Council cracks down on unkempt apartments |

Council cracks down on unkempt apartments

Susan Wood

When Black Bear Inn owner Jerry Birdwell hosts guests and visitors, they sometimes mention the condition of the apartment building next door in the same sentence as his bed and breakfast on Ski Run Boulevard.

“People make comments on how great the street looks. Then, they say when are they going to do something about the place next door,” he said, referring to Bart’s Tahoe apartments. “It’s the gateway to Heavenly. Having something like that should be totally unacceptable.”

Birdwell has publicly complained about trash visible outside and noise coming out of the building.

And therein lies the clash between affordable housing and a place that caters to a visitor seeking an upscale experience – one that’s now received the attention of the South Lake Tahoe City Council.

It gave the go-ahead in a 4-0 vote Tuesday to draft an ordinance that cracks down on substandard apartment buildings with 20 or more units in town. There are more than 1,700 units in the city that fall in that category.

“We have a responsibility in the community to keep a safe, clean environment for them,” Councilwoman Kathay Lovell said.

Over the years, the city has been plagued by apartment units with collapsing roofs and other structural problems, but standards that dwelling owners and managers must abide by, outlined in the building and safety codes, have not been sufficiently enforced.

Ordinances set guidelines for inspection and maintenance standards.

Now fines are expected to be incorporated into the standards, much like in the vacation-home rental ordinance. This local law took a few years to draft and logged hours of debate between residents and property managers.

Community Development Director Teri Jamin said she couldn’t guess when the ordinance would be finalized, but she agreed the city is months off from the effective date.

Public hearings and stakeholder meetings will be planned with the idea of involving property managers and owners of these complexes.

The issue brought Bart’s Tahoe owner Vernice Zanco to the meeting from Spokane, Wash.

After a year of being away, Zanco plans to visit the building today. It’s managed by Tamarack Rentals/Resort Properties.

“I depend on them to keep it in good shape. I want the building to be nice,” she said.

Zanco said the company has sent her bills on occasion for repair work – one recent one amounting to $8,000. She also contends having spent $100,000 to replace the roof over a year ago.

The city may choose to use affordable housing funds set aside to help improve substandard apartment complexes.

— In other redevelopment money matters, the City Council also approved its consultants to go forth with a $9.4 million refinancing plan that is expected to generate $1.2 million for city reserves in the next two years.

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

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