Sass Talk: Progress on VHRs, vote ‘yes’ on South Lake Tahoe sales tax question
Mayor of South Lake Tahoe
On Tuesday, a majority of city council agreed on a revised VHR (vacation home rental) ordinance. In two weeks we will vote on the first reading of the ordinance and if a majority supports it, Nov. 7 would be the final vote to adopt the revised regulations and rules. The ordinance would then go into effect 30 days later.
If passed the new ordinance would cap the number of VHRs at 1,400 (currently 1,352 with 110 awaiting a final determination), require that new VHRs not be within 150 feet of any existing VHR, increase penalties for violations, void current permits for three violations within a 24 month period, require a special permit for an owner (who must be present) to use the VHR for larger gatherings above the permitted use, mandate bear boxes, and increase fees to add three additional VHR code enforcement officers, among other things.
As with every compromise, both sides did not walk away with everything they wanted. To the Realtors, I realize you are losing a very effective sales tool to sell properties. However, you are a strong group of well trained and experienced individuals. As more people are able to work from home, populations grow in Reno and the Eldorado Hills area, people in the Bay Area continue to invest in Tahoe and interest rates stay low, I am confident you will find creative and effective ways to keep selling successfully.
To the VHR management companies, with the new rules it is more important than ever for VHR owners to protect their investments. First, there is no cap in the tourist core area. Second, online companies like HomeAway cannot match the local services you provide. They are stealing market share through lower commissions but have little control over who they rent to. You do. Sell your strengths and go after the out of town providers. You are a savvy group of sales professionals and I am confident that you can gain market share through passionate and effective targeted marketing. Show VHR owners how you can give them the peace of mind remote companies cannot. You can target HomeAway and similar companies by finding providers who can scrape the web and identify VHRs using these types of companies. My point is, you can grow your business even though there is a cap.
To locals who have been affected by noise, trash and parking … it took a very long time for us to get to the number of VHRs we have today. Very few of us cared about VHRs until there was one within earshot. The compromise we reached will not dramatically reduce their numbers. However, the additional enforcement coupled with the very large fines and risk of losing their permits will make things better. VHR owners have too much lose and if their permit is voided, they will likely never get it back. That’s a big financial deal for VHR owners — very big. We saw an improvement after the last ordinance change 18 months ago and we will see even more now.
Finally, to those contemplating a ballot measure or a lawsuit. Like it or not, the economics of banning VHRs is substantial. Not only would it hurt the city’s ability to fund essential services, it could destroy the lives of over 1,350 families and individuals who did nothing wrong. They invested in good faith and they don’t deserve to be punished for the inability of all of us to foresee what was coming our way when VHRs first started to grow in numbers.
Additionally, we are a tourist economy and all of the cottage industries, restaurants and retailers would see substantial economic harm. Likewise, those who seem to think a lawsuit would restore property rights for homeowners operating businesses in residential neighborhoods, I say look to the California Realtor Board and the National Realtor Board. To date, no successful lawsuit has been bought forward negating a city’s ability to regulate land use within its boundaries. I ask for patience, and for the sake of our community, please give this new compromise time to work.
Within two weeks you will start to receive your mail-in ballots for the November election. There is only one item on the ballot related to the city. It is Measure C, a city sponsored vote that would raise the sales tax by ½ percent to generate $2.5 million annually for the sole purpose of rehabilitating our roads over the next 15 years. It requires a two-third majority vote and by law can only be used for the purpose stated on the ballot.
None of us like taxes but this one is needed. Our roads are a mess as a result of years of neglect and this council is trying to do something about it.
Some voices in our community will tell you that the city should live within their means. Normally I would agree. However, this council is dealing with an issue that was pushed aside for almost 50 years. We can’t change the past, but we can try to get ahead of it now before it gets much worse. The fact is, there is no money in the city budget that will fund road rehabilitation for the next 15 years. To those who say that , I again offer you the link to the city’s budget and ask for your help to show us where the funding can come from. Here is the link, cityofslt.us/DocumentCenter/View/7168 .
I posted this once before and not one person offered a solution of what to cut that was legal and did not eliminate essential services like police, fire and snow removal. For those writing editorials about why this tax is not needed and that the city should find the money in the current budget, put your money where your mouth is and show us where to get the long-term funding to make our streets safer.
Vote “Yes” on Measure C.
Doing right by Martin
Kudos to Heavenly for naming a hiking trail and dedicating a stand of trees to Martin Hollay, one of our local heroes who skied 100 days last year at the age of 96. What a great dedication at the top of the Gondola last week with over 80 of Martin’s family and ski friends in attendance. I like this new Heavenly COO Mike Goar who listened to trusted lieutenants Nancy NcCoy, Andrew Strain and James Grant and did the right thing by Martin. Nice job, Mike!
Winter is coming. Time to get the skis, boards and snowmobiles tuned. Check to see if your gear still fits and make sure the mice did not get into anything. The snow is a coming and winter play will be here soon.
Meanwhile, get outside. It will put a smile on your face. I promise!
South Lake Tahoe Mayor Austin Sass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook by searching Sasstalk.