El Dorado County moves toward VHR ordinance
September 10, 2018
After 13 public meetings addressing vacation home rentals — and their associated complications — the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors took a step toward an official ordinance at their meeting on Aug. 28.
With a 5-0 vote, supervisors approved the first reading of a vacation home rental (VHR) ordinance for unincorporated areas of the Tahoe Basin. Moved by District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel and seconded by District 4 Supervisor Michael Ranalli, the ordinance will return for approval on Sept. 11.
If approved tomorrow, the ordinance will take effect Oct. 11. According to a presentation from Sue Hennike of the county’s administrative office, the ordinance drew inspiration from 10 counties and six cities across California, as well as Douglas County in Nevada.
The topic last appeared before the Board of Supervisors on July 24, where supervisors conceptually approved an ordinance ahead of a public input meeting held two days later in Meyers. Some of the previous revisions, approved in concept only, included a 12-person cap on overnight guests, quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., penalties assigned to the violator rather than the owner and a limit on all VHR permits given in the Tahoe Basin.
The July 26 public input meeting brought forward a general consensus that the focus should be on enforcement of VHR regulations, according to a presentation from Hennike. Those who expressed their thoughts felt VHR permit limits may affect construction of new homes and re-sale of existing ones, Hennike’s presentation said. The cap on overnight guests brought concern because the process to allow more guests is expensive and a cap may not be necessary for certain VHRs, depending on their location and parcel size.
According to Novasel, caps on both overnight guests and permits were not well-received at the meeting in Meyers because people on either side of the issue did not feel they properly addressed enforcement.
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Changes to the ordinance presented last week have eliminated the caps on both VHR permits and 12 overnight guests. However, the overnight guest policy still contains a parameter: two people per bedroom with two additional people may stay overnight in a VHR. For example, a four-bedroom rental home could have up to 10 guests, excluding children ages 5 and under.
Regarding the overnight guest policy and unlimited VHR permits, staff intends to collect data once the ordinance goes into effect, then report back to the board within a year.
“Let’s give these policies a little more time to work … and see if a later cap might be necessary,” Hennike said.
Public comment was minimal at the ordinance’s first reading last week, with three speakers coming forward. Two speakers, county resident and property owner Michelle Benedict and El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce CEO Laurel Brent-Bumb, expressed approval for the new ordinance. Benedict did ask for clarification on parking regulations and what owners are required to post on signage.
Jim Morris, a longtime South Lake Tahoe resident and property manager, was concerned with how many overnight guests are allowed in VHRs, worrying that it may impact the transient occupancy tax collected. He also objected to a lack of information on which VHRs were creating problems and warned supervisors not to lump all rental owners together.
“We don’t want a broad brush applied to owners who are properly informing tenants of the rules,” Morris said.
As of now, parking enforcement remains an issue. Parking is unenforceable at this point because if there are too many cars on a street, officers must go door-to-door and match each car to its respective house, Hennike said. However, VHR owners are required to post information for guests regarding snow removal rules and on-site parking.
Upon the ordinance’s official approval, the county will move toward implementing, enforcing and evaluating the new regulations, Hennike said. High penalties and rules regarding the way a VHR is advertised are in place to discourage illegal VHRs and large, rowdy parties being booked in the area.
“We’ve made it very, very clear there are pretty stiff penalties … you can get up to the point where it’s $1,000 per day,” Hennike said.
A full version of the proposed ordinance is available on El Dorado County’s government website, Legistar, as item 44 under the Aug. 28 Board of Supervisors agenda.