By Kayla Anderson
It seems like ever since the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation in March, people have been escaping the cities to hide out in the mountains where there’s more space and access to the outdoors. Then summer came around and destination spots like Lake Tahoe that are normally teeming with tourists have been impacted especially hard. Restaurants, golf courses, cafes, ice cream shops, and convenience stores that are open are operating at 50 percent capacity yet trying to accommodate double the number of people than normal.
In Lake Tahoe, parking lots to most of its beaches are full by 8 a.m. as well as places to access its most popular hiking and biking trails. And now with California’s raging wildfires and Northern Nevada’s heat waves, it gives more people a reason to flock to Tahoe. Short-term rental properties are consistently booked out, and with bars closed people are bringing their parties to the neighborhoods.
This in turn is making longtime residents restless, anxious, and dealing with people who are not invested in Tahoe’s small tight-knit communities. Every day feels like the Fourth of July, with no end in sight. Here are some of the major issues Tahoe locals are grappling with:
The Long-Term Housing Shortage
A business owner in a remote Northern California town recently said, “The billionaires from the Bay Area are moving to Lake Tahoe and the millionaires from Lake Tahoe are moving here”. Real estate agents are noticing that now that more people can work remotely, they are selling their cramped tiny apartments in San Francisco and using the same amount of money to upgrade to a mansion in Northern Nevada. Several buyers are coming in with cash offers within hours of a new listing coming on the market, and sellers are getting more than their original asking price. Seeing the high demand, many absentee homeowners have decided to sell their second or third homes, forcing out long term renters. The record low mortgage interest rates are both a blessing and a curse, and many real estate agents suggest that if you are in a position to buy a home then do it now.
Trash and Graffiti
Overflowing dumpsters full of diapers, boxes of empty beer cans, cigarette butts, and bags of garbage in front of STR’s is now commonplace in Tahoe thus drawing wildlife and altercations with bears. On top of that, vandalism and graffiti are springing up more often than usual as reports of iconic natural landmarks being defaced like Cave Rock and the outside of the railroad tunnels on Donner Pass, visible from I-80. To combat the trash, local Tahoe residents have been organizing regular local cleanup days to help protect and preserve the natural environment.
The Short-Term Rental Abundance
Quiet neighborhoods are now filled with people on a regular basis, seemingly on a permanent vacation. Noise, off-leash dogs, illegally parked cars and unsecured trash are the most common complaints. There’s also the issue of whether homes are properly sanitized before the next group of vacationers come in since house cleaners are in high demand.
So, What’s the Solution?
Since there are five counties in two states that make up the Lake Tahoe jurisdiction (Washoe County and Douglas County in Nevada; Nevada County, Placer County, and El Dorado County in California), it complicates a lake wide effort to alleviate the problem. Laws are different in California and Nevada, and much of the region relies on tourism.
However, Tahoe’s tourism problem has drawn national attention causing many city officials to finally come together to think up possible solutions. North Lake Tahoe resident Court Leve of Facebook’s Truckee Tahoe Litter Group drafted a letter to submit to the Town of Truckee during its recent public comment period addressing STRs and noise ordinances, asking the City to create regulations that make bear boxes mandatory, monitor the number of people allowed to stay in a home, and increase the amount of TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) collected to go towards trash mitigation.
This is an ongoing situation, and Leve says that Tahoe is at its tipping point, but a few longtime Tahoe locals are just hoping for an early snowfall.
Cutline: A high number of visitors has become a daily occurrence at Kings Beach and other areas in Lake Tahoe as the pandemic rages on.