Long-stay motel ordinance passes
A scaled-down ordinance regulating single room occupancy (SRO), or long-stay hotels/motels in South Lake Tahoe was approved 5-0 by the South Lake Tahoe City Council on Tuesday.
The refined ordinance removes a lot of the proposed provisions initially recommended by city staff. Instead of a basic kitchen with a stove top, a microwave would instead be required.
Parking space and laundry facility requirements have been removed, while language was added requiring sanitation and maintenance of hotels/motels with common kitchens. Any required Americans with Disability Act (ADA) improvements would need to be made to units if future construction is done.
The city introduced the ordinance in order to regulate long-stay hotels, something already done with traditional hotels and with multi-residential dwellings such as apartments. Many, the staff report states, “contain numerous substandard conditions, and do not meet basic health and safety requirements for the residences.”
Approximately 1,300 hotel/motel rooms in the city act as long-term residences for people, or those who stay 30 days or more.
All units would retain their Tourist Accommodation Unit status under Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) guidelines.
The proposed ordinance staff report states that city staff did outreach to affected property owners and tenants. Some of the feedback received from an April 22 workshop and various emails questioned whether the hotels should be regulated or insisted the city wants to increase its revenues.
Ted Long, a former city council member who has been working with a number of property owners, called the modified ordinance acceptable.
“We have something that might be very workable,” Long said on May 29.
The ordinance requires owners of single room occupancy units to pay for one-time permits, an annual service/inspection fee and any follow up inspection fees to offset incurred costs by the city.
Councilmembers had some concerns, especially regarding safety and ADA requirements.
Councilman Austin Sass asked how many properties had insufficient electrical systems.
City Building Inspector Dave Walker said he couldn’t give a proper estimate, but said that it will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
“We are anticipating that quite a few of these facilities will have to upgrade,” Walker said.
Councilwoman Wendy David asked how ADA improvements would be addressed.
Walker said the ADA requirements are built on state and federal requirements.
The fees have yet to be determined and will be set at the June 16 city council meeting. Property owners have the option to revert to operating the units as traditional hotel rooms and resume paying transient occupancy taxes (TOT) to the city.
“I want to be cautious that it’s not so high that it puts a burden on the property owner,” Councilman Tom Davis said.
Development Services Director Shawna Brekke-Read said the fees may be comparable to the city’s multi-family development inspection program.
The ordinance would require property owners or managers to make necessary fixes and relocate tenants if the units are found unsafe. Extensions can be granted up to 12 months, something Brekke-Read said will be done if the property owner has done sufficient due diligence.
Mayor Hal Cole called it a pivotal move in approving it. “I think we can improve the standards of living to some of our underserved community,” Cole said.
The second reading and formal adoption will be considered at the city council’s June 16 meeting.
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