City cracks down on illegal signs |

City cracks down on illegal signs

Susan Wood

When South Lake Tahoe visitors and locals go shopping, they may have to look beyond the sidewalk merchandise.

That’s because the city is cracking down on property owners with illegal signs and excessive inventory outside their doors.

Under council direction, the City Attorney’s office will return to its Tuesday meeting with more restrictive language in the code that requires a permit to conduct commercial outdoor displays in the city.

The language exempts ongoing events, such as farmers’ markets, slated for Tuesday mornings at the American Legion Hall parking lot.

The city cites proliferating signs, carved bears, lawn mowers and velvet paintings that have cropped up all over town.

“I want to visually upgrade our corridor. But on the other hand, I know how tough proprietors have it to make a living in this town,” Councilman Hal Cole said.

Clay Cunningham of Alpaca Advantage across from Heavenly Village on Highway 50 agrees, offering his own point of view to the practice. Cunningham uses his Alpaca rugs on display to attract business. He bills it as a necessity.

“That’s why everybody does it. I would think they’d want the tax dollars,” he said.

Cunningham has heard about the crackdown on outdoor displays and signs in the past.

“It’s not like we’re detracting from Lake Tahoe. We take our stuff in for the evening,” he said.

With two officers managing the code, enforcement remains up in the air. The council also said it would review the strengthened code after a year.

“We have to ask ourselves what our priorities are,” City Manager Dave Jinkens said, addressing the issue of penalties. “Clearly, we’ll have to monitor the situation.”

A seesaw issue, signs splattering the city have been an issue since 1998 when the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency passed down its code of rules on the practice. It was adopted by the city, but the signs remained because enforcement has been based on a complaint basis.

Fines range from $100 to $500.

Violators tend to temporarily take down the illegal signs such as banners, sandwich boards and balloons. Much of their business relies on being seen with the way the town is laid out on Highway 50.

“I’m trying to strike a balance, but we don’t want it to look like little Tijuana. Probably some business will have issues. Is it a perfect balance? We don’t know yet,” Mayor Tom Davis said.

The item passed a 4-0 vote, with Councilwoman Judy Brown absent.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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