South Tahoe planners recommend amending code for EV charging, discuss noise policies for generators, AC

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The South Lake Tahoe Planning Commission passed a resolution on Thursday recommending the City Council adopt an ordinance to amend city code to establish procedures and expedite permitting for electric vehicle charging systems. 

The commission also heard a presentation of the current standards of the noise ordinance that governs generators, conveyors, transformers and speakers.

Both presentations were given by the city’s Director of Development Services Hilary Roverud.

The initial ordinance for electric vehicle charging systems was a general statement. The requirements of the California legislation has specifics that come down to applying health and safety standards according to Roverud, which ultimately hastens the application process for the city to review the application.

To govern outside noise a measurement system called Community Noise Equivalent Level, according to Roverud, a decibel based system that is weighted in the evening, is used. The current standards for the residential areas in the city are set to 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels at night.

Roverud said, “these standards are specified for residential use and up until recently have not been an issue.”

In the past portable generators have been widely used and are about 80 decibels and typically used in times of power outages.

The increasing availability of whole house generators have caused an increase in frustration for homeowners seeking permitting to install something a little more substantial.

Due to extended power outages and environmental changes there has also been an increased need for air conditioning to be installed.

While no action was requested of the commissioners, feedback was welcomed by Roverud for what she said may lead to a future presentation that does request amendments.  

Planning Commissioner Seth Howard asked, “What’s more important, noise or a 72-year-old having heat in their house,” adding there could be an exemption for portable generators in the ordinance to allow concessions during long-term power outages. 

Roverud pointed out the difference in whole house generators, which automatically kick on in the event of a power outage are rated at approximately 60-70 decibels measured from 20 feet away, while different models and size impact sound produced.

Commissioner Natalia Wieczorek said making adjustments to the ordinance could help to ensure compliance and potentially avoid illegally installed units since getting to the present standard “would be quite a challenge.”

Roverud said the frustration that some people are feeling when they want to install a whole home generator was the driving force behind the presentation. 

Regardless of the solution to mitigate the sound, individuals have to go through extra expense and effort to create a barrier or use the “existing facade of the house to create that barrier,” said Roverud.

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