A score of properties around Lake Tahoe have been purchased by or are connected to a single buyer. Most are commercial properties, clustered on the West Shore; many have been sitting idle for more than five years — some up to a decade. A cloud of mystery surrounds the properties and what their futures hold.

Between 2013 and 2020, 18 Lake Tahoe properties were purchased through limited liability companies and a nonprofit. Thirteen of the properties sit around the intersection of California State Highway 89 and Pine Street in Tahoma; four line the same state highway in Tahoe City; and the last sits tucked away in a corner of Zephyr Cove.

The properties — which include a former county building, a lodge, and
a school — are largely unused, some in states of disrepair and/or completely vacant. There was an attempt to turn a couple of the parcels into a hotel by the name of Sugar Pine Village, but efforts inexplicably stopped in mid-2014. Another parcel was donated to a religious nonprofit (which is also connected to the LLC owner).

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Amid a widening gap in median house prices and the local workforce’s salaries, West Shore residents see potential for housing and are frustrated with the disuse.

“Most of Tahoma is like, ‘Why are they sitting empty?’” said Robin Lewis, a 40-year resident on Tahoe’s West Shore. “… I want to see them go into local housing.”

OFF LIMITS: The former Norfolk Woods Inn and Restaurant lies boarded up and off limits in Tahoma. In 2014, there were attempts to turn the parcel into a hotel by the name of Sugar Pine Village, but work was stopped. Photos by Ted Coakley III/Moonshine Ink

Joe Selewicz, a part-time resident of Tahoma for 18 years, remembers the purchase of the Tahoma properties — they were part of his daily walks.

“[My wife and I] saw three different lodges that had been purchased. We knew they had been purchased, we saw them being closed down for business, we saw them in disrepair,” he recalled. “We had some optimism when we saw work being done on the Norfolk Woods property, but then the work suddenly stopped on that … We were scratching our heads a little bit.”

Selewicz is concerned about safety violations he has seen. In the summer of 2020, on one of the properties, he noticed sleeping bags on porches, people staying in cabins, and even an open campfire during a red flag warning period.

For curiosity’s sake Selewicz drops the properties into conversation whenever he can, wondering what other people know. He sees the current structures as an eyesore, not reflecting well on the Tahoma community.

“Anything that’s actively maintained and supervised would be better than what’s there now,” he said, “… There is a lot of potential housing for workers there.”

The woman at the center of these acquisitions has worked through a multitude of entities. The businesses that purchased the properties, Lake Tahoe Ventures and Pioneer Mountain, are associated with Kirsten Vliet, who has served or currently functions as member and manager, respectively. The two LLCs are involved with real estate purchasing.

One of the 18 parcels was purchased by Pioneer Mountain and then donated to Mountain Metro Church, a nonprofit operating exclusively for religious purposes. Mountain Metro also has direct connections to Vliet, for which she’s served as CEO.

Vliet and her husband, Lewis Cirne, oversee the Beloved in Christ Foundation, a family foundation which reported $113.8 million total assets as of December 2019. Cirne is founder and CEO of the tech firm New Relic, a software analytics company.

Moonshine Ink made multiple attempts to contact Vliet, both personally and through her legal agents, but received no response.

The adjacent chart shows the properties bought by Vliet’s entities, confirmed with staff at El Dorado, Douglas, and Placer counties.

Entity Owning the Property

Address or Assessor’s Parcel Number (APN)

County

Purchase Recorded by County

Land Use Description

Net Assessed Value (as of Jan. 1, 2021)

