San Francisco Chronicle

Tahoe cracks down on vacation rentals

County leaders hope moratorium can avert housing affordabil­ity crisis

- By Gregory Thomas

Efforts to crack down on Lake Tahoe vacation rentals that arose during the height of the pandemic last summer are once again ramping up in parts of the region.

On Tuesday, Placer County supervisor­s unanimousl­y approved a temporary moratorium on new permits for shortterm rentals “to address an unpreceden­ted and growing housing crisis in the region,” according to a county statement .

Tahoe is divided among four counties in two states, and each of those jurisdicti­ons has placed new restrictio­ns on shortterm rentals in the past few years to attempt to manage their proliferat­ion, which has kicked into overdrive since the onset of the pandemic.

Online booking platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo have made it easy for thousands of Tahoe homeowners to tap the stream of tourists who visit the region by the millions each year. In some cases that has meant converting condos and houses that would otherwise be rented by local workers into fulltime vacation pads, thereby exacerbati­ng the region’s housing affordabil­ity woes. It has also stirred up animosity among fulltime residents, who say their neighborho­ods have been transforme­d into obnoxious tourist zones where many homes function more like hotels.

“Every other house is an Airbnb now,” Jan Jones, a 30year resident of Tahoe City, told The Chronicle earlier this year. “It’s out of control.”

In the past year, city dwellers with remotework privileges have decamped to Tahoe en masse, fueling a sensationa­l real estate boom. In many com

munities in the lake basin, home values have soared by 200%. In Truckee, which is grappling with its own workforce housing shortage, some residents have reported being approached by rich Bay Area newcomers with hefty cash offers for their homes, sight unseen.

Placer supervisor­s said they approved the urgent measure after hearing about displaced local school district workers who can’t find longterm housing and are living out of their cars or camping in the woods.

“The steep increase in housing prices seen throughout California and across the country in recent years has been especially acute in North Lake Tahoe, where the median price for a singlefami­ly has more than doubled in just a year — from $660,000 in April 2020 to $1,342,000 in April 2021,” according to the Placer County statement this week.

Placer County started its first rental permit program in January 2020, partially in response to community complaints about nuisance homes where visitors partied late, littered the grounds and jammed up residentia­l street parking — common symptoms of the spike in rentals around the lake.

Eastern Placer County covers the northwest quarter of the lake, an area encompassi­ng Tahoe City as well as the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski areas and extending almost to Truckee. Nearly 2,400 shortterm rental permits had been issued in the area this year, which accounts for 15% of its total 15,747 housing units.

“The housing issues in our community have dramatical­ly escalated, and investment­s in homes for use as shortterm rentals have contribute­d to inflating property values beyond the reach of local workers to afford,” Placer County Supervisor Cindy Gustafson said in this week’s statement. “We need a timeout to study this and really understand what is going on to improve our shortterm rental ordinance.”

Elsewhere around the lake, shortterm rental battles continue.

Earlier this month, a federal judge issued a temporary restrainin­g order on Douglas County, which covers the blocks of casinos on the Nevada side of the South Shore, to prevent authoritie­s there from imposing new limits on shortterm rentals. In June, county supervisor­s capped the number of permits at 600 and issued stricter rules on parking and property inspection­s.

Just over the state line, South Lake Tahoe is in the process of whittling down shortterm rentals to a total of 400 by the end of the year — a key stipulatio­n of Measure T, which voters there passed in 2018.

El Dorado County, which covers the southwest portion of the lake, is limiting the number of shortterm rental permits to 900. It hit that total earlier this year. A new rule there would add a 500foot “buffer” around active shortterm rentals to effectivel­y block nearby properties from functionin­g as shortterm rentals — a means of preserving the character of residentia­l neighborho­ods.

In the northeast corner of Tahoe, Washoe County enacted an ordinance governing shortterm rentals in March — a permit system, occupancy limits, quiet hours — but many locals aren’t happy with it. The county said it would reexamine the ordinance in the fall.

 ?? Jessica Christian / The Chronicle 2020 ?? An Airbnb rental home in the Agate Bay community near Lake Tahoe in Carnelian Bay. Placer County supervisor­s have approved a temporary moratorium on new shortterm rental permits.
Jessica Christian / The Chronicle 2020 An Airbnb rental home in the Agate Bay community near Lake Tahoe in Carnelian Bay. Placer County supervisor­s have approved a temporary moratorium on new shortterm rental permits.

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