Vacation rental managers make request to council(s)
With a tumultuous past, the future of one of South Lake Tahoe’s most divisive issues is apt to be split between two City Councils.
After unanimously passing the first reading late Tuesday night, the city’s proposed vacation home rental ordinance — intended to stem the tide of noise, parking, overcrowding and trash — will come before a new City Council next month.
Tom Davis, who co-owns Tahoe Keys Resort, abstained in the 4-0 vote.
The ordinance is due to return Dec. 10 for a second reading, unless eleventh-hour suggestions brought forth by a group of property managers that alter the concept of any portion of the document are incorporated.
City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo defined acceptable changes to the ordinance — which would establish fines for property owners up to $1,000 for renting to repeat offenders — as those clerical or grammatical in nature.
If conceptual changes are made, the draft would return for a re-reading, and require two more meetings to pass.
“The interesting thing will be the new City Council, as Bill (Crawford) pointed out. We’ll look at it, and we could either take it apart or keep the work we’ve done for a year and a half,” said Councilman Hal Cole, one of nine subcommittee members who held workshops on the contentious topic.
Cole and Councilwoman Judy Brown, with DiCamillo, will review the 13 points of concern from the property managers. They appear to have more restrictions and responsibilities under the drafted ordinance through a new permitting system that tracks the rentals when there’s a problem.
Of the 1,100 documented vacation rentals in South Lake Tahoe, it’s unknown how many represent a problem.
“We just want this to be a well thought out ordinance. It’s a consensus-building process. We agree there are legitimate problems in the community that people have to deal with,” Accommodation Station owner and operator Greta Hambsch said after the meeting. “I think what’s coming out of this issue is we have to do a better job. We, as vacation home renters, want to be a part of the solution.”
The 13 critiques ranged in content from the allegation property managers were left out of the process — which has been hashed out in workshops for over a year — to a strong objection to a vehicle parking limit.
The proposed ordinance allows for only on-site parking. Current city code prohibits overnight parking on the street for any residence.
The property managers would also like to see a sunset clause to the ordinance, but Brown said Wednesday she’s unsure how that would help.
“At some point in time, somebody has to step up to the plate and take responsibility for the peace and quiet,” Brown said during the meeting. She pledged the new ordinance should only affect a small number of rentals.
If it passes next month, the city agreed to review the ordinance after a year.
The managers exception to, and concerns over the ordinance brought the managers out in huge numbers Tuesday night, dominating the public hearing by at least a 2-to-1 margin. They were joined in their dissent by property owners, some driving to the South Shore from the Bay Area and Reno to share their concerns.
“I believe if other property managers would be more proactive screening their clients, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” said property owner Richard Daquette from San Jose.
Vacation home rentals, which have operated on the South Shore for 35 years, constitute about a quarter of the city’s transient occupancy tax.
Then, there are the added benefits.
“Vacation renters come up to Tahoe, and they bring the dollars. They support our community. I don’t think we’d be here if we didn’t have that,” said Michelle Van Sickle, who works for Tahoe Rental Connection.
One renter said his family looks forward to their visits to Tahoe, singling out his young daughter as one who views it like a piece of heaven.
But after hearing horror stories about loud, late-night parties and indecent behavior, the city believes there’s a need for an ordinance to protect the well-being of the residents in its neighborhoods.
The new ordinance would require a $40,000-a-year permit technician to enforce it.
“We do think vacation rentals play a vital role in our community. However, it has to be mentioned that in months of contemplating this problem, I can say there’s not one person who hadn’t lived on a street where this was problem, or lived on a street where this is a problem,” Mayor Brooke Laine said, exiting her four-year post. “We do have a serious problem. But it’s not the intention of this council to penalize people.”
— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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