Lake Tahoe Ventures

6941 W Lake Blvd., Tahoma

Placer County

Dec. 31, 2013

Hotels, motels, resorts

$1,113,587

Lake Tahoe Ventures

098-210-023-000, Tahoma

Placer County

Dec. 31, 2013

Apartments, four or more

$452,996

Lake Tahoe Ventures

565 W Lake Blvd., Tahoe City

Placer County

Dec. 31, 2013

Office, general

$934,313

Pioneer Mountain

6937 W Lake Blvd., Tahoma

Placer County

March 27, 2015

Two single-family residences; duplex

$388,609

Pioneer Mountain

6935 W Lake Blvd., Tahoma

Placer County

Aug. 17, 2015

Vacant, commercial

$153,109

Pioneer Mountain

6925 W Lake Blvd., Tahoma

Placer County

Aug. 17, 2015

Vacant, commercial

$185,919

Pioneer Mountain

098-200-041-000, Tahoma

Placer County

Aug. 17, 2015

Vacant, commercial

$185,919

Pioneer Mountain

098-200-040-000, Tahoma

Placer County

Nov. 23, 2020

Vacant, commercial

$290,000

Pioneer Mountain

6895 W Lake Blvd., Tahoma

Placer County

March 20, 2015

Residence on commercial land

$1,565,985

Pioneer Mountain

545 W Lake Blvd., Tahoe City

Placer County

June 9, 2014

Parking lots

$792,749

Mountain Metro Church

855 W Lake Blvd., Tahoe City

Placer County

May 8, 2019

Churches

$2,143,579
(in the process of seeking exemption)

Mountain Metro Church

905 The Drive, Tahoe City

Placer County

May 8, 2019

Churches

$1,617,990

Lake Tahoe Ventures

7032 State Highway 89, Tahoma

El Dorado County

Jan. 28, 2013

Commercial; motel, hotel

$1,177,457

Lake Tahoe Ventures

7010 State Highway 89, Tahoma

El Dorado County

July 10, 2013

Commercial; improved commercial

$84,932

Lake Tahoe Ventures

7018 State Highway 89, Tahoma

El Dorado County

July 10, 2013

Commercial; motel, hotel

$1,348,526

Lake Tahoe Ventures

7035 Wilson Ave., Tahoma

El Dorado County

July 10, 2013

Multi-family residential; 2-3 units

$147,215

Pioneer Mountain

015-331-019-000, Tahoma

El Dorado County

March 31, 2015

Vacant, commercial

$280,354

Mountain Metro Church

1900 Echo Dr., Zephyr Cove

Douglas County

June 22, 2018

General commercial

$0
(exempt as a church)

The multi-sited church

The Mountain Metro Church properties come with a mind-twisting story.

Through Pioneer Mountain, Vliet bought a Zephyr Cove property in June 2018 from the Douglas County School District for $3.5 million. The school had closed in 2008 due to declining enrollment. During a school district board meeting that January, when the decision was made, Katie Foster, the realtor representing Vliet, said Vliet planned to turn the building into a religious youth education center.

“The true backstory is, Katie Foster, a Christian woman, had a vision for a church,” explained Mike Boals, director of facilities at the Tahoe City Mountain Metro Church site. “She and her husband operated the House of Prayer in Tahoma. She was instrumental in starting Mountain Metro Church.”

Foster declined to comment for this story.

After Pioneer Mountain purchased the middle school building, Boals says the property was donated to the church, which is now the owner in full.

Douglas County planning staff said no permits have been filed for the property since its 2018 purchase, but, per Boals, the plan is to turn the old school into a church and outreach camp. Currently, he says, the nonprofit is working with community members in South Lake Tahoe to come up with a plan for moving forward.

Mountain Metro Church was registered as a California nonprofit on Feb. 14, 2014. A statement of information filed Jan. 25, 2018 for the nonprofit lists Vliet as the chief executive officer and Foster as secretary. A 2019 tax return of Vliet’s family foundation, Beloved in Christ, shows a $232,000 donation to the Mountain Metro Church in Tahoe City. Both Vliet and Foster were also undersigners when the nonprofit dissolved on July 13, 2021.

SUNDAY SABBATH: Mountain Metro Church is a nonprofit organization that owns this Tahoe City property and a Zephyr Cove property. Mike Boals, director of facilities for the property, says the organization’s goal is to reach the local community and “make a difference in presenting the gospel.”

It’s not the end of the church, however — on April 20, 2018, a Nevada-based Mountain Metro Church was formed. As early as April 2019, Foster was listed as president of the board, but she confirmed with Moonshine Ink that she is no longer involved with the nonprofit. She is listed as an administrative pastor on the Tahoe City Mountain Metro website.

“We took possession of Kingsbury Middle School,” Boals said, “… [Then] the opportunity for Mountain Metro to get the old episcopal church [in Tahoe City] came about and we were able to purchase that as well. We set up a different entity in each state to get everything organized.”

