S. Tahoe to regulate long-term motel rentals


By Kathryn Reed

South Lake Tahoe wants to put motels that are being used as long-term housing under a microscope to ensure they comply with health and safety codes.

There are 120 hotel-motels in the city with about 5,000 rooms. Of those, 58 establishments have 1,300 rooms that are not being used for traditional tourist accommodations. That equates to 26 percent of the rooms in the city.

“They are not high-quality transitional housing,” Shawna Brekke-Read, Development Services director, told the City Council on March 3.

The draft Single Room Occupancy ordinance was before the council for discussion and input on Tuesday. The goal is to get these establishments to pay transient occupancy tax or be part of the new ordinance that is expected to be adopted this spring.

Using motels as housing is not regulated nor do the units face any inspections because there are no laws on the books that would allow this to happen. That is all about to change.

Problems at these dwellings are varied.

The staff report says, “Commonly, long-term hotels-motels lack a kitchen or safe cooking facilities, the electrical service is inadequate for the electrical demand, hot water heaters are broken or missing, sanitation is poor, smoke detectors are missing or faulty plumbing is problematic, and units are infested with pests.”

But not everyone believes all of these motels should be cast as squalor. Ted Long, a local attorney who used to be on the City Council, represents 60 units managed by Tahoe Rents.

“All the landlords I know want to do the right thing,” Long told Lake Tahoe News. “We don’t need a special ordinance for hotels. The people who are going to be hurt, despite the good intentions, are the people who live there.”

Long said the city is lumping all long-term rentals into the same category and adds that is not fair. He would prefer the motels fall under the multi-family dwelling ordinance that covers six units or more.

While the proposed ordinance would require the hotel rooms to be more like an apartment, Mayor Hal Cole stressed, “We are not turning hotels into apartments.” He said the ordinance creates hybrid-housing units that will be regulated.

Plus, if these hotels were to be apartment conversions, it would require the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to be involved. It would also negate the city’s ability to collect the hotel tax.

It was agreed that requiring laundry facilities on each floor is not a good idea based on overflows being common when people cram two loads into one washer.

Another issue for Long and some of the landlords who attended the meeting is having to provide one off-site parking spot for every unit. Outside council chambers they talked about how many of their tenants don’t even own a vehicle.

The council (Tom Davis was out ill) agreed to soon conduct a workshop about the proposed ordinance with the goal of attracting more owners and tenants. It was proposed to do so somewhere other than the airport since buses don’t go there and transportation may be an issue for people living in these establishments.

Also needing clarification is whether sewer permits will be needed to accommodate possible required changes.

Richard Solbrig, general manager of South Tahoe Public Utility District, told Lake Tahoe News sewer permits are needed “when the plumbing facilities in a structure are expanded/added, not just rearranged or replaced with new fixtures. Typically in a private residence, it is the addition of a new bathroom. A new sewer unit costs $4,950. Any expansion of plumbing facilities in a structure does trigger a building department permit, and part of that permit process is a sign-off by the district.”


In other action:

• Council meetings have not been available to Charter customers because the city and cable provider are squabbling over use of the building where the city’s equipment is stored. Meetings may be watched online via the city’s website.

• The city is revisiting its arts and crafts fair regulations for 2016. The council directed planning commissioners to refine what juried shows would look like as well to provide more specifics regarding uniform booths for vendors.

• The March 17 meeting will include an in-depth discussion about what to do with the city’s dilapidated streets.

• At the April 7 meeting as part of the midyear budget discussion the council will talk about how best to spend the nearly $1 million surplus from the 2013-14 budget.


About author

This article was written by admin


Comments (25)
  1. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    As always lots of good articles on LTN. Be sure to read about the long term motel rentals. A problem that’s long been overlooked.
    Also be sure to read about paradise lost in Eldo. Co, and see if you can make some comparisons as to what’s being planned for around here at the lake.
    Then there are more outdoor music venues planned! A temporary amphitheater behind Hard rock! You hearin’ me Ryan Payne?
    Good way to start the day! OLS

  2. Atomic says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    Hey Ted, all the landlords want to do the right thing? Pffft. That’s a joke. Ultimately, the ‘right thing’ is what benefits themselves the most. Junker motels have ruined this town. How it took this long to regulate these eyesores is beyond me. Council, don’t wimp out on this. Take a look at what other progressive city’s have done and do the right thing.

  3. Slapshot says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    Atomic has it right.

  4. Isee says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    Okay, so it’s perfectly acceptable for motel rooms to be full time residences as long as they pay TOT. Only in SLT.
    A million dollar surplus and the worst roads anywhere– Let’s see if someone can think of the appropriate thing to do with the million dollars.

  5. fromform says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    the only down side to the implementation of the single room occupancy ordinance is that the cost will be passed on to the tax payers in the form of construction of ‘warming shelters’, as increased rents put another wave of ‘homeless’ on the streets.

