Runnels Automotive ordered to remove cars from Tahoe’s ‘Y’ intersection |

Runnels Automotive ordered to remove cars from Tahoe’s ‘Y’ intersection

John Runnels walks his lot Tuesday. Runnels' collection of cars has been stored at the "Y" for years. The El Dorado Superior Court recently sided with the city of South Lake Tahoe in its efforts to have the vehicles removed.
Jack Barnwell | Tahoe Daily Tribune

A recent ruling has removed a roadblock for South Lake Tahoe to have numerous vehicles removed from Runnels Automotive at the “Y.”

On Thursday, El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Daniel Proud ruled in favor of the city in a long-running dispute surrounding the storage of vehicles at the shop. Proud ordered shop owner John Runnels to remove more than a dozen vehicles, determining they should be considered abandoned under both the city’s municipal code and California state law.

Runnels has until Sept. 6 to remove the vehicles under the court order.

On Tuesday, Runnels said he plans to appeal the decision on the premise that he wasn’t allowed to submit documentation as evidence. The city’s argument that the vehicles should be considered abandoned doesn’t carry much weight because of an exemption under California state law, he added. California’s vehicle code exempts “historical vehicles, horseless carriages and vehicles of special interest that are part of a collection and are not operated” from having to be registered.

Runnels said he allowed his permit to sell vehicles to expire in 2003. His lack of a seller’s permit was highlighted by the city during its efforts to have the vehicles removed. The city’s argument that the cars are in complete disrepair are untrue, Runnels said, adding they are in various states of repair. Some of the more worn ones have been kept in the back of the shop and out of the public’s view. He added that he had fencing around the property to help conceal the sight before it was taken down in 2008 as part of intersection improvements at the “Y.”

In a Friday press release the city said the ruling fits in with its “Fixin’ 50” initiative to improve the community and enforce its ordinances.

“The City has been discussing solutions with Mr. Runnels during the past year and we recognize this is not the outcome Mr. Runnels desired,” City Manager Nancy Kerry said in the release.

“Removing the vehicles from Mr. Runnel’s property, which is in compliance with the City Code, will improve the appearance of ‘Y,’ which is a highly visible intersection in the community.”

Runnels, on the other hand, disputes the claims by both Kerry and City Attorney Tom Watson that the city attempted to contact him prior to Feb. 6.

“I would like them to produce the records,” Runnels said.

He said he plans to appeal Thursday’s ruling.

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