The two nonprofits with different boards were the same organization, he added; they just happened to be across state lines. Now it has been consolidated under the Nevada-based entity. Boals said funding for Mountain Metro comes from donations, volunteer work, and tithes.

The Tahoe City property, located at 855 West Lake Blvd., was purchased about one year after the former Kingsbury Middle School in Zephyr Cove, in May 2019, according to county records. The nonprofit bought directly from Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Northern California and Bishop of Sacramento.

Church services are currently being offered in Tahoe City whenever a volunteer pastor is available. Boals said that this May, the property will open Anchor Point Lodge, a Christian youth outreach camp. The camp and church services will operate in tandem on the same property.

Immediately west of 855 West Lake Blvd., at 905 The Drive, is another Mountain Metro property, which is described in a June 2021 building permit application as the site of a pastor’s residence.

While the former House of Prayer property in Tahoma, at 7032 State Highway 89, is not owned by Mountain Metro, Boals says
church staff is contemplating renting the space to operate church services.

Boals, who says his expertise lies in youth ministry and Christian camping, said he couldn’t comment on any involvement with Vliet.

KEEP OUT: The property at 7018 State Highway 89 in Tahoma previously operated as Tahoma Lodge, a roadside motel.

Stop and go

Two of Lake Tahoe Ventures’ Tahoma properties, those at 6941 West Lake Blvd. (formerly Norfolk Woods Inn) and APN 098-210-023-000 (adjacent to one another), had demolition work performed in May of 2014, according to Placer County records. On May 8 of that year, during a routine inspection by the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, the demo work was found to be unpermitted, and a stop-work order was issued. The order’s addressees included Foster’s name as the Lake Tahoe Ventures rep. The next day, May 9, a formal permit was applied for by the LLC to perform interior demolition on the properties.

The application stated the properties would become home to Sugar Pine Village, a hotel — the name was trademarked through Lake Tahoe Ventures.

The local contractor involved with the Tahoma demo work requested to remain unnamed. Only ever knowing the owner by her first name, Kirsten, and having interacted with her multiple times, he said, “The owner started [demolition]. She was confused and she was hiring from the Bay Area to come up and do things, and I was supervising.”

Though Placer County issued the permits less than a week after the application was filed, work on the properties was discontinued. The contractor said Vliet’s husband put a stop to things but didn’t know why. Placer’s planning department says no permits have been issued for the parcels since. The trademark for Sugar Pine Village was abandoned by Lake Tahoe Ventures on Sept. 24, 2018, and anyway, the City of South Lake Tahoe now has an affordable housing project by the same name. (City staff members said the developer of that housing project has no knowledge of Lake Tahoe Ventures, nor is there any connection.)

The contractor added there was also a permit for work to be done at 565 West Lake Blvd. in Tahoe City, the former Placer County public works building. Permit details show that the project, for which records show was under county consideration between June and August 2014, was changing the government building to a house of worship with the name Mountain Metro Church, but work was stopped there for a time. Then, two electrical permits were issued in 2021: One of those permits has been finalized, according to Placer’s planning office, while the other remains active.

The contractor suggested to Moonshine the properties would be great options for winter employee housing. “The bottom line is, she’s got [the old Norfolk Woods Inn structure] tied up and it’s sitting there and doing nothing but appreciating. And she’s paying taxes along the way,” he said.

Based on records as of press deadline, 17 of the properties have paid property tax, and one of the Tahoma properties, APN 098-200-040-000, is defaulted.

In the end, what happens on the properties is at the will of the owner. However, there are minimum standards for properties within county lines, defined by county code. Officers might respond to complaints associated with unpermitted construction (as with the would-be Sugar Pine Lodge); substandard housing; unsafe or vacant buildings; planning violations; and more.

For now, future plans for most of the LLC parcels is unclear. No other requests for planning permits have been submitted in either El Dorado, Douglas, or Placer counties aside from those already mentioned.

Author

  • Alex Hoeft

    Alex Hoeft joined Moonshine staff in May 2019, happy to return to the world of journalism after a few years in community outreach. She has both her bachelor's and Master's in journalism, from Brigham Young University and University of Nevada, Reno, respectively. When she's not journalism-ing, you'll usually find her reading a murder mystery, pounding the pavement on a run, or eternally throwing the ball for her dog.

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