Business compliance with codes at issue
Despite two Auburn-based county code enforcement officers who make the periodic trip to North Lake Tahoe, some residents are unhappy with the lack of enforcement for sign regulations.
“I think it’s unfair competition to those who are obeying the law and putting legal signs up,” said West Shore resident Ed Miller. “I understand the need for more business but that doesn’t give [them] the right to break ordinance and make the town look tacky.”
Placer County sign ordinances have been in effect since the 1960s and allow just two types of signs in the Placer County portion of the Tahoe Basin ” permanent building signs and free-standing monument signs. Such alternatives as temporary signs, A-frames or banners are prohibited.
“The Tahoe area has a little bit more stringent sign rules than other parts of the county … they’re a little more stringent on window signs or neon signs,” said Mike Harris, Placer County supervising code enforcement officer.
But even with stricter-than-usual rules, some North Tahoe residents are concerned that the county simply does not address the eyesores.
“I am totally sympathetic to those businesses that feel that they need to use the most cost-effective method of promoting their business, which in many cases includes illegal signage,” said West Shore resident Lolly Kupec. “But to be truly part of the community it’s important that everyone follows the rules.”
Kupec has served on the county’s Tahoe City design review committee on and off for more than a decade and has seen less enforcement of the county’s sign laws in recent years.
Regardless of the aesthetics, North Tahoe residents say the greatest problem is how the system operates.
“We are essentially complaint-driven, and the county does require a written complaint,” Harris said.
Once the department gets wind of the complaint, the enforcement officers come to Tahoe to check on compliance. Almost two decades ago the county assigned an employee to patrol the Tahoe area for sign enforcement, Harris said, but now the county requires the public to first file a report.
“I think we have a higher workload now and I don’t think there was the proliferation of signs that we have today,” Harris said.
The code enforcement office has not canvassed the Tahoe area for a number of years, but would consider doing so if directed by county superiors, said Harris.
“If we had enough constituent concern,” he added.
Some residents say it’s the ordinances that may need to be modified, not just the enforcement level.
“But that said, maybe those rules need to be changed. And that’s OK,” Kupec said. “… But let’s work together in terms of changing those rules.”
Personnel in Placer’s code enforcement office in Auburn have more than just sign laws on their hands, also addressing zoning and building codes, air pollution, business license referrals and environmental health issues.
And confusion between state, county and public utility district boundaries only complicate streetscape matters. When signs are placed on sidewalks, it’s generally within the jurisdiction of the public utility district, and when the problems are on roadways it is the responsibility of Caltrans, said Miller.
“I take a lot of pride in our community and those who make it, and I don’t like seeing it messed up,” he said.
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