Vacation rental representative questions South Lake Tahoe’s data |

Vacation rental representative questions South Lake Tahoe’s data

Claire Cudahy

A South Lake Tahoe resident in vacation rental management has called into question data released by the city pertaining to his industry.

Joshua Priou, director of product development for Lake Tahoe Accommodations, said he grew suspicious when city staff reported at a December City Council meeting that their software had tallied 793 “instances” — defined as citations, warnings and advisories — pertaining to vacation home rentals (VHRs) in a little over a year.

Priou decided to investigate for himself.

After requesting the information from the city that was used to create this report, he received over 1,700 pages on March 15. After going through page by page, the number of instances he counted was a far cry from what the city had reported.

“I like to think of them as incidents, as in something actually happened. You have a noise complaint or a trash problem or a parking problem — those are obviously the big concerns for vacation rentals.” — Joshua Priou, director of product development, Lake Tahoe Accommodations

“I came up with 208 instances, not 793,” said Priou at the April 18 council meeting.

“I went through each individual page, and that’s how I did it. It was time consuming, reading through each one,” Priou later told the Tribune.

“I like to think of them as incidents, as in something actually happened. You have a noise complaint or a trash problem or a parking problem — those are obviously the big concerns for vacation rentals.”

Of the 208 instances that he counted, 101 were calls to service that were ultimately deemed “quiet on arrival or not unreasonable noise,” 52 were noise complaints, 11 pertained to parking, 14 involved trash and 30 were classified as “other.”

Priou thinks that the discrepancy between his number and the one released by the city has to do with how the information was entered into the software Accela, which is used by governments to streamline processes. He said roughly 500 pieces of paper he received from the city were from that software and included profiles on VHRs with no incidents. He believes that entering in these profiles into the new system for the first time created an “instance.” This has yet to be definitively confirmed.

The city is currently reviewing the data, and a report is expected to be presented no earlier than the May 16 City Council meeting, according to South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Brian Uhler.

Priou said he chose to examine the data because he feels like the VHR industry is always portrayed as “the big bad wolf destroying neighborhoods.”

“The industry already has enough trouble right now, it doesn’t need more of this,” he added.

At the same council meeting where Priou questioned the data, City Council received its first report from High Sierra Patrol, an independent security patrol hired to monitor VHRs this winter. From Dec. 16, 2016 to March 16, 2017, the patrol issued 75 warnings, advisories and citations.

There were 68 calls to dispatch during this period for “general loud noise,” though only 16 were determined to be from VHRs. There was also an additional 14 VHR noise calls, 20 parking calls and four trash calls.

The city is currently awaiting the completion of a socio-economic study being conducted by Michael Baker International — the same group that handled South Lake Tahoe’s 2014-2022 Housing Element Update — and California State University’s Public Policy and Administration Department.

Using data trend analysis and projections, plus community surveys and stakeholder interviews, the study will aid the city in making a data-based decision on VHRs.

The study is expected out this spring, and city officials have stated that no long-term decisions on VHR policy will be made until then.

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