North Tahoe communities putting new limits on Airbnb homes, vacation rentals

Debates about how to manage the proliferation of short-term rentals — Airbnbs, Vrbos and the like — are heating up in North Lake Tahoe and Truckee.

Supervisors in Placer County, which covers much of Tahoe’s West Shore as well as Tahoe City and the area surrounding the Palisades Tahoe ski resort, unanimously approved an ordinance this week that would cap the number of short-term rentals at 3,900, which amounts to about 25% of housing stock in the area.

The ordinance, which if approved at a second reading Feb. 8 would take effect in March, also seeks to rein in lingering issues that have cropped up as more homes around Tahoe are converted into full-time rental properties. It would limit short-term rentals to one per property, require more frequent inspections and impose higher fire protection standards and stricter rules around noise, parking and trash collection. Also, it would raise penalty fines to $1,500 for a first violation, $3,000 for a second and $5,000 for a third.

Up the road, Truckee is slated to discuss its own cap on vacation rentals, and other restrictions, at a Feb. 8 town council meeting. Across the Nevada border, Washoe County supervisors agreed this week to consider upping the number of tenants allowed per rental unit under a controversial ordinance it passed last year to regulate short-term rentals.

All of Tahoe’s communities have grappled with the challenge of managing vacation rentals since the advent and expansive use of online rental marketplaces like Airbnb and Vrbo. But the pandemic set off a boom in both real estate and tourism around the lake, and Placer’s new ordinance is an attempt to crack down on what has become a regional lightning rod that is dividing neighborhoods.

Not only have Tahoe residents reported dealing with excessive partying, overparking and litter flowing from short-term rental properties, but the rapid spread of rentals around the lake is thought to contribute to a region-wide shortage of affordable housing, which has pushed much of Tahoe’s workforce outside the basin.

In South Lake Tahoe, which has implemented the most restrictive regulations on short-term rentals in the region, officials are closely watching how the changes affect tax revenue.

About 200 people spoke up at the Placer County meeting on Tuesday, many of whom expressed deep concerns about the county’s latest attempt to bring stability and balance to North Tahoe neighborhoods.

“We have people living in their cars and we have a severely diminished workforce, where so many businesses cannot find workers,” said resident Cheri Sugal. “The quality of life of our residential neighborhoods is being severely degraded as residents are forced to deal with the inevitable nuances of nearby STRs.”

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