City of South Lake Tahoe to ponder cap on vacation rentals | SierraSun.com

City of South Lake Tahoe to ponder cap on vacation rentals

Elaine Goodman
Sun News Service

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – The South Lake Tahoe City Council is eyeing a temporary ban on any new permits for vacation rental homes after residents and council members shared their concerns about the impact of the rentals on neighborhoods.

“We’re close to selling our home and joining the exodus (from Tahoe) because of the vacation rental issue,” said Rick DeVries, who lives in the Al Tahoe neighborhood next to a vacation rental home.

“This is something that is tearing apart the very fabric of our communities,” DeVries said.

The city launched a formal vacation home rental program in 2003, partially in response to complaints about the rentals, including noise, parking, overcrowding and trash left out improperly.

The city had 1,318 vacation rentals as of May 1, up from 1,183 in September 2003.

On the surface, it might seem that vacation rental homes have been causing fewer problems. The number of complaints related to the rentals was 22 in fiscal year 2006-07, down from 49 complaints in 2003-04.

But some say that number is down because residents have become so fed up with the rentals that they have moved away.

Even Councilwoman Kathay Lovell said she and her husband are considering moving to a different area of South Lake Tahoe because they’re tired of problems arising from the many vacation rentals in their Tahoe Keys neighborhood. Out of 17 homes on her street, only two are occupied by full-time residents, Lovell said, recalling a night when so many cars were parked on the street that she couldn’t get into her driveway.

But Lovell said she is among those who are reluctant to call police about the problems, assuming officers have more important issues to deal with.

“I don’t call and complain; I just live with it,” she said.

DeVries said he always is apprehensive when he sees people arriving at the vacation rental next door but feels relieved if it turns out to be a family rather than a wedding reception or other large gathering.

“We’re just wondering, how much sleep are we going to lose that weekend?” he said.

DeVries was one of four residents who spoke at the meeting about the problems vacation rentals are causing in their neighborhoods.

No one representing the vacation rental industry spoke. Lovell said the situation with vacation rentals has improved over the years and noted they are an attractive lodging option for many people vacationing at Tahoe. She also acknowledged the revenue they bring to the city – about $1.4 million per year in transient occupancy tax (TOT) and about $70,000 to $90,000 in permit fees.

Councilman Bill Crawford said abolishing existing vacation rentals likely wouldn’t be practical. As an alternative, he proposed capping their numbers by not issuing any more vacation rental permits. And if a rental didn’t produce any transient occupancy tax, or TOT, over a three-month period, he said its permit should be suspended and not renewed.

“The house cannot just sit there going to pot,” Crawford said.

The council didn’t vote on Crawford’s proposal Tuesday. But in response to a request from Councilman Jerry Birdwell, the council at its next meeting will discuss a possible temporary ban, or moratorium, on issuing any new permits for vacation rentals. The city would work on a longer-term solution to the vacation rental problems while the moratorium was in effect.

A moratorium would require a four-fifths vote of the council.

The council also will consider amendments to its vacation rental ordinance, for example, adding provisions regarding animalproof trash containers. Council members Crawford and Birdwell were appointed to form a subcommittee to work with city staff on possible solutions to the problems.