City of South Lake Tahoe says it over reported vacation home rental incidents
After calling into question data released by the city of South Lake Tahoe on vacation rentals, an industry representative was vindicated at the latest City Council meeting.
At a previous council meeting, Joshua Priou, director of product development for Lake Tahoe Accommodations, told council he had reviewed data used by the city’s software to determine 793 vacation home rental (VHR) “instances” — defined in a staff report as citations, warnings and advisories — and found the number to be much lower.
Priou came up with 208 instances — or as he prefers to call them, “incidents,” such as a trash, parking or noise violations.
Priou stated that the publication of this misleading number was detrimental to his industry, which could face significant policy changes in the future.
At the May 16 council meeting, it was clarified that there was an error in how the term “instance” was interpreted. The software, which is not specifically designed for monitoring VHRs, was counting various data entries for a specific VHR — like adding in a phone number — as an “instance,” which was taken to mean an “incident.”
“It was a mistake,” said Councilmember Brooke Laine, who sat down with the city staff member who handles the program to look at how the error might of occurred. “Unfortunately the software system she is using, it’s like putting a round peg into a square hole. We are trying to make it work for VHRs but it was not really designed for VHRs, so there is an education level that we’re working out right now.”
Other councilmembers agreed.
“It is important that we have correct data and that the public has the correct information. I just want to know going forward that we have clarification between instances and incidents,” added Councilmember Jason Collin.
City Manager Nancy Kerry apologized on behalf of the staff for the mistake.
“One thing that we’ll find as pieces of the VHR study come through, and we’re verifying those pieces, one of the things I’ve already heard them say is you need a better system for tracking things,” said Kerry, referring to the socio-economic study on VHRs currently being conducted by Michael Baker International and California State University’s Public Policy and Administration Department.
The study, she said, should be released in the next three to four weeks.
“It was a gross error, and it’s a tough time for my industry,” Priou told council. “Vacation rentals, either you are really for them or really against them and there’s not much middle ground. And when you make a big mistake like this it makes us look even worse, and that’s obviously what we want to avoid.”
City officials have stated that no long-term decisions on VHR policy will be made until the socio-economic study is released.