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LTUSD board discusses ideal superintendent candidate

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Lake Tahoe Unified School District board members met with consultants this week about the search for the district’s new superintendent.

The district has hired Leadership Associates, an executive search firm, to help with the search.

Board members held a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 18, to discuss search parameters with Leadership Associates consultants Rich Fischer and Rich Thome.

Fischer and Thome asked members what their ideal candidate would look like. The overwhelming consensus was someone who will collaborate with the community, is innovative and transparent.

When asked about what kind of experience the candidate should have, most members felt that the candidate should have experience with education but doesn’t necessarily need to have been a superintendent before.

“I don’t want to exclude anyone because they don’t have four years of experience or anything like that,” Board President Larry Reilly said to Fischer.

Boardmember Troy Matthews also said he wants someone who is honest, has integrity and is “above reproach.”

Fischer asked if there were any other personality traits that are important, like a sense of humor.

“Well, I’m the funniest one here, I really don’t want competition,” Reilly jokingly said.

However, board member Brandi Bannister said that an important trait is someone who has an appreciation for nature.

Fischer and Thome also asked the board about the strengths and challenges of the district.

The board gave a lot praise to the district’s staff and teachers, as well as, partnerships with the community.

When asked about challenges, Matthews said, “I’m afraid people will see Tahoe in the job description and think it’s going to be an easy gig.”

One of the biggest challenges was the budget shortage which has led to deferred building maintenance and unfilled staff positions.

Board member Bonnie Turnbull also pointed out that the district has had a “significant amount of conflict,” in the last year.

On Tuesday, Nov 19, Fischer, Thome and the board will spend the day meeting with community members getting their input on important qualities. That evening, there will be an open forum for the community on the topic.

There is also an online survey for the community that will close on Friday, Nov. 22.

“The more the community is involved, the better they feel about the decision,” Fischer told the board.

The application deadline is Jan. 16 then on Feb. 3 the board will review applications.

Interviews will begin Monday, Feb. 10.

To see updates on the search, visit www.ltusd.org/superintendent_search.

Both sides in Measure T fight may ask judge to rule without trial

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Legal counsel for parties in the Measure T fight on Monday asked a judge to decide the next steps at a case management conference.

Heather Stroud and Beverly Roxas, counsel for the City of South Lake Tahoe, addressed Judge Brian Phipps in person at the El Dorado County Court in Cameron Park while Andrew Pierce, counsel for South Lake Tahoe Property Owners Group, attended the conference via phone.

South Lake Tahoe voters passed Measure T in November 2018, a bill that would ban vacation homes in residential neighborhoods and limit them to the tourist core among other things.

The South Lake Tahoe Property Owners Group filed a lawsuit in December 2018 claiming the ban was unconstitutional.

The issue has since been a point of contention for residents and out of town homeowners.

Despite the fact that no decision was going to be made on the case at the conference, the small courtroom was filled mostly with South Lake Tahoe residents.

At the conference, both sides said they would be filing motions for summary judgment, a motion that asks the judge to rule on a case based on the stated facts without going to trial.

The court will hear motions from both sides at the same time. The hearing will be held at 8:30 a.m. Friday, April 10, in Department 9 in Cameron Park.

If neither motion is granted, the parties will come back to a continued case management conference on April 20 where the judge will set a trial date.

Garden domes constructed at Zephyr Cove Elementary

ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — With the support of the Zephyr Cove Elementary School Parent Club and a generous donation from Lisa Maloff, Amy Cranch volunteered to organize the construction of two 18-foot garden domes which are now in place at Zephyr Cove Elementary School.

Over fall break, a group of volunteers that included parents and students, put in the sweat equity to construct two garden domes which will provide opportunities for students to learn about growing items from “farm to table.”

The focus of the garden domes is to provide an addition to the already rich science experiences that currently exist at the school related to the unique ecosystems of the Lake Tahoe region.

Weather service calling for snow at Lake Tahoe; passes could receive up to 4 inches

The National Weather Service in Reno has issued a special weather statement for snowfall in the Lake Tahoe area for South Lake Tahoe, Stateline, Incline Village, Glenbrook and Tahoe City.

A low pressure system is likely to bring light snowfall to the Sierra as well as southern Lyon and far western Mineral counties in Nevada, mainly above 6,500 to 7,000 feet, Tuesday night into Wednesday, according to the NWS.

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, Spooner Summit, Carson, Ebbetts and Sonora passes all could receive 2-4 inches of snow.

Although snow accumulations appear to be light, NWS is urging drivers to be cautious during the hazardous driving conditions, including leaving more space while following vehicles. 

Precipitation is forecast to diminish by Wednesday evening but temperatures will be cold enough to refreeze any melting that may take place during the day, NWS said.