  6. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    A lot of the slumlords who rent these sub-standard, long-term, monthly rentals are exploiting the people who live in them. Many of those individuals make just enough money to pay the monthly fee for their one room which is oftentimes the equivalent cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment or a studio, but they don’t make enough money to put together the first and last months’ rent and a security deposit to be able to move elsewhere. The electrical overload in these firetraps is a danger to the residents living there and the surrounding community and the fact that they constitute 26% of the rooms in the City is really frightening. These places need to be regulated to ensure the safety of the residents and the community.

    Mr. Long’s suggestion that landlords want to do the right thing is comparable to having the fox in charge of the hen-house. If his client is so reputable then he’ll already be in compliance and there should be no problem.

  7. Big BC says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    every landlord in this town is a slum lord, its just an s.lake way of life.

  8. John S says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    Big BC — Not every landlord.

  9. Atomic says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    Fromform raises a valid point.

    So let’s walk through this. City of SLT requires upgrades to motels. Owners drag their feet and hire TedLong to say nothing is amiss, that they all do the right thing…..blah blah blah.
    Ok, now rents go up as owners seek to recoup their outlays. This puts pressure on tenants budgets. For some, this may break the budget.

    THEY MAY HAVE TO LEAVE TOWN. heartless? No. Real? Yes.

    So some may have to leave town. Less workers may put upward pressure on wages.

    My point is this: Will this town always be a junk show, partly because proper regulation of garbage motels from the 60’s simply never happens? We, the taxpayer, have to endure this nonsense, slightly embarrassed when visitors come to town. A destination resort town needs to look at least as good, if not better, than the tourists own home town. Basic equation. Otherwise, they won’t be back.

    I recently tried to buy an older hotel in Carson City last year. I was considering making it a full time affordable housing complex. My idea was to create somewhere that low income tenants could be proud of. Create a community of pride. What I found out from the planning department was that my idea was a non conforming use. Zoning would not support it. I suspect that it would be similar in this town, but nothing iseems to be on the books to prohibit these motel conversions. So Carson City, no offense, but Carson City! may have a higher bar than South Lake Tahoe! Yikes, that is sad.

    I Applaud the council’s efforts on this topic. Get real about this problem. This is nothing new. Look around to other towns with similar issues. I did when I was considering the investment in Carson City and there are many creative ideas with a track record of success. Do the right thing and give this town some pride. I am a landlord myself. I get the economics of it all, but I don’t want to live in a crappy town so other people can make a buck on the backs of the poor. Maybe some landlords have to sell, their equation no longer works. They have had a free ride long enough. Start the process…..

  10. Irish Wahini says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    It is interesting to me that Mr. Cole converts the “motels” in the article to “hotels” – only a contractor could do thatt! It is also interesting t me that STPUD only sees the dollar signs of permitting new plumbing….

    I agree a lot with 4-mer…. I know someone who lived at the Pine Cone Lodge and then the Mnaco (same owner) for about 10 years — PAID $650 per month out f his $850 Social Security check for renting a nasty, one-bedrom room with 3/4 bath and no kitchenette — only a small fridge & microwave. Finally, he cleared the Section 8 Waitlist and was able to move into a very nice, safe non-motel studio unit elsewhere.

    Why can’t a program tbe implemented to help upgrade these motels to provide employee, student, and low-cost HUD (like Tahoe Vista) housing? AND/OR implement an incentive program to upgrade these motels like the successful one down there (is it BASE-CAMP, OR ?). I don’t think you would need to get TRPA or STPUD involved, if some creative housing programs were considered. Get a more diverse Housing Working Group to seek options for these MOTELS. I appreciate that the Council acknowledges that current tenants mostly do not have car-transportation, and should hold meetings somewhere easy to get to by bus. However, you need to expand that to include seniors and others participants as well.

    SLT is still short of affordable senior housing. Many SLT seniors do not qualify to apply for Kelly Ridge or The Senior Plaza (by Barton). They either make too little or a little too much to qualify for this senior residency. Get creative!

    From what I have read, Heavenly Valley/Vail is exempt from lots of taxes they woud ordinarily be required to pay for profits on the HV operations. Well, maybe that should be looked at to help baance out missing TOT revenue, or maybe the Vail Corp should be required to provide employee housing facilities (converted motels) at reduced rates while supplementing the TOT $ to the City. Many ski resorts are finding that their employees cannot find affordable housing anywhere near these big ski resorts! It IS an unsolved problem!

  11. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: March 4, 2015


    I agree with everything you’ve said 100%.

  12. tahoeadvocate says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    Irish Wahini-
    Your reference to the BASECAMP is correct but that renovation was and is being done on private money as well as several other properties along that street.
    You are also correct about Heavenly Village exemptions from taxes including TOT for timeshare owners from non-Tahoe properties. That should also be looked at by the City. How do we recover these lost revenues which were given away during redevelopment?

