Realtor group vows to stay involved, looks ‘forward to continued discussion’ following passage of Measure T | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Realtor group vows to stay involved, looks ‘forward to continued discussion’ following passage of Measure T

South Lake Tahoe City Council is moving forward with a cap on VHR permits in residential areas outside of the tourist core.
Tribune File Photo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — After nearly a month of shifting vote tallies, the El Dorado County Elections Department confirmed what had been suspected: Measure T passed.

The citizen-initiated question asked voters if they wanted to largely ban vacation home rentals outside of the city’s tourist core and commercial areas in three years. By a margin of 58 votes, South Lake Tahoe voters said “yes.”

“There’s really no jumping up and down in terms of any sort of victory dance,” said Peggy Bourland on Tuesday, the day the final results were released. “This is a cautionary story about a council that didn’t listen to the broader community.”

Bourland is with the Tahoe Neighborhoods Group, the grass roots collection of residents who gathered signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

“We now know that the majority of the community would like to see something done about our zoning and about allowing businesses in residential areas.”

The margin was close — 3,517 in favor (50.42 percent) and 3,459 against (49.58 percent) — but it’s unclear if a recount will happen. Under election law, only a citizen can request to have a recount initiated.

Any request for a recount had to be sent to City Clerk-elect Susan Blankenship by 5 p.m. Saturday.

Throughout the vote tallying process, assistant registrar of voters Linda Webster said that the El Dorado County Elections Department wanted to make sure that its final numbers would hold up in the event of a recount. The office conducted a manual hand count of the ballots.

Throughout the contentious election cycle there were threats of legal action if Measure T passed. That too is uncertain at this point.

Mark Salmon, a local real estate agent who served as vice president of the Sustainable Community Alliance, would not comment on whether the group is considering litigation. Instead, he read a prepared statement.

“We are disappointed in the outcome but remain committed to working with city leaders on protecting jobs and the local tourist economy South Lake Tahoe has relied on, visitors to shop in our local businesses and create jobs for decades, and while this is a step back, we look forward to continued discussion.”

With Measure T’s passage, any future changes to the city’s VHR policy will need to be brought before voters, either by the newly configured City Council or by a citizen-led initiative similar to the process that put Measure T on the ballot in the first place.

Bourland refrained from commenting on what details could qualify as a reasonable response to Measure T. That ultimately would be for the voters to decide, which Bourland said was the whole point of Measure T.

Although the margin was tight, a fact that is already leading some to say the election was far from a mandate, Bourland said the victory was notable considering the amount of money supporting the “no on T” effort.

The “vote no on Measure T” effort, backed by Realtors, garnered $365,469 leading up to the election, thanks in large part to outside organizations such as the National Association of Realtors and the travel company Expedia.

Measure T touched of 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 devastating to the economy.

While the vote appears to be settled, the debate is far from over.

The measure does not eliminate VHRs in residential areas until Dec. 31, 2021 — although new occupancy limits take effect immediately. Those new limits effectively prevent more than 12 people from staying in a VHR.