fresh apple cider doughnuts! You can read more about our Apple Hill adventures on my blog!

Do you have a favorite fall activity in Tahoe? I'd love to hear!

Natasha Schue is a mom of two boys, wife and a full-time working, young professional. You can read more about her family adventures on her blog schuelove.com or follow her on Instagram @schuelove. You can send questions or comments to: schuelove@gmail.com.

Kudos: Well done, American Legion Post 795

Kudos to Tribune reporter Claire Cudahy and the Tribune for your coverage of the American Legion Post 795 memorial tribute of 9/11.

I was glad I saw the ceremony preparations as I drove by and glad I make the stop.

Well done to American Legion Post 795, you did yourself proud! As in the Tribune coverage, singer Jill Sharlow and bagpipes by Maria DeLallo made the memorial all the more moving.

Especially meaningful was the unintentional half circle ring of local police and fire and first responders (our everyday heroes) who even at the ceremony had our backs covered around us in support.

As a Vermonter, on 9/11 I saw from the airport our Green Mountain Boys (the Vermont Air National Guard) take off that day for aerial support over New York City, facing the frightening task if any civilian aircraft had to be taken down.

Minor historical correction: It was mentioned at the memorial tribute that the 9/11 attack was the first on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor, but threading the historical needle, the attack on the Aleutian Islands came in between both and was considered by some an attack on the North American Continent on U.S. soil, even if Alaska was not yet a state.

( I mention this because my father in WWII served on those bleak frigid islands.) But I also made the slip in his eulogy to mention that the Aleutian Islands were only several hundred miles from Japan — so we all need some graces for a minor historical mis-speak!)

But again, another great reason to love the Tahoe community. By having this tribute by Post 795 you all carry on keeping the memories alive of the innocents who died and the brave fire and police who sacrificed everything that day so others could live.

Robert B. Devost

Jericho, Vermont

Kudos: Thanks for supporting South Lake Tahoe Library

The South Lake Tahoe Library just wrapped up our Summer Reading Challenge, which encouraged children, teens and adults to read all summer long. Over 300 patrons registered, logging a total of 3,990 books, and earning a total of 1,055 prizes! We would like to thank the many businesses and organizations that donated prizes and funds.

Prizes that children could choose from included gift certificates from Applebee's Grill & Bar, Blue Dog Gourmet Pizza, Heavenly Village Cinema, Jamba Juice, Modern Makers, McDonald's, and Tahoe Bowl. For the adult program, gift certificates were donated from Gaia-Licious Global Gift Boutique, Knits & Knots Tahoe, Port of Subs, Wildwood Makers Market, and Yellow Submarine. Thank you to all of these businesses for their generous donations!

This summer we had four performances and the South Tahoe Optimist Club generously sponsored two of those performances. The Kiwanis Club of Lake Tahoe also gave a monetary donation to help purchase additional prizes. All other performances and prizes were made possible due to the wonderful support from the Friends of the Library.

On behalf of the South Lake Tahoe Library, I want to say thank you again to all of these businesses and organizations for supporting our library and the community that we serve.

Sincerely,

Kimberly Diebolt

Library assistant, South Lake Tahoe Library

Letter: A case for forming a community foundation in Douglas County

As a professional in philanthropy, I spend most of my day learning about and communicating with nonprofits the world over. These organizations do an incredible amount of good for people, animals, and the planet we share.

Often the only thing preventing them from doing more is insufficient funding. Charities need quality employees, equipment and facilities to operate. Sometimes they take on projects that require a sizable increase to their budget.

While national charities have staff and resources to obtain extra support, our smaller, local charities are limited in this regard. They might have only one or two staff member who, although they excel at carrying out their organization's mission, lack the necessary marketing skills to carry out effective fundraising campaigns.

This is where a community foundation can step in. Local residents, as members of the advisory board of a community foundation, are the perfect advocates for local nonprofits. The role involves fundraising both locally and beyond our borders to grow a lasting endowment for Douglas County.

An effective board should be a group of well-connected, financially savvy, and philanthropically-minded individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and professions.

