Fresh start for lodge
March 7, 2009
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” As recently as last fall, the Tahoe Pines Lodge was filled with tenants who didn’t pay their rent and brought drugs onto the property, according to police and the property’s managers.
Public intoxication was a regular sight at the 25-room lodge on Modesto Avenue, and loud parties could be heard at 4 a.m. South Lake Tahoe police officers responded to 20 calls between August and January, said South Lake Tahoe police Lt. Marty Hale.
But five months ago, Chuck and Melanie Arnold came to clean things up.
The new managers set up a no-tolerance policy on criminal activities. Melanie used to work in law enforcement as a dispatcher and a community service officer, and she put her skills to work when taking over the job. Three people were evicted, 35 others left on their own accord, and now only four people who were living on the property are still there.
Officers weren’t called at all to the property during February, Hale said.
Brian Des Rochers, a listings broker with Tahoe’s Choice Real Estate who helped recruit the Arnolds to manage the lodge, warned the couple of the state of the property. But Melanie was up to the challenge.
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“It wasn’t helping the community or the property owner,” Melanie said.
Sue Pebley of McGann Properties LLC, which owns the lodge, said the company wanted Tahoe Pines Lodge to improve its reputation.
“We’re working hard to be a positive influence in the neighborhood, and we want to upgrade that image,” Pebley said.
Melanie had stayed at the lodge when it was called the Montgomery Inn in 2003. She roomed in Room 27 for three weeks and thought it was a great lodging property.
When she heard the lodge was looking for managers, she convinced Chuck to move from Southern California and take the job with her.
“When we drove past the property to check it out, he told me to keep driving,” Melanie said.
Since taking over the establishment, the Arnolds changed the lodging stays to nightly and weekly rentals, and people can’t stay longer than 29 days. The Arnolds made an exception for about 30 international students living there for the season.
The Arnolds are remodeling the rooms that previous tenants trashed, and Melanie said they’re keeping the rates low so people can afford to stay there.
Melanie said they’ve had return guests, which shows how much they’ve cleaned up and improved the property.
Chuck said he used to be embarrassed to tell people where he worked before they improved the property.
“We still have a lot to do,” Melanie said. “We wanted to let the neighborhood know, and to please give us another chance.”
One of the programs Melanie drew from her law enforcement background was the Crime Free Multi-Housing program ” a program designed to help property managers keep drugs and illegal activity of the premises.
A police department sponsors the program, and then holds workshops to train property managers so they can handle problems, such as noise disturbances, thefts and drugs. Melanie worked as an officer who certified properties as Crime-Free Multi Housing units.
The program is free and reduces criminal activity in areas where it’s implemented. It even saves taxpayers money when police don’t have to respond to the property all the time, Chuck said.
Chuck said the fastest way to clean up a neighborhood is to focus on the quality-of-life issues, such as adherence to sound ordinances, not littering and respecting property.
Once those things are taken care of, people who kept to themselves are more willing to become a part of a neighborhood, Chuck said.
Des Rochers agreed.
“It all boils down to desirability. If you don’t feel safe, and you don’t feel your kids can play outside, it’s a deterrent,” Des Rochers said.
Melanie wants to present the program to the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association to see if any other properties would be interested in it.
The Arnolds said the South Lake Tahoe Police Department was extremely helpful during their first few months. The department even sent Melanie and Chuck a Christmas card to show appreciation for their hard work.
Besides moving to a new place and revamping the lodge, Chuck and Melanie have had other changes occur in their lives. On Oct. 15 they married, and they even added another member to their family: Brian, their 5-month-old security dog. Brian was born in Room 34 of the lodge. His mother had a litter of puppies in the room, and the Arnolds found homes for all of them.
Whenever he’s outside, he goes over to that room, Melanie said.