Northeast winds Wednesday will be around 10 mph with gusts up to 20 mph.

It’s a good time to make sure cars are prepared for winter, including an ice scraper or snowbrush, gloves and winter clothing, blanket, emergency flares, salt or sand, first aid kit, flashlight and extra windshield solution.

Temperatures stay cool the rest of the week after the low pressure system leaves the basin Wednesday night.

The high Thursday may reach 40 with the low in the mid 20s and Friday through the weekend high temps will be around 45 with the low in the high 20s.

El Dorado Opportunity Knocks, Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless prevent 30 people from becoming homeless

Efforts from the Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless and the El Dorado Opportunity Knocks Continuum of Care prevented 30 people in 17 households in the county from becoming homeless.

EDOK is a federal program implemented on the local level with Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless as the lead agent.

“The Health and Human Services Agency has been a leader for EDOK, as well as a key partner for my organization and this county, meeting compliance requirements at the state and federal level to create pipelines for increased grant funding to come to this community for needed housing and services,” said Marissa Muscat, Executive Director of Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless, in a press release. “As Tahoe Coalition facilitates EDOK’s intake process into programs, we were pleased to utilize these available one-time grant funds to help prevent homelessness for 17 households.”

Health and Human Services provided a one-time discretionary fund of $30,000 to the Tahoe Coalition, which they spent nearly all of.

“We had concerns that we may not be able to spend that much money in less than a year, but that wasn’t the case,” said Muscat in the press release.

To access the funding, households had to verify that they earn an income at 30% or below area median income and that they are in imminent danger of losing their home. Of the people helped, 13 households had a head of household between 51 and 72 and four households had heads of household between 23 and 38.

“Everyone served through Tahoe Coalition and EDOK with this homeless prevention funding have been residents of El Dorado County for between 3 and 54 years, some of whom suffer from various chronic health conditions or life-long injuries, had fallen into crisis due to a death of a family member, experienced a loss of a job, or through some combination of all of the above,” said Daniel Del Monte, Deputy Director of Health and Human Services in the release.

EDOK may receive additional state grant funding in the next 12 months.

To learn more about EDOK, visit www.edokcoc.org.

To learn more about Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless, visit tahoehomeless.org.

Cold Water’s Brown a groundbreaker, celebrates 5 years at Lake Tahoe

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Debbie Brown and her restaurant and brewery, Cold Water, have been a staple in South Lake Tahoe for 5 years.

Cold Water opened Nov. 21, 2014, and it was a realization of Brown’s dream. She’s lived in Tahoe for 25 years and has worked in the food and beverage industry for most of that time, but she always wanted to own a restaurant of her own.

“I had a vendor that told me I reminded him of the little girl at the end of the diving board, looking over and walking away, looking over and walking away,” Brown said. “It’s not that easy to jump.”

With no partners and no investors, Brown took the plunge and hasn’t looked back since.

Brown credits Cold Water as the start of the beer scene in South Lake.

“Tahoe, because of the seasonality, is one of the toughest places to own and operate a business,” Brown said. “When people saw Cold Water didn’t fail, they felt comfortable investing in South Lake.”

One of Brown’s accomplishments is helping to start the Tahoe Brewfest, something she felt the South Shore was sorely lacking.

Brown recently won the Tahoe Remarkable Women award for Entrepreneur/Business Woman.

And she truly is remarkable, having success as a woman in a mostly male dominated industry.

“When people come in and ask to see the owner, the last thing they expect is a 5-foot blonde, blue eyed girl,” Brown said. “I don’t have a big beard but I probably wear a flannel better than they do.”

Brown hopes to be an inspiration for her daughter and other women that anything is possible.

She said most women in the industry have investors or partners and so Brown takes pride in the fact that she doesn’t have any.

What she does have is a staff that truly loves her. When she accepted her Remarkable Woman Award she had three tables full of staff standing and cheering.

For Brown, that’s what sets Cold Water apart from other breweries in Tahoe, the embodiment of their mission statement, “Great food, great beer, great people.”

“You have to believe in your people, trust in your people, elevate your people and hire right,” Brown said.

Selfishly, she also said that if she has to work seven days a week, she wants to have fun while she’s there.

Cold Water is celebrating their 5-year anniversary Friday, Nov. 15.

While nothing is set in stone, Brown does hope to expand in the future.

Some agents at Lake Tahoe may seek greener pastures (Opinion)

With night time temperatures dipping below freezing, it signals the change from autumn to winter for both nature and the local real estate agents.

