South Lake Tahoe city council delays vacation rental impact study
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The South Lake Tahoe City Council delayed its decision Tuesday, Nov. 3, to award funding for a study regarding how vacation home rentals impact the local community.
The council asked for the study in April to take a thorough look at the complete impact vacation rentals have on the community, including how they affect social and economic well-being.
According to city manager Nancy Kerry, the $50,000 socio-economic study would take a holistic look at all vacation rentals within city limits.
While the city received nine proposals from private companies, the council still desired input (and proposals) from academic entities, including public and private universities.
City staff recommended Sacramento-based Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. because the company scored highest in the study’s application requirements. The company previously conducted similar studies, including ones commissioned by other Lake Tahoe Basin agencies like Tahoe Transportation District.
Vacation home rentals remain a contentious topic for residents, second-home owners and management companies. Earlier this year, the city updated its fees and regulations for current and new vacation rentals; an updated fee structure added permitting requirements for new vacation rental applicants. The city is facing a lawsuit from Lake Tahoe Accommodations over the new fee structure.
South Lake Tahoe currently contains 1,600 officially permitted vacation homes, including a large number in the Tahoe Keys and Ski Run neighborhoods.
Kerry said some universities applied to conduct the study. But they either didn’t respond in the right way to the city’s request for proposals or were unfamiliar with the city’s public bid process.
She added that there are differences between what private companies and universities can offer in such a study.
“Universities often take a broader analysis, while a private company might come back with recommendations in addition to results,” Kerry said.
Council members said they felt universities could provide a more objective view than a private company.
“I’m uncomfortable with a private company because we told the public we were going to the universities to conduct the study,” councilman Austin Sass said.
Councilwoman JoAnn Conner agreed, noting the study’s importance for the community.
“We all know that VHRs are an important economic driver in the community, but we need to take a balanced approach to how we do this,” Conner said.
A study could dictate future policy changes for South Lake Tahoe. It was previously suggested that it should be done by spring 2016.
Some residents, however, felt a study isn’t warranted.
“I think that the council and enough people in the city have discussed this subject over the years that you should know all the answers,” said resident Ed Mosur. “It’s just having the guts to make the right choice.”
The council voted 4-0 to reject all bids and reached a consensus to re-form a committee with involved stakeholders before reaching out to universities. Councilman Tom Davis abstained because of his involvement in the vacation rental industry.