Guest column: Facts behind South Lake Tahoe VHR initiative (opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Guest column: Facts behind South Lake Tahoe VHR initiative (opinion)

Peggy Bourland
Guest Column

The Tahoe Neighborhoods Group's initiative has officially qualified to go forward to the November ballot.

If passed, the initiative will phase out VHRs in residential neighborhoods over a three-year period. Local homeowners will be allowed to rent their houses for 30 days each year. The current 450 vacation rentals in commercial areas will not be affected. By 2021 it is anticipated that more than 300 VHR units will be added in all commercial areas.

This initiative is NOT a BAN! On the contrary, it will encourage added lodging units in proper zones while preserving residential areas for residents and second home owners.

The Tahoe Neighborhoods Group's (TNG) initiative is about zoning. Zoning is how we organize our communities and separate incompatible use. Property owners and residents operate under the laws and ordinances of their cities. Zoning is one of the principle tenants of municipal law and it needs to be upheld.

The city councils in cities like Anaheim, Carmel, Dana Point, Napa, Ojai, San Luis Obispo, Sonoma, Palm Desert, and many others have demonstrated their commitment to zoning by not allowing short-term rentals in residential areas. Our City Council seems to lack the political will to solve this problem and continues to think that the solution is rigorous enforcement like mandatory bear boxes and thousand-dollar fines for parking on the street.

The other VHR initiative that hopes to be on the ballot in November is titled: "Vacation Home Rental Restrictions Measure." Using the word restrictions and then proposing to maintain the same number of VHRs (1,400) in neighborhoods seems deceptive and maybe designed to confuse the voter.

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The name of their group is: Sustainable Community Alliance. Pretending that 1,400 VHRs in neighborhoods represents sustainability is refuted by some local statistics. In the 2010 census we lost 10 percent of our population: 2,206 people moved from SLT. At a time when California's population is expanding, we have the same number of people living here today that we did 40 years ago.

This year alone the LTUSD has lost 157 students. This year alone we have lost 320 registered voters. The Tahoe Prosperity Center reports that our economy has not improved since 2010 when their first economic report was completed. None of this information should lead anyone to conclude that what we are doing is sustainable.

If we are serious about our community's future we need to get honest about what is contributing to these declines. The lack of available housing for our workforce has become an issue for businesses, the school district, government agencies, resorts and our local hospital. It is difficult to sustain a community when there are too few places for people and families to live.

Our workforce has become a growing army of commuters while some Realtors insist the there is no connection between the housing shortages and vacation rentals.

The words "DEVASTATE OUR ECONOMY" are being used to describe the affects of phasing out VHRs in neighborhoods. One is made to believe that the income from vacation rentals is the primary source of our city's lodging revenue.

The $2 million collected in hotel taxes from our residential neighborhoods represents 12.5 percent of the total $16 million collected in 2017 from all lodging properties, while 87.5 percent of our hotel tax revenue comes from tourists staying in traditional lodging properties.

Our initiative will allow that 12.5 percent to be recovered by expanding vacation rentals in all commercial area and allowing resident property owners to rent out their homes when they are away (limited to 30 days each year).

Because residential neighborhoods by definition are not commercial there should be no expectation or reliance to profit from these areas. Extracting hotel tax (TOT) from our residential neighborhoods should not be part of our city's business plan. There are plenty of commercial zones where revenue can be anticipated and we should be looking to those areas to create vacation rental lodging for our visitors.

The "other" initiative is supported by the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce located on the Nevada side, The Lodging Association and The National Realtors Association. Our initiative is supported by local residents who feel their neighborhoods have been commercialized without their permission.

The city should not be coming into our neighborhoods to collect hotel taxes and out of town investors should not be allowed to turn houses into hotels with the profits going off the hill.

We are for zoning.

We are for residential neighborhoods.

We are for VHRs in all commercial zones.

We believe the voters should decide this issue.

Peggy Bourland is with the Tahoe Neighborhoods Group.