Ballot proposal would obliterate VHRs in SLT

By Kathryn Reed

From 1,400 vacation rentals to zero is what a group of South Lake Tahoe residents would like to see happen.

Dan Browne and Ken Weitzman are the two who have signed the paperwork to bring the initiative to the ballot in November 2018. Peggy Bourland, they both said, is the other key player behind the movement. (She chose not to speak to Lake Tahoe News.)

Browne and Weitzman say hundreds of residents have said they support the cause.

Weitzman told Lake Tahoe News the reason for the measure “is because the city has not done anything to alleviate the problems create by vacation rentals in neighborhood. There are so many people who are tormented weekend and week out.”

They say residences are being turned into hotels. Noise is a predominant issue. And no one at the city, they contend, is doing anything to curtail the problems. They are fed up, don’t believe the council is listening and want the people of South Lake Tahoe to take control.

Their proposal would take the 1,400 VHRS that are permitted outside the tourist core area and eliminate them all within a year of the initiative’s passage.

According to City Manager Nancy Kerry, “Many of those homes would likely be placed on the market to sell, which would flood the market immediately, reducing property values. As you know from the Great Recession, as home prices were rapidly falling, the problem was exacerbated as people flooded the real estate market by adding their home for sale to the mix. Consider that if even if just 10 to 20 percent of the 1,400 VHRs (140-280 homes) were added to the for-sale market overnight due to the ban, the competition for buyers would drive prices down, reducing property values, which in turn reduces income for homeowners and all the residual financial impacts. If the percentage of VHR owners who put their home on the market was more than 20 percent, the financial impacts to the real estate market would be significant.”

The Gondola Vista condo project near the state line could provide more vacation rentals in the tourist core. Photo/LTN

It’s a lengthy process to get the proposal on the ballot, and then people must vote for it. If approved, there is always the threat of a lawsuit to challenge its legitimacy. Plus, there is talk of a counter-measure that would further muddy the waters.

Proponents have 180 days from Nov. 8 to get signatures from 10 percent of the registered voters in the city based on the last General Election, so just more than 1,100 people. Those will then be verified by the county elections officials. Other paperwork is required as well.

“We are willing to roll the dice. If people in South Lake Tahoe want an unlimited number of vacation rentals, so be it,” Browne told Lake Tahoe News. “We tried to bring this to the attention of the City Council and work with them as much as we could and they gave us a deaf ear.”

Weitzman said, “We are willing to sit down and talk. The city has neglected us. We have to somehow make them understand us. I want to have a nice, congenial, pleasant town.”

While both say a compromise is possible, neither would say what it would take to get them to drop the ballot proposal.

Vacation home rentals in the city – and throughout the state and elsewhere – have become more contentious as residents grow frustrated with lack of enforcement and locals can’t find a place to live.

The city has had dozens of meetings, revised the ordinance multiple times since it was first approved in 2003, commissioned an economic study, formed a subcommittee of two councilmembers, and has met with various interested parties.

The ballot group wants the real estate community to come to the table and propose a number. It has yet to do so as a group.

The South Tahoe Association of Realtors provided the following statement to Lake Tahoe News, ““Representatives from the South Tahoe Association of Realtors met with members of the group pursuing a ballot measure to ban VHRs outside of the tourist core area, and sincerely engaged in dialogue in an effort to come to better understanding of issues and concerns about VHRs. Our intention is to work with all interested parties to find a mutually acceptable solution. Given the size of our diverse membership of 300-plus Realtors and 500-plus MLS participants, we need time to reach out to them before we can take a position. We do agree that robust enforcement is key to making any option work.”

Austin Sass, whose tenure as mayor will be over Dec. 12, has taken it upon himself to meet with various groups under the guise of representing the entire council. However, his colleagues gave him no direction to do so, nor did he have the power to make promises. He and Councilwoman Wendy David were the council’s VHR subcommittee, but she was not invited to all of the powwows.

The city is going forward with its business, including looking for a company to provide assistance with monitoring VHRs and providing enforcement help. Bids are being taken until Nov. 20, with the expectation the council will vote on a firm at its December meeting. At the Nov. 21 meeting the second reading of the latest VHR ordinance is expected to be voted on. This is what limits the number of VHRs to 1,400.

Regarding the ballot proposal, the city plans to analyze the financial impact.

“If it were to pass, as I wrote in the last staff report to council, something that drastic could very likely create a similar impact of a recession,” Kerry told Lake Tahoe News. “The loss of 1,400 vacation home rentals would result in a substantial loss in transient occupancy taxes for the city.”

The city receives approximately $2.8 million in TOT from VHRs – which is citywide. The ballot initiative would not affect the tourist core, which has a few hundred units.

