Lawsuit to overturn South Lake Tahoe’s VHR-restricting Measure T in judge’s hands
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A lawsuit attempting to overturn the vacation home rental restricting Measure T that was passed by South Lake Tahoe voters in 2018 may soon reach a conclusion.
Oral arguments were heard Tuesday, Dec. 13, in a Sacramento court and City Attorney Heather Stroud was excused from Tuesday’s City Council meeting to be at the hearing.
Stroud told the Tribune on Friday she would have time to argue in support of Measure T and a lawyer representing the South Lake Tahoe Property Owners Group, who filed the original complaint in December 2018, will get the same amount of time and then a judge will go into deliberations.
“The oral argument is a chance for each side to have 15 minutes to highlight what they think is most important,” Stroud said. “This will be our last arguments on the case and the court will have 90 days to provide an opinion. It sometimes comes sooner so we may have an answer before the end of the year. The city is asking for the court of appeal to affirm the trial court’s hearing. We’re hoping for a favorable result and finality as this has been an outstanding issue since 2018. It would be nice to put it to bed so we have some certainty.”
The South Lake Tahoe Property Owners Group filed the complaint in saying Measure T is “unconstitutional and unenforceable” and discriminates against property owners who are not “permanent residents” while allowing permanent residents to continue renting their properties as short-term rentals.
The citizen-led initiative that narrowly passed in November 2018 prohibits VHRs outside of the city’s tourist core and commercially zoned areas. The lone caveat is that full-time residents have the ability to rent out their home up to 30 days per year.
An El Dorado County judge in June 2020 ruled in favor of the city on nearly all issues brought up in an appeal of the measure, but the Property Owners Group filed an appeal.
Measure T marked a boiling point on VHRs, which were one of the most hotly contested issues in South Lake Tahoe in recent years.
The measure sparked a fierce debate in the community, with supporters saying the measure was needed to save South Lake Tahoe’s neighborhoods, which have become hosts for de facto hotels. Opponents argued the measure would be catastrophic for the local economy.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into the region urging a “no” vote on the question. The National Association of Realtors and the travel company Expedia were among the large outside donors backing the “no” effort.
When all was said and done Measure T passed by 58 votes — 3,517 (50.42%) to 3,459 (49.58%) and neither side requested a recount.
Backers argued passage of the measure, despite the large amount of outside money working against it, was a clear indication that voters want VHRs out of residential neighborhoods.
Opponents disputed any claim of a “mandate” and vowed to continue the discussion on short-term rentals.
Scott Robbins, who is a spokesperson for the Tahoe Neighborhoods Group that led the effort to get the measure on the ballot, was elected to City Council in November and near the end of his first meeting on Tuesday asked if there were any updates from the case happening at the same time of the council meeting.
The city’s Assistant District Attorney Daniel Bardzell said, “In terms of legal updates, I’d recommend those be done in closed session. But oral arguments have been completed for the day and we’re awaiting a decision from the court.”
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