May 30, 2020
The Honorable Brian K. Veerkamp, Chair
Honorable Members of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors
Mr. Don Ashton, Chief Administrative Officer
Dr. Nancy Williams, County Health Officer
El Dorado County
330 Fair Lane, Building A
Placerville, CA 95667
Re: Request for County Leadership to Move to Stage 3 Reopening
Dear Chair Veerkamp, Supervisors, CAO Ashton and Health Officer Williams:
On behalf of multiple business sectors in the Tahoe area of eastern El Dorado County, we are writing to thank you for the leadership you have demonstrated in thoughtfully leading the County though a step-by-step reopening from the initial period of full business closure and shelter in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Your work to communicate regularly with the cities, hospital and health care, social service, community and businesses leaders throughout the county during this time of unprecedented challenges has paid tangible dividends.
As one example, your approach to working with the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom to make the case that El Dorado County should be one of the first counties in the State to move to an expanded phase 2 reopening was based on well-articulated, compelling data, and, as we saw, granted by the Governor in relatively short order.
Respectfully, in our judgement, we are now at a point where further steps are needed to ensure the financial well-being and sustainability of our community. We are fortunate that the timing of this crisis coincided to a large extent with our economic “off season” as Tahoe locals and businesses are used to tightening our belts during the transition from winter to summer. This will not be the case moving forward. It is essential that you as our county leaders understand the mounting concerns in our business community as we enter June. Many of us survive on the revenues we derive from five to six of the busiest months of the year, with June, July and August being three of those months.
Without a more definitive understanding of what our summer season will bring in terms of business and community activities and our ability to serve visitors, using appropriate public health and safety protocols, we are not and cannot provide coordinated messaging to those wanting to visit our community. Rather, a resounding theme propagated by the media in our feeder markets has been “Tahoe is closed and they don’t want you there” and “you will be fined if you go.” While we know “shelter-in-place” was a necessary step in the response to control the community spread of coronavirus, people and businesses simply cannot remain locked down and locked up. Like elsewhere, unemployment in our community has soared, families are struggling to provide for their basic needs, and many businesses, particularly small businesses, fear losing everything they have worked their entire life to establish.
We were all asked to “flatten the curve.” We agreed to shutter our lodging properties, restaurant, retail, services, recreation, and other businesses for the protection and safety of our employees, neighbors and visitors. Our collaborative efforts paid off, and there has been limited virus activity in our area, county, and region. We understand there is risk in reopening. However, please understand there is also risk involved with the continued closure of many businesses, a risk that jeopardizes our economic and community sustainability.
We have worked with the guidance of the County Health Officer, Dr. Nancy Williams, and with the guidance issued by the State and federal government, and our respective national and state level industry organizations. All of us, including those not yet open for business, even partially, have not been idle during the past two months. We are planning and preparing to reopen safely. However, we again seek your leadership to secure an end to the prohibition of visitor travel and a transition to Stage 3 reopening, consistent with current State guidelines.
We know you have observed that the Placer County Board of Supervisors, on Tuesday, May 26, voted unanimously to request that Governor Newsom and the State allowed Placer to move to Stage 3 reopening. They made a compelling case to do so, as you did with your request to move to an expanded Stage 2. To our east, Governor Steve Sisolak is moving Nevada to its next stage of reopening during the first week of June. This will include lodging accommodations, casinos, and other businesses heretofore not permitted to operate. We do not want El Dorado County to shift from a position of leadership during this pandemic while those around us move forward. Such a situation would further exacerbate our sharp economic downturn and our short-term as well as long-term financial future.
As the weather warms and the first day of summer draws ever nearer, there is significant demand for travel to Tahoe in our feeder markets. Frankly, despite the “travel ban” we are seeing greater numbers of visitors here at Tahoe every week, certainly every weekend. Yet their ability to find lodging and spend money at our local businesses remains constrained. This is not a positive mix of circumstances.
Accordingly, we respectfully ask you to swiftly take the steps necessary to request a Stage 3 reopening in El Dorado County and a lifting of the formal prohibition on visitor travel. As business and industry leaders, we are prepared to meet if necessary and assure you we are ready and that we fully support your efforts to address to move El Dorado County forward.
Very sincerely yours,
Steve Teshara Jerry Williams, Co-President
CEO, Tahoe Chamber Sustainable Community Alliance
Jerry Bindel Rich Bodine III
Chair, South Lake Tahoe President, South Lake Tahoe
Tourism Improvement District Lodging Association
South Lake Tahoe Tourism Improvement District
Carol Chaplin Heidi Hill Drum, CEO
President/CEO Tahoe Prosperity Center
Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority
Jude Wood, Executive Director Pete Joseph, President/CEO
Boys & Girls Club of Lake Tahoe McP’s Taphouse Grill
Merick Rickman Luca Genasci
Airbnb Manager Founder/CEO, AleWorX, LLC
Kellie Cutler, Executive Director Helga Skelly
Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe Timber World Properties, LLC
Emily Abernathy Ron Williams, President
South Tahoe Restaurant Association William Sport Rental Inc.
DBA Ski Run Boat Company
Tahoe Keys Boat Rental
Powder House Ski & Snowboard
High Chaparral/Bonanza Boots
Elie Alyeshmerni, Owner Gary B. Casteel, Jr.
Ski Run Marina Vice President/General Manager
Trans-Sierra Investments, Inc.
The Shops at Heavenly Village
Mark Salmon Steve Dunham, President
Pinnacle Real Estate Group of Lake Tahoe Caravel/Woodwind Charters, Inc.
Co-President, Sustainable Community DVA Tahoe Cruises, Safari Rose Cruises
cc: Joe Irvin, City Manager, City of South Lake Tahoe
Attachment: Placer County May 26 Staff Report and Board of Supervisors Resolution Requesting Acceleration to Stage 3 for Placer County and Release of CARES funding