New vacation rental rules in place |

New vacation rental rules in place

The debate over a vacation home rental ordinance came in to South Lake Tahoe like a lion but went out like a lamb, as the City Council unanimously approved it Tuesday night with little fanfare.

Councilman Tom Davis, Tahoe Keys Resort co-owner, abstained from the 4-0 action that establishes guidelines for unruly behavior by transients and those who rent to them.

“This is the way it should be when it’s done right,” City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo said of the quiet nature of the meeting.

The yearlong effort characterized as a “long, arduous process” by Mayor Judy Brown was welcomed by both sides of the issue.

“I think this is a worthwhile ordinance. I think it speaks to a variety of issues. It needs to work for both sides,” Dick Powers, a subcommittee member who helped spearhead the drive because of disturbances in his Tahoe Keys neighborhood, said after the vote.

Like Powers, Accommodation Station owner-operator Greta Hambsch invites a re-evaluation of the ordinance after nine months as pledged by the council and city staff.

Considering that vacation home rentals encompass a quarter of the transient occupancy tax revenue, Hambsch said she would share information with the city if too many visitors balked over excessive regulations.

She took to heart a suggestion made by Councilmen John Upton and Hal Cole for property managers to try to educate the guests of guidelines and restrictions up front to avoid problems.

“I think all of us in this business have been trying to do that all along. I guess we need to try to make the effort stronger,” she said. “It will be interesting how it’s enforced.”

Parking represents one area of concern over a disparity between how permanent residences and vacation home rentals are treated.

The ordinance dictates on-site parking only, with the exception of the area “immediately in front of the vacation home rental.”

Among other issues, the new code also limits occupancy to two people per bedroom, with an additional four people per residence.

The ordinance delegates much of the responsibility of vacation homes to the property owner, who could be fined up to $1,000 for up to four repeat offenses. The code also tracks the rentals’ activity.

The city plans to hire a permit technician to manage a system that monitors and collects fees on the approximately 1,100 locations in town.

In other business, the council instructed City Manager David Jinkens to meet with El Dorado County to discuss setting aside county land near the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center on which to build a $4 million city hall. The city wants to save $132,000 a year in leasing expenditures it now pays.

Jinkens will also take up with the county the parameters of securing 2 acres of land at the Lake Tahoe Airport to build an animal control facility. The county has earmarked $800,000 for the shelter and offices.

Jinkens was also directed to drum up support from the county and other governing entities with an interest in the airport to form a Joint Powers Authority intended to foot part of the bill for operations.

In addition, the council approved the airport’s capital improvement plan for 2003 with the condition of receiving its federal funds.

And on the condition costs would not exceed $8,000 for a facilitator, the council agreed to participate in a team-building exercise in March.

It has also decided to have its regular meetings at 9 a.m., starting next month.

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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