Ribaudo column: On South Lake Tahoe’s Measure T (opinion)
I will vote “no” on Measure T. Having lived in both the county and the city of South Lake Tahoe I understand the issue and concerns. I have always had rental units either next door or nearby. This issue has been going on for at least the last 25 years, as far as I can remember, and I certainly understand the frustration of residents.
The city and the VHR industry should have dealt with this in a meaningful way years ago. Instead the city was content to collect the T.O.T. and the VHR industry was content to push the cost of enforcement elsewhere. Imagine if 20 years ago we had the emphasis on enforcement we do today?
The issue today is far more complex. It’s not just noise, trash and parking in neighborhoods, the issue has been further complicated by a lack of long-term workforce housing and the increasing rent of long-term rentals. These are two different issues with two different sets of causes that have become mashed up in the intensity of the moment.
The issue of long-term workforce housing (be it owned or rented) is being fueled by macro issues including a lack of housing statewide, a well-oiled economy that is throwing significant amounts of cash off and people looking to spend it, and TRPA and other agencies’ policy that has made the cost of building workforce housing unrealistic in today’s South Shore.
The issue of VHRs in neighborhoods is different, as many local residents feel put-upon by some loud and obnoxious visitors. Who could blame them?
What ties the two issues together is the advent of technology like Airbnb, which exacerbates the impact of both. This technology enables someone to market a house as a lodging property that could (but not always) negatively impact a neighborhood.
At this time, I will vote “no” on Measure T. There are several big, impactful questions that have not been answered. Those who support Measure T have not provided adequate analysis and answers to the following:
If Measure T passes, will visitors who are currently visiting and staying in VHRs continue to do so or will we lose them and their economic contribution to the community? Proponents assume “yes,” visitors will continue to visit but offer no hard data.
What will the passage of Measure T do to current home values, if anything? Again, lots of speculation but no hard data.
The lack of solid data to those questions combined with the potential of a slower tourism economy in 2019 and the increasing budget impact of CalPERS exposes the community to financial risk, which could impact community services. The community shouldn’t take this risk without answers to those unanswered questions.
From where I sit, I think we need to avoid exposing the community to the potential financial risk at this moment. In the short term, it would be smart to constantly improve enforcement to get the best practices we can and become the model for the industry.
At the same time, we should work to get the answers to those outstanding economic impact questions. Once we have those answers, if continued improvements in enforcement still do not solve the issue, the community can craft another measure with a better understanding of what some of the unintended consequence might be. Measure T at this time is an axe trying to solve a problem when maybe a knife or scalpel will do. Vote “No” on Measure T.
If it’s not too late, do check out the fall colors. I have been out in Alpine County and the show has been wonderful. Also, it’s October and that means the baseball World Series. The greatest baseball of the season happens in the next couple of weeks.
It’s a Wrap
Several weeks ago, I had one of the greatest experiences of my life: to welcome my new granddaughter, Mia, to the world. Those of you who are grandparents already know this, but the moment you hold that sweet little baby it changes your life and your priorities forever.
Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He can be reached at email@example.com.