Planners look at sign issue |

Planners look at sign issue

Susan Wood

Reacting to local business owners’ anger over uneven enforcement of a city sign ordinance, the South Lake Tahoe Planning Commission will listen to their complaints at a Thursday meeting. The commission may even suggest repeal of the current ordinance so a compromise version of the law can be crafted.

Commissioner Pat Frega expects public input will drive the meeting. But finding a resolution may be a challenge: balancing the needs of the business community against local regulations isn’t easy.

“Given the parameters TRPA lays down, our flexibility isn’t always as much as we’d like to see,” he said Tuesday.

The decade-old ordinance the city adopted through a cooperative agreement with the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, Lodging Association and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has received much attention since the city’s police department took over the enforcement of it last January.

Since then, community service officers have combed the town and issuing 160 letters of violation, said officer Bob Albertazzi. The majority of businesses have complied.

“Not happily, but they comply,” he said.

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Some have put their signs back up, while others have found ways around the rules, like plastering signs on the sides of vehicles parked in front of their businesses.

Steve Lannen, owner of Yellow Submarine sandwich shop on Tallac Avenue, got creative. Officers told him he would need to remove his banner, so he framed the vinyl sign, adding a backing to make it rigid.

“I had to do something. I’ve had it for 10 years,” he said. “It’s been approved. They called it a test case.”

If the planning commission recommends that the council repeal or drastically change the ordinance to make it less restrictive, it would need to return to the TRPA to craft a new ordinance. The agency has relied on South Lake Tahoe to enforce sign rules.

“I think it’s in everybody’s interest the city manage it, but if (the city) were to abandon it that means it would come back to TRPA,” TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub said Tuesday. Singlaub has expressed a desire to get the agency out of the sign-regulation business.

TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said the agency will cooperate to find a solution that business owners can live with. “We realize signs affect local businesses, and they need these signs to drive business.”