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South Lake Tahoe poised to ban vacation rentals like AirBnb

Dec 4, 2018

Voters in Lake Tahoe's only incorporated city narrowly passed a partial ban of vacation rentals.

Voters in Lake Tahoe's only incorporated city narrowly passed a partial ban of vacation rentals.

South Lake Tahoe's Measure T is currently leading by only 59 votes with very few ballots remaining to certify before Thursday’s deadline.

"The numbers will change, but probably by 10 or less” votes, according to Joseph Zitzelberger with El Dorado County Elections Department.

He says once the totals are finalised, even with such a slim margin, there are no automatic recounts. A third party would have to order and pay for that process.

Zitzelberger also says that, in the coming days, the department is doing manual tallies before certifying the results.

If uncontested, Measure T would allow for unlimited vacation rentals in commercial zones, but partially ban them outside the tourist core. Permanent residents would still be able to rent out their homes for up to a month each year.

South Lake Tahoe's Measure T could partially ban vacation rentals

South Lake Tahoe's Measure T could partially ban vacation rentals

The fate of short-term vacation rentals in South Lake Tahoe is on the ballot this election, and the issue is dividing the community.

South Lake Tahoe is the lake's only incorporated city. There are roughly 22,000 permanent residents, but during peak tourist periods the population can swell to nearly five times that size.

A growing number of those visitors are turning to short-term rentals, such as Airbnb or VRBO, which some residents say squeezes the already-tight housing market.

Enter Measure T.

If passed, it would allow for unlimited rentals in commercial zones, but partially ban them outside the tourist core. Permanent residents would still be able to rent out their homes for up to 30 days per year.

Sharon Kerrigan is with the South Tahoe Association of Realtors, which is part of a group called Sustainable Community Alliance working to defeat Measure T. She said tourism is essentially Tahoe's only industry and Measure T would hurt that sector.

"So, if we start to limit folks coming to our area, that just kind of decreases the income coming to all of our local businesses, and then it impacts jobs," Kerrigan said. “There are managers, there are reservationists, there are cleaning companies, there are people that do maintenance, there are people that do security checks.”

Kerrigan said visitors depend on the supply of short-term rentals during peak times, when hotels and motels are full. If the total number of available units is decreased, that will force tourists to head elsewhere.

Peggy Bourland is with the Tahoe Neighborhoods Group, which got the measure on the ballot. She said jobs are an issue, but not as being portrayed.

"What we have really is a labor-shortage crisis and that is related to the fact that there are so few places to live,” Bourland said. “We have people that have found work here, but then they can't find a place to live."

Bourland said at the core, it's a zoning issue. Short-term rentals are businesses, operating in residential neighborhoods.

She said while the rentals are popular, they only account for a small portion of the lodging stays in the city and generate little in lodging taxes, also known as a transient occupancy taxes or TOT.

“Interestingly enough, relative to our total lodging stays in South Lake Tahoe, [short term rentals] make up less than 14 percent of our hotel tax collections,” Bourland said. “Eighty-six percent of our visitors and our TOT collection comes from our traditional lodging properties; hotels, motels, condominiums and timeshares.”

Opponents say the homes currently being used as rentals are also vacation homes for the owners, so they would likely not turn into housing options for the job sector.

Several other tourist cities in California have enacted rules similar to Measure T through their city councils, including Anaheim, Carmel, Dana Point, Napa, Ojai, Palm Desert, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma according to the Yes on T campaign.

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Vacation rental owners tips

29 vacation rental tips Tip #1: Keep your property immaculately clean! Works wonders for reviews Tip #2: Take 10 minutes to greet your guests and assess any special needs. Start building that bond Tip #3: Don’t give discounts! Provide your guests with an authentic experience, that they’ll NEVER forget Tip #4: Don't oversell your property vacation rental Tip #5: Offer your guests free transfer to your vacation rental Tip #6: Let your guests arrive as Kings and leave as Emperors Tip #7: Provide your guests with WHITE spotless bath towels Tip #8: Facilitate your guests' expectancies Tip #9: Don't take your guests for a ride Tip #10: Give a free upgrade to your guests Tip #11: Invite your guests for dinner Tip #12: Make sure the bathroom is spotless Tip #13: Limit your time with the opposite sex Tip #14: Assists your guests, however small the gesture Tip #15: Sit and talk with your guests without overstaying Tip #16: Inform your guests the best spots for them Tip #17: Avoid discussing dress code, state in welcome letter Tip #18: Provide your guests with tide times and chart for the duration of their stay Tip #19: Provide your guests a list of local activities and excursion providers. Tip #20: Don't disturb your guest if they are alone. Tip #21: Offer your guests a bottle for no reason. Tip #22: Don't be intimate in front of your guests. Tip #23: Go out of your way, and really surprise your guests. Tip #24: Make sure that your security is flawless. Tip #25: Ask your clients to save water. Bathe together? Tip #26: Clean where the eye can't see Tip #27: Talk to children for constructive criticism Tip #28: Be cautious when providing advice Tip #29: Provide weather forecast in your welcome letter

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