Since coming out of the recession many years ago, the number of real estate agents practicing in our community and nationwide has increased substantially. However, we have returned to a situation where there are far more agents than listings and nearly as many agents as there are transactions each year. Historically, the Incline Village and Crystal Bay real estate market has been one of the most competitive places in the world for agents and brokers.

The reality is that a small percentage of agents will do the lion’s share of the business in our local market handling 15-plus transaction sides annually. More than half the agents will handle zero to two transactions as is typical in our local market.

During the past year, the number and size of Incline Village real estate brokerage firms remained relatively static.

With so much business being conducted on the Internet and agents able to work efficiently from a home office, it’s no longer important for the major brokerage offices to keep expanding their square footage unless absolutely necessary.

As the year comes to an end, agents and brokers will begin planning for 2020.

The New Year also brings the largest quarterly statement from our real estate board; which includes charges for local, state and national association dues.

This is the time when many agents contemplate whether to renew their membership, consider a change of brokerage or possibly seek alternative sources of income.

It is much easier for an agent in our market to switch brokerage firms between November and April than during the busy summer season.

Due to the slower pace of activity, you can change brokers and rebrand yourself during the off-season with fewer disruptions to the flow of business.

Whether changing firms is beneficial depends on a number of factors and the goals of each agent. But every year several agents will change offices or on occasion even get a broker’s license and open their own office, in the hopes of achieving better performance.

Agents who have enjoyed a stellar year will use the off season to contemplate the current commission arrangement they have with their broker and sometimes try to renegotiate more favorable terms.

It’s always a little bit of a cross between a tug o’ war and a balancing act whenever agents and brokers sit down to discuss compensation packages.

Since each broker is free to utilize whatever compensation structure they deem appropriate, it can often be a case of comparing apples and oranges when agents try to analyze offers from multiple firms and decide what course of action to take.

The property management and vacation rental firms in town have remained fairly stable in the past year.

This industry has undergone a revolution during the past decade with the advent of online booking and the proliferation of websites such as VRBO.com and AirBnB. Both vacation renters and long-term tenants have more choices than ever before and the rental agencies have ratcheted up their service several notches to meet customer demand.

Employee turnover is the bane of every rental agency. Having an intimate knowledge of the property inventory and our local amenities is important to being successful in the rental business, especially in a mountain resort community.

While there is always some turnover from time to time at the staff level, the ownership and management of the half dozen or so major rental firms has remained fairly constant.

Those who are still thriving are the ones who innovate and continue to work hard and build their businesses into the future.

Don Kanare is the founder and Sabrina Belleci is the owner and broker of RE/MAX North Lake in Incline Village. You can follow their blog at www.InsideIncline.com.

Is the starter home dead at South Lake Tahoe? (Opinion)

Much has been made of the lack of housing inventory recently. This is something that has been documented in virtually every housing market in the developed world, not just the U.S., California or Lake Tahoe.

There has also been much written on the two markets that appear to be the primary focus of new construction these days; either pricey homes for wealthy individuals or affordable housing with government subsidies. To oversimplify it, there is construction for the rich or the poor, and the “missing middle” continues to be left out of the mix.

But as they say, all real estate is local. As of early October, there are 56 homes, townhomes and condos listed for under $400,000 in the South Lake Tahoe area. Twenty-three of which are $350,000 or less and some of those are three or even four-bedroom homes. Why are people not buying these homes?

Do these homes have granite countertops? Probably not. Stainless steel appliances? Doubtful. Do they have 2,600 square feet (the average square footage of a new home built in the U.S. today)? Nope. But most of these homes appear to be quite livable with only some degree of fixing up.

When I ask my parents or my in-laws, about what their first home was like they laugh out loud. They share stories of planting trees and flowers because there literally wasn’t anything planted when they bought it. Painting each room one by one because they couldn’t afford a painter to do the house before they moved in. Using the fireplace for an entire winter because the furnace went out. Not only were they not afraid of a fixer-upper starter home, that was the basic expectation back then.

While I’m not suggesting by any means that our local housing inventory is sufficient or in top shape (because it isn’t), I do believe that we have existing inventory that can meet the needs of some in our community that want to buy a home, but think they can’t afford one.

Now is a great time to explore your options if you are in a high-rent apartment or have had to move recently due to your rental being sold. Sometimes a mortgage is not much more than the high rents being charged now, and you won’t have to worry about your landlord kicking you out. But how do you find a good starter home?

The key is to ask for help. Most of us have a friend that’s a realtor, it’s Tahoe after all. Have you asked them lately about what’s available within your budget? Do you even know what your budget is? If not, consider talking to your bank about what you might qualify for.

