South Lake Tahoe City Council to consider sign fee revision |

South Lake Tahoe City Council to consider sign fee revision

Jack Barnwell
Eleanor BonBon of Tattoo BonBon examines a sign for her business in the Swiss Chalet center on Lake Tahoe Boulevard. BonBon initially faced a $878 application fee from the City of South Lake Tahoe to install it, up from $145 prior to July. However, the city will consider revisiting the application fees on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
Jack Barnwell / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Business owners who currently face high sign permit fees could find some relief at a Tuesday, Oct. 20, South Lake Tahoe City Council meeting.

Staff will propose that the city revise sign permit fees and allow over-the-counter permit services.

The South Lake Tahoe Planning Commission, at its Sept. 10 meeting, recommended adopting a streamlined application process that falls under Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s “one-size-fits-all” guidelines. The city’s sign ordinance, while more flexible in terms of sign size, requires at least nine hours to process an application.

“Providing the option of reviewing sign applications under the TRPA code would reduce staff time necessary to review and issue a sign permit,” according to a staff report on the revision. “Staff has further evaluated the time to process the variety of sign applications and found that some signs could take less time to process if the signs did not require a new sign size calculation under city code.”

Sign applications cost $878 under the city’s 2015 master schedule of fees. The revised fee would charge $120 for minor sign permits, while major sign permits under the city’s schedule would be capped at $300.

South Lake Tahoe City Council unanimously adopted a new master fee schedule for all city services and permits in May. The city said it needed to recoup the full price of its services, but the decision caused a spike in costs. A sign application fee, for example, jumped from $145 to $878 for some businesses. Permit fees for murals, which are considered minor design reviews, jumped from $130 to $2,105.

According to a news release, both city manager Nancy Kerry and the city council agreed at a July 21 meeting to revisit sign permit fees and make them more affordable.

Mick Clarke, owner of Signs of Tahoe, said the current fee schedule doesn’t remotely reflect the true cost of a sign application; rather he said city fees are too high.

Clarke said he uses the same software as the city, which is stored on a computer floppy disk, and said it doesn’t take up to nine hours to process a sign application.

“I can personally process it within 45 minutes, including the site visit,” Clarke said.

Clarke said the city is backing off its sign application fees because of recent pushback from the public.

Some business owners, like Eleanor BonBon of Tattoo BonBon, initially called the price “outrageous” and mounted a public protest over the fee increases.

She said the proposed fee revisions are more realistic for small businesses, however.

BonBon, who rents a unit at the Swiss Chalet Center on Lake Tahoe Boulevard, wanted to place a sign on her building and on the sign marquee in front of the center.

The proposed revision also affects minor events as well. Currently, all events require a temporary event permit. Minor events that don’t require road closures, off-site parking, private security, amplified music or stages would be exempt from the permit requirement.

The meeting will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 1901 Airport Road. A vote is expected.

For more information on South Lake Tahoe sign policies, visit

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