City of South Lake Tahoe lowers sign application fees |

City of South Lake Tahoe lowers sign application fees

Jack Barnwell
The marquee at Swiss Chalet Village on Lake Tahoe Boulevard holds a number of business signs. The property is one of many impacted by the City of South Lake Tahoe's sign permit process.
Jack Barnwell / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — South Lake Tahoe dropped the price tag on its sign application fees Tuesday, Oct. 20, following a city council vote.

Shawna Brekke-Read, the city’s development services director, said revised fees will drop applications for minor signs to $120 from $878. Major sign application costs will be capped at $300.

The city will also allow applicants to use Tahoe Regional Planning Agency sign standards to expedite sign permits.

“It will eliminate some of the flexibility the city has, but in return it will allow a lot of certainty to the process,” Brekke-Read said.

City council approved a new master fee schedule in May as a way for South Lake Tahoe to recover costs associated with services. Businesses and community members objected soon after when they realized the extent of increased costs.

According to South Lake Tahoe city manager Nancy Kerry, staff and council members agreed that high sign costs negatively impacted local businesses following the fallout over sign fees.

“Reducing these fees will help them tremendously,” Kerry said.

One business owner, Eleanor BonBon of Tattoo BonBon in South Lake Tahoe, applied for a shop sign last fall to display at Swiss Chalet Village on Lake Tahoe Boulevard. She was initially surprised by the city’s fee structure, and she supports Tuesday’s revision.

“I think it is a fair compromise and the city kicked butt to make changes to the sign ordinance so quickly,” BonBon said.


The South Lake Tahoe Planning Commission recommended changes in the fee ordinance in September to make the fee schedule more palatable to local businesses.

Brekke-Read described the city’s sign ordinance as multi-faceted.

“The current sign ordinance is complex and sometimes applicants don’t have certainty about what is allowed on their site,” Brekke-Read said.

A computer program is used to calculate sign requirements and site visits, which can take up to 10 hours, are conducted, according to the city.

Policy revisions now allow businesses to set up sandwich boards on Friday evenings at 5 p.m. Previously, sandwich boards were only allowed on Saturdays and Sundays in the city limits.

The new policy also changes the temporary event permit process. Minor events that don’t require offsite parking, road closures, security or use of city resources don’t need a permit, according to Kerry. Such events might include a Saturday sale.

“It makes absolutely no sense for the city to be involved in a business’s Saturday sale,” Kerry said. “Getting rid of a permit process is a really good policy change and helps small businesses.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Conner said she would like to see the city engage businesses about policy change in the future.

“In the past we’ve had workshops to involve different businesses and the community,” Conner said Tuesday. “Personally I would like to see that again and make sure we aren’t putting a Band-Aid on a bigger problem.”

For more information on the city’s sign policies, visit

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