Truckee stops vacation rentals during CA stay-at-home order

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Shoppers file past snowdrifts in 2017 in downtown Truckee. A new infill development is rising in the town’s former railyard.

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Truckee town officials voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt an urgency ordinance empowering the town to revoke permits of property owners and hotels who continue to rent to tourists during the state’s stay-at-home order.

The ordinance takes immediate effect, and serves as an “additional enforcement tool” for town officials who are trying to curb the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the influx of tourists during the holiday season.

“We need the ability to clearly have the authority to revoke certificates or suspend them or deny applications for them for operators that are renting in violations, which we think will help get people’s attention,” said Andrew Morris, town attorney. “Hopefully just as much as having to go to court would but in a way that is quicker than having to go to court.”

Officials said in the town council meeting Tuesday evening that fines are proving to not be effective because some property owners and hotels are choosing to rent and pay the fine because they can still make a profit.

Morris, the town attorney, said the town doesn’t intend to immediately start revoking short-term rental permits, but will do so if they don’t gain compliance after several warnings.

“We’re hoping to never have to use this at all,” he said.

The town of Truckee along with Placer and El Dorado county supervisors also sent a letter to Airbnb this week, asking for the company’s help in curbing vacation rentals.

The letter — sent by Placer County Supervisor Cindy Gustafson, El Dorado County Supervisor Sue Novasel and Truckee Town Manager Jen Callaway — asks the vacation-rental giant to inform property owners that bookings for non-essential travel are in violation of the state order. The letter also asks Airbnb to work with local government officials and inform them of property owners who are “noncompliant.”

“Your support will help (short-term rental) operators comply with the Order and also ensure our rural healthcare systems are not overrun during this holiday season,” the letter reads. “In addition, Placer County and the Town of Truckee are looking at options to penalize (short-term rental) operators who rent their properties during this time.

“Your assistance will also help (short-term rental) operators avoid losing their permits which will also have impacts to your business should several operators lose the ability to rent in the future.”

The ordinance was met with strong opposition in public comment, with several residents speaking against the adoption of the ordinance, saying it will further harm already struggling small businesses.

One resident said the ordinance will be a “nightmare” for the town where there are many short-term rental properties and only one devoted code enforcement officer.

Another resident said the ordinance will hurt local families who rely on short-term rental income to pay their mortgages.

“There’s lots of local families that like to rent their homes out during the holiday to help pay their mortgages to be able to live in the Truckee area full time,” she said.

Town council members disagreed, however, unanimously voicing support for the ordinance.

“This is about getting to the other side of this pandemic and anything that we can do to curb travel, curb visitation, and to curb unsafe practices right now and keep our hospitals with the capacity that’s needed, it’s incumbent upon us to do the right thing for our … larger community,” said Mayor David Polivy.

Molly Sullivan covers Folsom, Roseville and Placer County, as well as police accountability, for The Bee. She grew up in Northern California and is an alumna of Chico State.

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