Guest column: Tahoe, El Dorado County & VHRs (opinion)
February 22, 2018
I have been coming to Tahoe since the 1980s. I love the outdoors, enjoyed visiting here as a tourist (hiking, fishing, camping…), and finally moved here in 1999. I've worked in property management, I've worked in the private sector, and I've worked freelance, and it's challenging to make a living here, but…
Just like I did, and a lot of (you?) transplants did before moving here, people still come here to enjoy themselves, to escape their everyday world, to rejuvenate, to reconnect with nature. And I want people to enjoy themselves when they visit. As long as they respect and appreciate the area, and keep noise and trash contained, I welcome them!
Let me add, I'm not saying we should turn Tahoe into one big tourist trap; all growth requires controls.
All VHR permits should be contingent upon a valid contract with a local management company:
Specifically that would be a locally established brick and mortar property management operation! There are only a few companies that actually meet this simple standard; as usual it's the corner-cutters that ruin it for those trying to do the right thing. The long-time, locally-operated management companies have a pretty good track record for keeping things copacetic; the housekeeper (often agent of choice for VRBO-type /online operations) — not so much…
Local agents, who physically check-in visitors face-to-face, are actively available (often 24/7) to address the needs of visitors, as well as those of the local community. These local companies also have a huge stake in maintaining a solid relationship with their clients, and of course preserving a good relationship with the town where they live! Conversely, online operations are largely absent to perform any actual management functions whatsoever, and that (obviously?) increases opportunities for disorder — which nobody wants.
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Penalties for violations are outrageous:
I've called to complain about one VHR in my county neighborhood in the last 19 years — some young drunkards hanging out on a deck late on a school night. This was not managed by a reputable company by the way! They were sent home — and probably fined. That seems like a fitting penalty.
However, if someone commits a crime at the airport meeting hall (for example), do we punish the owner of the building or the perpetrator? Well, if it's a VHR the city currently punishes both! So … we can close down the airport and the City Council because someone does something socially unacceptable? Or worse, because someone doesn't like listening to planes or helicopters in their backyard? Does that seem right, or fair, to anybody?
I used to joke to my friends (who could still afford San Francisco), that the parking was better up here. But, it doesn't seem that way anymore? Visitors receive ridiculous fines for minor parking infractions, while the permanent rental next door has rusting hulks leaking oil into the groundwater on their unpaved driveway, or their front lawn even!
Supposedly, the state of California imposes a $1,000 fine for littering. I'd love to see the stats for tickets handed out because … well, I notice a lot of trash strewn all over the entire state! Think of the huge potential for covering our black hole budget! Yep, $1,000 fine or two weekends with an orange vest (take your pick, litterbug!). By VHR logic, we could also fine the manufacturers of nearly every product made, especially beer companies! On that note, bear boxes should be required for ALL homes in the Tahoe Basin, not just rich people VHRs. It's plainly a good idea to help keep bears wild.
Vacant houses line the streets:
I've been saying for years, we need less of this overrated Tahoe Nature stuff and more vacant houses… Which is how most of these houses sit 90 percent of the time — vacant and quiet. So, I don't mind if I hear people making a little noise between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., everyone deserves to do their thing — while they're still alive anyway… Actually, I've yet to hear someone blasting obnoxious music outside even during these hours. Noise-wise, construction crews (and the airport, of course) are a lot worse. Remember, this is not a gated senior retirement community … This is not Animal Farm … This is not North Korea …
Building department & TRPA extend overdevelopment privileges for money (shocker). My complaint with Tahoe is that there are just too many darn trees! And thank God my prayers are being answered; I've had eight houses built on formerly tree-filled lots within two blocks of my house in the county in the last eight years! These include one which immediately turned into a VHR, one on the "unbuildable" lot behind me, and one on a blind curve / hill with a steeply-graded driveway sliding right into the steeply-graded main thoroughfare to the neighborhood. I don't know if anyone is actually going to live in this battle-star-mansion, but whoever stays there is going to have a lot of fun in the winter because the logistics of a house in that location with a driveway like that just don't make a lot of sense. A lot of things don't make sense lately, but I'm sure someone made money on the deal …
Tahoe has no manufacturing plants, no car factories, no high tech industry, nor anyone mining Tahoe Granite because it's a key element in a revolutionary new line of non-stick cookware… Tourism is Tahoe's only real industry, and (whether you accept it or not) our entire economy is pretty much based on it! Shocker! The city is already broke — everybody knows it. California is doomed. Who's going to pay for all these bloated pension plans? A lot of locals affectionately call Tahoe "poverty with a view." So let's take away the main source of revenue for people who actually have to work for a living?
If you choose to live in Tahoe, you'd better embrace tourism. Tahoe has been a tourist destination since Model T's came up muddy rutted trails to get here. Otherwise, maybe it's not the best fit for you. Some people don't like dogs; Tahoe is definitely NOT for you.
One of the reasons I moved out of San Francisco was the attitude of (snooty) people moving in. The self-righteous, elitist mentality of people moving to a place and then trying to change it into something else to suit their needs is frankly repulsive. Most people move here because they love this place. Love is acceptance. If you don't love Tahoe, it's still a free country, you're free to go somewhere else.
Edward Wade is a local El Dorado County resident.
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