There’s arguably nothing more important to comparison shop for than a mortgage so ask a local mortgage broker too. A mortgage broker can also help you find lending options for duplexes and multiplexes, which will bring in extra income.If the house will need substantial work to get it in good condition, make sure you talk to your broker about that and take it into consideration with your financing.

Also, if you are purchasing a condo, you will need to consider the Home Owners Association (HOA) fees, which vary but are generally around $300 monthly – in addition to your mortgage, insurance and tax cost. Lastly, even if traditional lenders say you don’t qualify, some sellers may be willing to finance the home as well.

Once you know what your budget is, and you found a realtor to show you some properties, make sure your expectations are fair. Instead of comparing homes to your friends or family members that have owned for many years and perhaps trading up over the years, try comparing them to your last rental property instead. Does it need paint? That’s not that hard. Is it missing any semblance of a yard? Who lives in Tahoe and doesn’t like getting dirty?

Without question our community needs more affordable housing, long term rentals, and improved housing options, not to mention creative solutions like access to in-law units.

The Tahoe Prosperity Center and many local partners are working diligently on these ideas, but changes will take time, so while we wait for progress on these fronts don’t be afraid to learn what options are out there now. You might be surprised. And I would love to see more local residents as local homeowners here on the South Shore.

Chase Janvrin is the Program Manager for the Tahoe Prosperity Center and oversees the Housing Tahoe Partnership project. He has a background in real estate and finance and lives in South Lake Tahoe with his family.

Vandalized trees will likely die; Police still seeking suspect, reward offered

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — South Lake Tahoe Police Department is still looking for the vandal who scarred, and probably killed, nine trees near Regan Beach and now a reward has been offered by a local resident.

According to the city, staff members have gone to every house in the neighborhood and followed up on all the leads they’ve received but they still have no suspects.

Local contractor and owner of Lake Tahoe Ski Bum Family, Kenny Curtzwiler, is offering a $1,000 reward for whoever helps find the suspect.

Members of the community have reached out to Curtzwiler about donating more money.

“I really, honestly believe in this town and the goodness of the community,” Curtzwiler said.

Chris Fiore, communications manager for the city, said they are “concerned about the ability of the trees to survive.”

“We’re going to try to get through the winter but it doesn’t look good,” Fiore said.

“The girdling of trees disrupts their delicate cambium layer,” said James Steed, parks maintenance manager for the city, in an email. “This results in an inability of the tree to transport nutrients from its productive systems to its dependent systems. The result is fatal. Think of it as disrupting it’s circulatory system.”

Fiore did say the vandal caused more than $25,000 worth of damage.

Curtzwiler said if they can’t find the vandal, he will donate the $1,000 award and any other donation money to the city to buy new trees.

“Even though it’s a tragedy, I think it will bring the community together,” Curtzwiler said.

Anybody with information about the crime should call the police department at 530-542-6100.

Tahoe Chamber’s Blue Ribbon Award winners announced Thursday at Harrah’s

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. —  The winners of the Tahoe Chamber’s 12th annual Blue Ribbon Awards were announced Thursday, Nov. 14, at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. 

Over 300 community members attended to celebrate the winners of seven awards that honor outstanding South Shore businesses, organizations and individuals for civic contributions, tourism experiences, customer service and entrepreneurial achievements.

Guests were greeted with champagne and photo opportunities before enjoying a three-course dinner and awards presentation. The event’s Master of Ceremonies, Jack Fife of JackFifeLive, entertained the room while highlighting the top three nominees in each category and announcing the award winners.

Benko Gallery provided art displays for the evening and local artists provided centerpieces for the tables.

The Blue Ribbon Award winners were:

Geotourism Award – Sponsored by Bike the West

Winner: Sample the Sierra

Honorable Mention: Clearly Tahoe

Tourism Award – Sponsored by Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

Winner: Edgewood Tahoe

Honorable Mention: Tahoe Brewfest

Experience Award – Sponsored by Marriott Grand Residence Club

Winner: Design Workshop

Honorable Mention: Barton Center for Orthopedics and Wellness

Entrepreneur Award – Sponsored by Getaway Reno/Tahoe

Winner: Ted Kennedy, Tahoe Investment Capital and Stewardship

Honorable Mention: Kyle McSparron, Blue Sky Electrical Solutions

Customer Service (Public Agency) Service – Sponsored by South Tahoe Refuse & Recycling

Winner: Jean Norman, US Forest Service- Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Honorable Mention: Chris Fiore, City of South Lake Tahoe

Customer Service (Business) Award – Sponsored by Heavenly & Kirkwood

Winner: Clayton Stoll, Vail Resorts Retail

Honorable Mention: Kyler Crouse, Barton Health

Tallac Achievement Award – Sponsored by Zephyr Cove Resort

Winner: Tahoe Arts Project