It’s not all negative with VHRs
Editor’s note: These remarks were originally shared as testimony at a public meeting. The following guest column was submitted in the form of an open letter to South Lake Tahoe elected city officials and city staff.
My name is Jerry Williams. I am a 36-year local resident, husband, father, grandfather, Realtor and property manager in South Lake Tahoe. I wanted to take a moment to address the prevailing, negative and detrimental sentiments that currently surround Vacation Home Rentals (VHRs) in our community.
We, who live here, reside among homes that are VHRs, and that has been a reality long before the city officially incorporated some 51 years ago.
In the recent past, VHRs have become the most polarizing issue in our community. My goal in writing this letter is to request and encourage that City Council and staff share with the public the many benefits VHRs provide to this community.
The No. 1 industry in South Lake Tahoe today is tourism. VHRs provide accommodations for visitors. The popularity and demand for VHRs and home sharing is being fueled by consumers looking for a vacation experience they can’t get at a hotel.
According to the city, VHRs bring in one-third of the total TOT (Temporary Occupancy Tax) — minus Redevelopment Agency TOT — and TID (Tourist Income District) income. The 2015-16 total unaudited TOT — minus RDA TOT — was $9.7 million. TID revenue was nearly $2.7 million for the same time frame.
With roughly 1,150 VHRs (outside of tourist corridors), VHR permit fees generated $540,248 in 2015-16. Add in application and inspection fees at $545 and $133, that’s another $285,244 deposited into city coffers for fiscal year 2015-16.
Where does all of this money go? Much of it is funneled into the city’s general fund, which provides for our city’s infrastructure an includes vital services such as: police and fire protection; street maintenance; including snow removal; parks and recreation; and general administration.
The city multiplier suggests that all of those TOT dollars translate to $20 million going into the local economy, once ancillary businesses are paid (management, maintenance, cleaning, etc); they pay their employees’ wages, employees spend money on groceries and gas — and it goes on and on.
Local businesses benefit with more visitors spending money.
There are jobs, jobs and more jobs directly and indirectly tied to VHRs and the visitors they bring. Direct employment includes:
Laundry and linen services
Maintenance and handy people
Snow removal services
Office administrative staff
IT people and marketing specialist
Plumbing and heating
Paving and excavators
Indirect impact on jobs and local employers
These employees and business owners are directly impacted by the money spent by VHR guests:
Restaurants and bars — managers, servers, bartenders, dishwashers …
Rental companies — sales people, attendants for boats, wave runners, kayaks, paddle boards, skis/boards, boots, poles, bicycles and more
Retail stores and shops, large and small,
Grocery stores — management, checkers, stockers, customer service
These local employees then spend money at virtually every business in town; such as hardware stores, auto parts stores, grocery stores, local shops, mini marts, gas stations, bars and restaurants, and that list goes on and on. These local residents — whether they own or rent their home — pay taxes, they have children in our schools, they visit doctors, dentists and emergency clinics, etc.
In February 2016, the council adopted a new Recreation Master Plan. Bravo to the council for something that is much anticipated and will be an absolutely fantastic addition to our community.
In November 2016, Measure P was passed. This was a 2-percent increase in TOT that is to be utilized specifically for this new recreation complex. This is potentially millions each year that will go toward building and maintaining the complex — more jobs and more revenue. And VHRs, contributing one-third of the TOT, are a huge contributor to this wonderful benefit for residents and visitors alike.
VHRs are not without their own set of concerns and issues, to be sure. I fully support efforts to address problems, increase enforcement, and continue to work toward finding solutions so that the city is empowered and able to effectively resolve our local residents’ issues and concerns. However, concerns seem to be really the only component of VHRs that is ever highlighted or discussed.
In conclusion, this is a request to council and staff: When VHRs are a topic of discussion — on the agenda, when staff reports are compiled, posted on websites and presented at council meetings — the beneficial, positive and vital impact and role that VHRs play in our community should be highlighted and emphasized, so that we all get a more balanced view.
Jerry Williams is the property management committee chair with the South Tahoe Association of Realtors.