Browne was asked if the economic impact weighed on his decision to go forward. It’s “not a concern,” he said.

Weitzman, though, disagrees with his compatriot. “Yes, that does concern me because I love this local town.” What he wants is for people in VHRs to use the empty hotel rooms so the economic impact is not as severe.

Here is the ballot title and summary as prepared by law by the city’s attorney.

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Comments (5)
  1. dumbfounded says - Posted: November 10, 2017

    So, what I get out of this is that the City believes that the property values are more important than the peace of the citizens. The obvious conclusion that must be drawn is that the City thinks that violating the peace of our neighborhoods is a small price to pay for others’ property values. Some of us don’t believe that should be the priority.

    Negotiation and compromise is what governance is for. It certainly isn’t to protect some vague notion of property values for a select few.

  2. Les Wright says - Posted: November 10, 2017

    To: Nancy Kerry & City Council

    You can solve the VHR problem by hiring 3 full time cops which equals one cop for a 24 hour shift. Use part of the $2.8 Million TOT that the VHR owners are paying to the city for the new cops.

    Have the new city attorney create an ordinence and a rental agreement that sets out the rules for not only VHR’s, but also for regular rental homes in SLT as well.

    The rules in the rental agreement would say something like this:

    1. No hot tub use after 9PM
    2. All cars must be parked in the driveway or garage.
    3. Maximum number of guests allowed determined by driveway size and number of bedrooms.
    4. All rentals will have a bear box, that includes long term rental property as well.
    5. Owners will not have sound systems in the rental house, nor will renters bring one.
    6. Absolutly no bachlor partys, no bachloretter parties, no frat or soriety parties.
    7. The house is not to be used for any type of party.

    Neighbors will have the phone numbers of the rental house and the owners cell phone number so they may, if they wish, call the noisy neighbor, or owner, or not.

    Neighbors will have the private phone number of the owner of the rental company, so they may call them if they want, or not.

    Neighbors should call the police if any of the above violations are occurring.

    The police will investigate the complaint and will issue a ticket that includes a fine. A large fine. A second complaint and the renters will need to leave immediately or get a 2nd ticket for a very large additional fine. No warnings. Ticket is the officer hears or sees the violation.

    Long term rentals has not been discussed, but should be included, to protect the home owner as well.

    I don’t think a ballot is necessary if the city council acts rapidly. Hire the extra cops! We need them. Our guys are spread too thin as it is.

    If there is a law suit I think the owners of the VHR will win, so lets not go there.

    I have lived here for 53 years. I have VHR’s next to me and across the street. And have not had a problem. I have not had to call the police. I do not have a VHR. I believe in living and let live. Lets wise up and get along.

    The onus should be on the renter to comply with the law, not the absent owner.

    The city needs to hire more cops to protect the city and enforce the laws and give the residents peace and quiet.

    Les Wright

  3. Pine Tree says - Posted: November 10, 2017

    3 complaints you’re out with in 2 years is not strong enough for those who have already suffered from rude vacation rentals.

    Why make residents suffer 3 times plus what they have already suffered in the past?

    2 complaints within 500 days is more fair for everyone and not so one sided for VR’s.

  4. bruce grego says - Posted: November 10, 2017

    When people sell their vacation rental property perhaps some of our employees will be able to find housing. Or perhaps, property owner will stop evicting our workforce in favor of renting to vacationers. It’s could even be called workforce housing. Clearly, there are many facets to this issue.

  5. Fair Play says - Posted: November 14, 2017

    So is it a scare tactic to say it would create another recession? Many people feel the last housing collapse was created by greed. Should we be concerned if people purchased a home they could never afford… if they were NOT running a business out of a residential zoned neighborhood? If VR’s were banned from residential neighborhoods, would it fix the housing and work force housing problems once the prices become realistic again? Are the housing values here based on a unethical economy, because zoning laws were twisted to turn private neighborhoods into a Disney Land zoo.Is it conducive to a safe family environment always having to keep your guard up because you don’t know anything (at all) about the short term strangers staying next door? Tahoe has great schools, what if we gave the teachers a place to live when they try to move here instead of vacationers? We have a much needed fire academy with no housing for those individuals! We can build a different economy just as good, if not better then a neighborhood vacation rental economy. I’m not buying the scare tactics that we will lose tax dollars. We would still have vacation rentals…just not in residential areas. Realtors will still make commissions (what not giant commissions)? Mortgage brokers will still do loans. Contractors, cleaning and maintenance workers will still be utilized! Tahoe would survive just fine and still provide something for everyone without being dysfunctional. It would actually become better more productive place to support the tourists and each other (tourists being where they belong).