By WENDY WOOD
It’s like a terminal disease that you hear a friend has. You feel bad and hope somehow, someone, can cure the disease.
Then you get that disease. That is how I feel about abusive short-term rentals (STRs) on the North and West Shores of Lake Tahoe. I had read about the Airbnb/VRBO issues, but because STRs did not impact me directly, the abuse festered and grew because there are no STR controls yet in Placer County.
Then a remote owner bought a small, older summer cabin up a 15-degree slope road from our home on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, that no commercial snow plow operator will service. The owner lists the approximately 1,800-square-foot cabin for $550 per night and boasts that it will accommodate 16-plus adult renters — pandemonium ensues.
The past four months have been very difficult as the 16-plus renters cannot locate the cabin and knock on our door at all hours of the night. They are cold, lost, and disoriented. We finally put a note on our front door to call the owner, who operates the rental remotely out of Danville.
We found out through friends in the Talmont area that the same owner had been driven out from Talmont for renting a similar older cabin due to overloading the rental with too many adults, excessive garbage outside, open fires in the summer, breaking into neighbors’ hot tubs, illegal parking, all-night loud parties, and so on.
For two years, Talmont endured the abuse, then the owner sold that cabin blaming the “mean” owners around him. He then bought the summer cabin above us, and we got the disease.
Local real estate agents in Tahoe praise and sell the STR ability hard to buyers. Realtors think prices will decline in South Shore due to the ban on STRs. None of the agents think about the fact that if every home in Tahoe turned into an out of control STR, the traffic, parking, et cetera would grow exponentially, and what you come to Tahoe for is replaced by too many people. And, if someone rents a cabin with 15 others for $550 per night, does that renter really contribute to the economy here or are they damaging the area? When are too many renters enough?
Wherever you go in the world, you can find news of those frequently reining in Airbnb and VRBO. What started 13 years ago as a sharing economy has turned into reckless and abusive rentals. Many cities, countries, counties, and states have completely banned STRs for good reasons. Abusive STRs create the disintegration of residential communities and the shortage of affordable housing. It layers on many more people than are sustainable in our area.
Imagine, if you can, that you come home one day and every home in your neighborhood has turned into a STR that loads three times the number of people who should reside in the home and the residency changes every three days. That is what is going on in Tahoe. Placer County must take responsibility and enforce reasonable occupancy rules. Other areas do it; two renters per bedroom is reasonable and sustainable.
After reporting my issues to local law enforcement several times — taking up their valuable time, I was told to write a complaint to Placer County Code Enforcement. I provided Placer County Code Enforcement with a complaint package with photos and emails of the abusive STR we have up the hill from us.
The Placer County Occupancy Tax Group publishes a very nice four-color pamphlet on how STR owners must pay a 10 percent tax for every booking. The amount of paperwork for a STR owner who actually plays by the rules is considerable. Nowhere in the TOT pamphlet are there any rules regarding occupancy limits or consideration for the impact an STR has on a neighborhood.
Roseville, Washoe County, and Tahoe Donner have very specific per-bedroom limits — two per bedroom. There are also provisions for monetary penalties for those owners who do not comply regarding parking, garbage, and loud noise. After three complaints, the owner may be terminated from continuing to rent.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in having STR rules passed by Placer County.
~ Wendy Wood is a developer of level 4 green and solar homes in Seattle, where she also owns several hundred apartments. She wrote the solar code for TRPA when building 3005-15 West Lake Blvd. in 2009.
Editor’s Note: Jennifer Merchant, Placer County Deputy CEO-Tahoe, says she is not aware of the pamphlet Wood refers to here, but that the county does provide an online and hard copy “Good Neighbor” program flier available to STR certificate holders.