Letter: Measure T — don’t throw the baby out with the bath water (opinion)
In the coming weeks, our city has a big decision to make. Lake Tahoe has, for its entire modern history, been a vacation destination. A small group of residents are pushing a split from our history, to turn Tahoe into a retirement community, without tourists and the jobs that come with them.
I urge my fellow citizens to reject that path, for the sake of South Lake Tahoe and our fellow citizens.
If we ban vacation rentals, it will not just hit this city hard, but it will hit me personally. I own and operate a vacation rental near the Y, and in the five years I’ve owned the place, I’ve been a good neighbor and a good vacation-home-rental operator.
My renters have flagged down a Liberty Utilities truck during a power outage, bringing power back to our entire block. They’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at local stores and restaurants, like Steamer’s, Orchid Thai and helped prop up new businesses like South Lake Brewing, Tahoe Mountain West and Free Bird Cafe. Far and away, they’ve been well-behaved, with the only neighbor complaint ever reported about my rental being due a parked car in front — which turned out to be the car of a different neighbor.
And the transient occupancy taxes they’ve generated have put millions in city coffers in the past five years. If Measure T passes, that huge source of taxpayer money needlessly dries up.
Aside from the dozens of various contractors I’ve hired to keep up and improve my home who would have less work, passing poorly-designed Measure T would have a huge impact on my property manager/cleaner, who lives here. If Measure T passes, she’ll lose $20,000 per year in income. That loss will make it harder for her to afford to live here, just as it will for the thousands of fellow residents who depend on vacation homes for their livelihood.
Many people are falsely hoping that pushing VHRs underground will ease our housing crisis. It won’t. It will make it harder for locals to make the money required to live here. In tandem with a likely recession in the next few years, forcing vacation homes to sit empty could produce a disastrous outcome for South Lake Tahoe.
Measure T would destroy this community, and there are much better ways to tackle the problems it seeks to help.
Noise, parking and other VHR issues have been vastly reduced, since the new restrictions went into effect last year. If Measure T passes, VHRs won’t go away, they’ll just go underground (drug sales don’t go away when illegal, for example), at the same time that VHR enforcement officers will be laid off due to the disappearance of permit fees/VHR taxes.
The housing crisis would be better fought directly, by creating more incentives to rent a home long term. And I’m trying to get creative and help the cause myself — I’ve just created a new online service, called Cabin Fever, to help match up Tahoe homeowners with seasonal renters. We need to get creative and boost local income, build more affordable housing better incentivize homeowners. Forcing second-homes to sit empty 90 percent of the year does the opposite, and will just make the housing crisis worse.
I’d love to see neighbors better-rewarded when they live next to a VHR. Rather than 100 percent of VHR taxes going to the city, I’d love to see half that money go to direct neighbors, so they directly reap the benefits of living next to a VHR (making it more affordable to live here if you have a VHR nearby). But that’s the kind of thing we won’t be able to test if VHRs are banned.
I urge my fellow citizens to Vote no on Measure T, and not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let’s keep tourists (and tourist dollars) flowing into this city. And together, we can keep working to make sure locals benefit as much as possible from vacation rentals.
South Lake Tahoe, California
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