South Lake Tahoe business removes nuisance cars from lot per judge’s order |

South Lake Tahoe business removes nuisance cars from lot per judge’s order

Jack Barnwell
Vintage cars line the Runnels Automotive lot on Emerald Bay Road at the “Y” on Aug. 11. El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Daniel Proud ruled recently that the vehicles should be removed. Runnels said he plans to appeal the decision.
Jack Barnwell / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Once home to a wide assortment of old classic cars, the lot at Runnels Automotive on Emerald Bay Road now sits vacant. The vehicles, some of which appeared rundown, sat on the lot for decades.

El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Daniel Proud ordered Runnels to remove the vehicles on Aug. 6 following a lengthy ordeal between the business owner and the city. Proud ruled the vehicles were considered abandoned under both California and city laws.

City Attorney Tom Watson confirmed the removal order on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

John Runnels, the business owner, said Tuesday that his remaining vehicles were removed after City of South Lake Tahoe employees arrived on site to ensure compliance.

“The judge considered the city’s code and Mr. Runnels’ position on the vehicle storage, and [he] made a determination that the city’s code does not allow the storing of these types of non-operational vehicles on property in South Lake Tahoe,” Watson said by email.

According to Runnels, friends and fellow business owners stepped up to help with vehicle removal. He said some cars were driven off the lot, while others were towed.

Runnels opened his business in 1972 and moved to his current location in 1976.

The city, in its initial Aug. 7 announcement, said the vehicle-removal order falls in line with its “Fixin’ 50” initiative, which includes improved appearances and code enforcement for buildings along Highway 50.

Runnels said he plans to appeal the decision, but he will wait for the appropriate time. He added that he saw the decision as a violation of property rights.

“Private property rights in South Lake Tahoe have now officially been killed by the city,” Runnels said. “I thought the city’s job was to help and facilitate business, but they don’t appear to be doing that.”

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