1. This is a code enforcement failure that I and others have been clamoring about for a couple of years now. Town staff was given direction by Council to step up enforcement, followed by direction that it was not as high a priority as other matters. Our finance director has been singularly uncreative in addressing a problem which is not unique to our resort, and has declared success at a collection rate of 90%. The remaining 10% is worth over $1 million per year. The problem is that each rental from an individual who chooses to not pay TOT also, is rental revenue which established, legitimate operators are not receiving. I would do several things: first, look to our peer resorts for examples of what works and what does not. We need not re-invent the wheel. Second, beef up voluntary compliance by imposing substantial fines on those who violate the ordinance. On-line advertising exposes those who are not complying with the ordinance. The current approach, which is to ask those who are in violation to stop advertising and voluntarily report past rentals, contains no leverage for obtaining honest and accurate reports. Third, consider actually publishing the names of those who are found to not be in compliance. I have seen that approach work in another resort. Finally, select a percentage of payors for audit each year and devote the resources to complete them.
2. This is a problem which has been around for decades. We have yet to have a legitimate, fact-based debate on this issue. Clearly there are illegal SFR rentals in every neighborhood. It is time for this issue to have priority. Our peer resorts have addressed the issue. Why not learn from them? I believe that the resort association must combine its’ members collective expertise to recommend to Council what direction to take, which will initially drive the debate. I also think that there may be a good opportunity for existing, established lodging operators to capture new revenue. I am not fearful of SFR rentals, but am mindful of the sensitivity of the lodging partners and community members to the potential financial and quality of life impacts. To curb illegal rentals, I would apply the same strategies outlined in my response to the previous question.
3. There are a couple of things I would do immediately. The first is, change the Town culture so that it actually and quite simply asks of local business, “How can we help you?” This is contrasted with the endless web of rules and ordinances governing their conduct and fees and taxes inhibiting their growth. The second is, declare a moratorium on DIF for a period of time for all but large construction projects in order to stimulate construction activity. In response to those who say that would be disastrous, I say, “How will we ever know whether DIF inhibits growth unless we declare a DIF holiday?” Total DIF on zero projects equals zero. What do we have to lose? Other long-term solutions: devote resources to animate the Village with events. We have designated it as the centerpiece of the destination resort strategy. Why have we failed to promote events there? My commitment to the Village merchants as their attorney and the architect of the strategy which saved the commercial enterprises in the Village in 2009 was and still is to direct funds to bring people there. Incentivize new events with meaningful seed money. Increase marketing of special events. Fully fund Mammoth Lakes Tourism and allow the private sector to use its judgment as to how to best promote Mammoth. Promote our natural resources: elite athletes who have made Mammoth their home and training environment. Consider Steve Searles an ambassador for the community. In the end, heads in beds brings revenue to the Town and jobs to the community.
4. I don’t see this any differently than delivering housing mitigation fees to Mammoth Lakes Housing: allow Mammoth Lakes Tourism and its experts to determine how Measure A funds will be spent. Therefore, all funds should be directed to Mammoth Lakes Tourism, without deduction for administrative expenses, to be expended with no strings attached. Remember, it is still underfunded by our peer resorts standards.
5. When the Council went to the voters with a ballot measure in 2006, I was directly responsible as a Councilmember for prioritizing the commitment to expend revenues on transit. It has been said that we have come a long way. I believe that we have a long way to go. Again, look to our peer resorts. The design of a town-wide transit system is not “rocket science”. The key is to provide clean, reliable, frequent, attractive transit. Provide easy wayfinding and signage. Re-design Main Street so that visitors will want to be “feet-first”. Finally, the Town should consider incentivizing the use of vans by lodging owners to transport their guests by subsidizing the cost of such transit. I have seen it work well in virtually every peer resort I have visited. We can change the culture of driving everywhere—but it will take time.