    I’m glad to see the Council formally addressing this issue but housing in the TOURIST CORE AREA should be focused at the tourists not low income housing. You want this high visibility area to look like ATOMIC suggests “better than their own home town”.
    Affordable housing is needed nearby but not in the heart of the TOURSIT CORE.

    I also understand that a major employer from Nevada did buy one of the motels in the TOURIST CORE and moved some of their employee families in. While this doesn’t house the same type of renters as the others, it still takes away from the TOT. It is not an apartment building, it’s still a motel with monthly renters.

  13. sunriser2 says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    Last summer I was driving back from Kingsbury and took the loop road behind Harvey’s. The school bus got in front of me at Stateline Blvd. By the time it made it to HWY 50 it was empty.

  14. Cautious and Skeptical says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    The conundrum continues- high end resort accommodations versus providing adequate housing for less-than-living wage earners and where to locate them. A side issue is the owner of whatever type of unit paying appropriate fees- that said Vail not providing their fair share of housing and paying their fair share of taxes with all the breaks they get.

  15. Atomic says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    tahoeadvocate, beautiful point. So that begs the question, what IS the zoning in that area? Where has the planning department been on these questions?

    Joanne, please weigh in.

    The TOURIST CORE AREA absolutely should be just that. Having weekly/ monthly rentals in that area DEFINES the neighborhood and crushes large scale development opportunities. It is third world, blighted and a total embarrassment, all blocks from the most beautiful lake in the world. How can this be?

  16. tahoeanhiker says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    Vail definitely should be paying TOT. Claim to be a tourist town and you don’t even get TOT from them nor a piece of a 110 dollar lift ticket ? Talk about giving away the store. Part of the reason above discussion is taking place. Council, renegotiate this as it will be better off for the city, residents AND Vail in the long run as it will enable a path which will improve revenue for the city and Vail and quality of life for all.

  17. Moral Hazard says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    How does a corporation without a hotel become liable for taxes on hotels?

    The City doesn’t need revenue, they need to quit being everything to everyone and focus on snow, streets and public safety.

  18. Resident says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    “Fifty-eight establishments have 1,300 rooms that are not being used for traditional tourist accommodations.” How does this compare to the number of vacation rentals on south shore? Our tourists are staying in nice former homes in the neighborhoods while our residents are living in former motels on the highway. Assuming the average occupancy in these motel rooms is two persons per unit (which I suspect is low), then we have 2,600 residents out of a City population of 21,000 living in motels –that is more than 12 percent of the population. The motel owners were foolish to allow the vacation rental industry to take hold in this town and now they hire Ted Long to fight regulation of their slum units? Shame on them, and shame on the City for not enforcing their zoning ordinances. Short term rentals are motels, not residences. They are MOTELS. They are M-O-T-E-L-S.

  19. nature bats last says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    Having ted long involved does not bode well for either side of this issue

  20. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    what about the Edgewood’s rat trap motel at State Line
    it is used for employee housing.

    do they need to follow the rules?

  21. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: March 4, 2015

    As Resident said,”MOTELS,they are M-O-T-E-L-S”. They were not built to be full time residences.
    I known something about the the motel business having grown up in it ,going to way back when!
    A couple might stay for a few nights from out of town. Yeah fine, then you just clean up the room when they check out and rent it out again. All clean with fresh linens and towels.
    Becoming a weekly or monthly rental brings in lots of problems.
    I’m glad the city is looking into this, and that comes from an old motel kid. OLS

  22. Louis says - Posted: March 4, 2015


    I’m going to humbly disagree with you on few points for the following reasons.

    First there will always be plenty of cheaper labor here in Tahoe, because plenty of younger people come here for the lifestyle for a few years, and mommy and daddy will helps them with the rent, insurance, car.

    Second, sometimes the city is stuck with laws imposed by the state. For example, if you try and fix one thing in a room, you have to fix everything up to code. That can be a huge financial burden to do everything all at once rather than gradually.

  23. dumbfounded says - Posted: March 7, 2015

    I ask the City Council to consider the effect of any plans on the seniors and veterans that depend on this housing. Indeed, there is a problem and usually the solution will lead to an increase in rent for the most vulnerable. Please consider this carefully. Will this affect Tahoe Senior Plaza? Please tread softly. Thank you.

  24. Herb says - Posted: March 9, 2015

    Ted Long is right the best thing for landlords is happy tenants that pay their rent on time. Many of the comments are from folks that never owned anything and have no idea what it is like to pay the bills and have tenants avid paying. Instead of reacting the city council should visit some and see.

  25. Sam says - Posted: March 9, 2015

    I believe city officials have gone to these motels and have seen them, and that’s why they are making the decision they are making.

    To those who own these 30 day motels (or represent them, Ted Long), your not fooling anyone. These hotels are a blight on this town, hardly kept up, and frequently a spot for police activity.

    Most of these motels should have been out of business a long time ago, but they found a loophole to stay alive.

    Maybe this will be the push that is needed to balance the scales on the accommodation side? I hope so.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what else the city council can come up with.