Measure to ban vacation rentals in South Lake Tahoe passes by narrow margin

US: A ballot measure banning vacation home rentals in residential neighbourhoods in South Lake Tahoe and reducing occupancy limits has passed by a margin of 58 votes.

The El Dorado County elections department announced the city council would meet on Monday to accept the result of November’s election and the so-called “Measure T” will come into effect 10 days later.

The result meant that the measure had a narrow majority of 50.42 per cent.

Jerry Williams, president of the Sustainability Community Alliance which opposes Measure T, said: “We have talked about a recount, but I don’t believe we are going to ask for one. We are disappointed in the outcome but remain committed to working with city leaders in protecting jobs and tourism.”

The measure can only be overturned or modified by another vote but Williams said he had not heard if anyone was planning to launch a lawsuit against Measure T.

The measure applies to the estimated 1,400 short-term rentals outside the city centre which are rented for 30 days or less, along Highway 50 to the Ski Run Boulevard to Stateline.

City spokesman Chris Fiore said: “The voters have spoken, and we respect that: the only thing we can do is wait for the fiscal shoe to drop. That has been our concern all along, what it will do monetarily to the city of South Lake Tahoe.”

The city estimates it could lose up to $4 million a year in tourist taxes and other fees as a result of the measure’s implementation.

A group of residents called Tahoe Neighbourhoods Group garnered sufficient support to place the measure on the ballot as the numbers of short-term rentals in South Lake Tahoe have increased with the growth of companies like Airbnb and VRBO. The proponents of Measure T argue tourists should not be staying in residential neighbourhoods as they disturb their neighbours’’ peace and make it harder for locals to find affordable housing.

Last year, the city limited vacation home rentals to 1,400 outside the tourist areas and imposed stiff rules and fines on renters holding loud parties and disturbing local residents However, many neighbours are still unhappy that the measure did not go far enough.

Neighbourhood group member Peggy Bourland said: “Our mission was to get this in front of the voters. We felt the broader community hadn’t been listened to. Their victory is a caution for our community and all communities.”

Some states have already taken a harder line to limit local authority on short-term rentals. The National Council of State Legislatures reported states such as Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin had “enacted legislation prohibiting short-term rental bans”.

In South Lake Tahoe, homeowners with existing vacation home permits in residential neighbourhoods will be able to continue operating them for up to three years. Those permits cannot be transferred to anyone else and the city will not issue new permits outside the tourist core after Measure T comes into effect.

From 31 December 2021, anyone operating a vacation home rental outside the core will be required to stop but they will still be able to rent it out for 30 days or more at one time.

Measure T will also reduce occupancy limits on short-term rentals outside the tourist core from 20 December, meaning no home can have more than 12 occupants.

The city will issue new permits which take into account the new occupancy limits by 7 January 2019 and it will allow affected homeowners to bring their adverts and property signs into compliance with the new limits by that same date.

Real estate broker and owner of Keller Properties in South Lake Tahoe, Michael Keller, said the previous cap and uncertainty over Measure T had already had an impact on the market, particularly on large homes designed for families and groups. The waiting list for vacation home permits stood at over two years after the previous cap was imposed last December.

Resident Evan Goldin told the San Francisco Chronicle: “I’m really disappointed and worried about the future of South Lake Tahoe, the hole it will blow in the budget and all the businesses that have started up in the last few years.

“Personally, it’s disheartening to have my property rights taken away. We are not some giant company, just one married couple that owns one home and are not sure what to do,” he added.

Measure T will not place restrictions on homes outside the South Lake Tahoe limits, but El Dorado County said it was also discussing imposing a moratorium or cap on short-term rentals in unincorporated areas.