The endowment this board will be raising will not be spent directly, but will instead be invested by professionals, with the earned interest made available. While no one knows what problems the future holds for our community, by the time the endowment is large enough to start making distributions, they will be self-evident. An engaged, invested and diverse advisory board will be the best entity to help direct funding when the time comes.

On Nov. 1, the LDC class of 2017 will host Chris Askin, president of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, for an informational meeting to explore this concept further. If you are interested, please join us at the Community Center on Waterloo from 6-8 p.m.

Nick Hinkell

Gardnerville, Nevada

Editor’s Notes: 2 new staff members join Tahoe Daily Tribune

Regular readers of the Tribune have likely noticed at least one new name in its pages and online. I write "at least one" because we're fortunate to have two new journalists here in the newsroom.

Bill Rozak, our new sports editor, is already filling up the paper with coverage of our local athletic teams. (Somehow it's already September.)

And on the digital side of things, Emily Kaiser has joined on as the online engagement editor — a new position — for the Tribune and our sister publications on the opposite end of the lake: the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.

You'll have an opportunity to learn more about Bill and Emily in the form of a Q&A that will appear in the next week. Putting aside personal details for now, each one has made an impact since officially starting on Aug. 21.

Shortly after I joined the Tribune, some parents reached out to voice their anger over the perceived elimination of sports coverage. In reality our long-time sports editor at the time left to pursue a different career and we were facing challenges in finding a suitable replacement.

The explanation at the time did little to assuage the anger felt by those parents who thought their kid was getting screwed out of deserved recognition. Intentions mattered little.

Despite the anger and confusion at the time, we maintained our intent to continue covering our local athletic teams the best we could.

Now with Bill on board, I know we will follow through not only on that intent but our desire to ramp up coverage of recreation as well.

Already we've seen robust reporting on our high school and college student athletes. And I know once he's settled in, Bill — who pretty much loves doing anything that involves being outdoors — will be bringing new light to the activities and people who make Tahoe a renowned recreation destination.

Another point community members made early on in my tenure was the need to improve our presence online. People wanted breaking news. They wanted to see new stories when they visited http://www.tahoedailytribune.com.

We have made strong strides in that effort, and with Emily on board I know we will only get better. Along with creating high-caliber content (if you watched the videos of Martin Hollay and of the Nibouar family then you know what I'm talking about), Emily will help the rest of us in the newsroom deliver stories on the platforms you're using.

During her second week on the job, Emily messaged me to ask why I wasn't answering my phone. It was a little after 9 p.m. and I was unaware she had been trying to call me. It turned out she had just left the scene of a hit-and-run in Zephyr Cove.

This after putting in what I'm estimating was a 12 hour day.

She could have just drove by and went home. But she stopped, found out what happened and relayed that information to our online readers. Need I write more?

In a previous column, I touched on how it can be easy to take living in a beautiful place like Tahoe for granted. The mountains never become less spectacular, but they fall into the background more easily with time. On a fairly frequent basis, I catch myself heading into a similar mindset with the Tribune.

More days than not, the people in this office walk in with a smile on their face — they're happy to come to work.

I don't want to spoil the popular notion of media organizations being cheery places, but there are newsrooms where this is not the case.

There are places where hardworking reporters and editors do their job despite the fear of being included in the next round of layoffs.

In other places, there are people who, rather than adapt, use every opportunity to voice their contempt toward the tectonic shifts in the media and publishing world — they are the perpetual complainers and they're not only cancerous, they're also a major drag.

And in newsrooms across America, there are talented journalists asking themselves how much longer can they handle the deafening demands of a constantly growing workload.

Make no mistake, we have our moments and our days here at the Tribune. There is anxiety and pressure. There are arguments. Mistakes are made.

There are plenty of days when my vocabulary largely reverts to a select few four-letter words, and as anyone in the newsroom will tell you, I can sigh with the best of them.

Those days, though, do not diminish my feelings toward my workplace. I look forward to coming to work because I, like most journalists, love what I do, and because I thoroughly enjoy being around the people I work with.

As cliché as it might be, I genuinely feel that the Tribune is a sort of family. And it's pretty damn exciting to have two new people join that family. I hope you'll extend a warm welcome to both of them.

Ryan Hoffman is editor at the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He can be reached at 530-542-8006 or rhoffman@tahoedailytribune.com.