S. Tahoe prefers punishment over prevention when it comes to dealing with animals in trash


By Kathryn Reed

Bear boxes won’t be mandatory in South Lake Tahoe any time soon.

Instead, the City Council members on Tuesday chose to continue to react to a problem instead of being proactive. The majority of the council believes mandating bear boxes punishes those who are not creating a problem.

The Waste Management Joint Powers Authority has been working for about a year to come up with regulations that would pertain to all three jurisdictions – the city, El Dorado County and Douglas County.

With the council not wanting bear boxes to be necessary with new residential construction or remodels, this conflicts with what El Dorado County already has on the books. At the last JPA meeting, Supervisor Sue Novasel made no indication the county would want to soften its rules.

“It comes down to the property owner, not the property,” Mayor Hal Cole said.

The boxes also count as coverage per the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

The JPA board meets in September with the goal of adopting an ordinance. In order for an item to be approved all three members must be in agreement.

“I’m OK with the bear-proof containers and not the box. I think they work just as well,” Councilman Austin Sass said.

John Marchini with South Tahoe Refuse said bears appear to be getting smarter and learning to open the twisty tops.

He also noted it’s not just bears that are getting into people’s garbage. Coyotes, raccoons and dogs are common, with crows doing a bang-up job in spreading litter.

Although STR has changed its protocols to not pick up trash before 7am, people are still leaving garbage out the night before. It’s put in plastic bags and topless cans that can easily become a buffet for wildlife. STR cleans up the mess on trash days. Crews have cameras and can document the situation so the offender is then notified.

Clean Tahoe, the nonprofit that deals with picking up after other people, is also out cleaning up debris.

The council agreed with the JPA’s recommendations for punishment – warning the first time, buy a bear-proof container or pay a fine for the second offense, install a bear box on the third offense.

“It gives us a hammer for repeat offenders,” City Councilwoman JoAnn Connor said. She represents the city on the JPA.

Sass said this protocol contradicts what the vacation rental ordinance says. There was no further discussion and no comment by the city attorney.

The council also likes the idea of mandating commercial entities – including multi-family dwellings – lock dumpsters at dusk or at the close of business.

The plan is also to have an educational component so people can better understand why human food and wildlife are not a good combination.

While the JPA had talked about a loan program for people to buy bear boxes, that idea has been tabled for now.

Who will be responsible for the enforcement – most likely STR; and who will send out citations – most likely individual jurisdictions – still need to be solidified.


In other action:

·      The council agreed at the urging of Planning Commissioner Judy Brown to revisit the historic sign designation criteria so the Trout Farm sign might qualify. The sign is nearly 70-years-old.

·      The city will be sending letters next week to all property owners advising them of the vacation home rental ordinance that takes effect Oct. 1. The letter will also include comprehensive information about how to “leave no impact”.


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Comments (10)
  1. Kenny (Tahoe Skibum) Curtzwiler says - Posted: August 19, 2015

    The boxes also count as coverage per the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
    Not true. When I built my house I was required to provide the coverage in my plan which is 12 square feet which I did not have. I provided a new set of plans that showed a bear box on a pole hat could be suspended 9 feet in he air where it would not count as coverage. They, TRPA and County, changed the coverage issue and allowed me to install a 4 X 3 bmp under the box that did not count as coverage. I got my box. I have since put boulders, dirt and plants covering the box, I also gave it a Cedar roof and repainted it a TRPA approved Forest Green color. I also allow my neighbors to use it for their food items. Haven’t had any problems in 14 years. I may be a pain in the ass to most if not all officials but we can work things out and solve these problems. Stop kicking the proverbial (garbage) can down the road.

  2. Lisa says - Posted: August 19, 2015

    Warning first time ,then fine next time, Good Idea ,Lets work together ,thank you ,It a win ,win situation.

  3. copper says - Posted: August 19, 2015

    What a strange concept: traffic lights are our punishment for getting in wrecks? Schools are our punishment for being stupid? Gravity is our punishment for not being full of hot air (sorry, Mr. Mayor)?

  4. admin says - Posted: August 19, 2015

    This is from TRPA:

    Bear boxes do not count as coverage if they are elevated at least 18 inches above the ground.

    If directly on the ground, bear boxes and other structures such as bollards, etc., start to count as coverage when they are more than 12 square inches.

    LTN staff

  5. careaboutthecommunity says - Posted: August 19, 2015

    We are all punished for the behavior of others by our laws already, why not just be done with it, and require bear boxes and locked dumpsters for all, set up a program to help the low income home owners acquire them, done!

    Instead you are just dragging this out, requiring government to monitor the problem, and at the bears expense.

  6. Kenny (Tahoe Skibum) Curtzwiler says - Posted: August 19, 2015

    admin, Thanks for the clarification
    Stop kicking the proverbial (garbage) can down the road. That was meant for our officials

  7. TeaTotal says - Posted: August 19, 2015

    I think it’s obvious that the only bears that are trying to get free food are the type liberal/atheist freeloader/lazy bears. If we could just allow hunt permits to all the foxnooz and patriot/real murkins we could solve this problem

  8. Cranky Gerald says - Posted: August 19, 2015

    STR needs to be at every property to pick up trash, so it is logical they would be the first line of enforcement action by notifying the city or county of the particular offender and furnishing a picture.
    STR does a good job and I for one appreciate their efforts. They should be able to bill extra and handsomely for having to scrape up trash that animals have been in to. The pictures would speak for themselves.

    I agree that bear boxes should not be required for all. That is a poor plan as some of us have never had a problem because we simply take steps to not provide an opportunity for animals to get to the trash.

    Bears in my neighborhood are certainly not the most common trash scattering critter. Racoons, coyotes and dogs are the more common, simply due to greater population I think.

    This still does not deal with people who just put trash out on non pickup days.

    I am assuming individual citizens have the ability to report such incidents.

    Finally, I just do not understand why this issue has to take so much time and effort when it could be eliminated almost entirely if people would just pick up after themselves in stead of depending on some else to do it.

    Be responsible!

  9. Hikerchick says - Posted: August 19, 2015

    Are we still doing this? Where’s the leadership?

  10. Local2 says - Posted: August 19, 2015

    A simple well made bear proof garbage container will solve the problem instantly, I did it in 2006 never had a problem since. But next the neighbor does, car/truck broken into with bear scat, etc. etc. etc., why? Because they are TOOooo cheap. It should be mandatory, period. Problem fixed and lets move on.
    By the way when is Cole going to disappear for good?
    People around here seem to a have short memory power when it comes to this man and the things he has gotten away with, like Cole’s Hole which shall be a great part his legacy for starters.