South Lake Tahoe is increasing enforcement of a local order allowing the city to issue $1,000 citations to people who violate the California stay-at-home order, which asks people to stay home except for local shopping and essential needs such as going to the doctor.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the city prohibits hotel or short-term-rental owners from renting their properties to anyone except for essential workers. Hotel and home owners who rent their properties illegally to vacationers as well as guests of those properties can both be fined.
South Lake Mayor Jason Collin said the city has issued one citation to a hotel and two to short-term rental owners and will cite more if necessary moving into the Memorial Day weekend.
"We don’t want to be fining people," Collin said. "We just want people to stay home right now. We just want to make sure we’re doing everything to keep our community safe."
Collin added: "I think it’s important to reiterate that we are a tourism destination. We are a tourism economy and we embrace everyone who comes to Tahoe in this place everyone calls home. But right now, we want to make sure we’re protecting the community that is here full-time."
Tourists have generally been staying away from Tahoe, but the hotter it gets in the valley, the more the order gets violated, the mayor said.
While the city is stepping up enforcement of short-term rentals, they have relaxed their stance for second-home owners and are now allowing them to travel from other locations to their Tahoe homes.
"If you have a property up here and if you are the owner and you came up to it to work on it or stay in your property, that’s allowed," Collin said.
South Lake Tahoe is located in El Dorado County, which has reported 62 coronavirus cases and zero deaths. The county's Lake Tahoe region has 20 cases.
El Dorado County recently obtained approval from the state to move more quickly into Stage 2 of Gov. Gavin Newsom's four-stage reopening plan. Collin said restaurants in South Lake Tahoe are preparing to reopen for dining service and they're being vigilant about physical distancing.
"We eagerly want to move into Phase 2 and we want to make sure we move from Phase 2 into Phase 3," Collin said. "All hands are on deck right now. We need to manage it very well and move forward cautiously. We want to focus on moving forward and not move two steps forward and then four steps back."
Hospitality services and hotels for tourism fall into Stage 3 of the governor's plan and Collin estimates if the region doesn't see a surge in cases, tourism may return by mid-June.