City of South Lake Tahoe’s defense of Measure T still undecided
January 8, 2019
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A group seeking to strike down Measure T plans to ask a judge later this month to temporarily stop the entire measure as the case moves through the court.
In response, the city hopes to compromise by continuing a restraining order on new occupancy limits for vacation home rentals, while allowing the rest of the measure to stand.
City Council unanimously provided that direction Tuesday after more than an hour behind closed doors in executive session.
Although council did not give direction on defending the core of Measure T, a voter-approved initiative that will mostly prohibit VHRs in residential neighborhoods starting in 2022, the limited scope of Tuesday's discussion was a source of cautious optimism for some T supporters.
"We're cautiously pleased and we're going to wait to see what happens on (Jan. 24)," said Scott Robbins, a member of Tahoe Neighborhoods Group, which spearheaded the effort to put Measure T on the 2018 ballot.
Regarding the directive from the council, Andrew Pierce, an attorney representing the group behind the Measure T lawsuit, told the Tribune he had not received a formal offer from the city as of Tuesday morning.
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The group on Monday filed a request asking that the entire measure be stayed for the remainder of the court proceedings.
On Dec. 24 a judge issued a temporary restraining order on Measure T's newly established occupancy limits, which took effect immediately following passage of the measure. Prior to the court hearing, the city announced it would exercise discretion when enforcing the new occupancy limits.
The restraining order did not, however, apply to other elements of the measure, including the prohibition on issuing new VHR permits.
"I haven't had a chance to talk to all of the people that are on my side of the case and obviously they would like to have the whole ordinance stayed," Pierce said.
There are plenty of people who have been waiting to obtain a VHR permit for quite some time, Pierce added. Without a stay on the entire issue, those people are forced to wait while the case makes its way through the court.
Speaking after council's closed session meeting, City Attorney Heather Stroud said if the city cannot reach an agreement strictly on delaying the occupancy limits, it will defend the restraining order on other grounds.
As for whether the city will defend the core of Measure T, it remains uncertain.
"That decision hasn't been made yet," Stroud said.
That uncertainty is some cause for concern, Robbins responded.
"It would be quite a remarkable thing for council to back out from defending the expressed will of the voters at this point."
As for the council's direction, Mayor Brooke Laine told the Tribune there is still hope among members of council that both sides of the issue can be brought together to try and reach some compromise.
"We certainly recognize that a majority of our community voted in favor of Measure T and it's not our desire to want to usurp that," she said. "Rather, we would want to bring the parties together to see if there is some other type of consensus we can come to in the meantime."
Whether there is an appetite for such discussions also remains uncertain.
"This is not a matter of negotiation," Robbins said. "This is a matter of the town enforcing the law that the people voted for."