Watching the 4th of July parade, it was hard not to be overwhelmed by the size of the crowd. I kept thinking; Mammoth has changed since the days when the Town Council rode on the back of a flatbed truck and was greeted with the occasional water balloon.
With the purchase of the Mountain by KSL-Aspen, change could accelerate: new development, rising home prices, bigger crowds, and perhaps a year-around economy. There will be challenges. The parade ended with the usual wail of sirens.
Walking up from Old Mammoth to Main Street to The Village, it’s hard not to notice the “Help Wanted” signs taped to windows: Vons, Rite Aid, Base Camp, Old New York Deli—First Street Leather is looking for an assistant manager.
There are 43 “Help Wanted” listings in The Sheet.
On my way back from The Village, I stopped to say hello to a couple of volunteer firefighters polishing an engine. The thought crossed my mind: what happens if rising housing prices and lack of rentals force Mammoth’s 43 volunteer firefighters to move down valley to Crowley or Bishop? What would be the response time for an emergency call out?
In recent months, the Town of Mammoth has been updating its workforce housing needs assessment. On June 29, the Housing Working Group met to provide further comments and feedback on a draft document, which identifies two “key” indicators highlighting Mammoth’s housing problem:
• 480 jobs added since 2011, most in the past two years;
• 22 homes available to locals added since 2011, all rentals.
“The additional housing inventory is about one-tenth of what was needed,” it stated.
Section 7 of the draft “Short-Term Rental Impact on Workforce Housing,” notes, “Complete data on the change in use of units over time is not available,” which is to say, the full impact of Airbnb, VRBO, and other home-sharing platforms is still unknown.
In July, Outside Magazine published “Did Airbnb Kill the Mountain Town?” The focus of the article was the rise of short-term rentals, or STRs, in the community of Crested Butte, CO, which could be understood to reflect what’s happening in Ketchum, ID, Jackson, WY, and Mammoth Lakes.
Dara MacDonald, Town Manager of Crested Butte, described the workforce housing shortage as a “divisive issue for the community.” There are those who rely on earnings from short-term rentals and there are others who are not interested in having a de facto hotel setting up shop next door.
Walking down Old Mammoth Road, I reached Meridian and reflexively looked down the street towards Mammoth High School. I taught high school English before retiring. The high school is falling apart. The hallways and cafeteria leak when it rains. Students dodge miniature waterfalls getting to class during thunderstorms.
I recently stopped in to see Brooke Bien, the School District’s Business Manager. She shared the dire financial needs that the District is facing.
The Sheet described a recent School Board meeting where a parent group, “Parents on a Mission,” advocated for keeping class sizes as small as possible. The School Board approved its 2017/18 budget, which did not replace two retiring elementary school teachers.
They’re not replacing teachers but want voters to approve a $65 million school improvement bond. They need both—teachers and a bond.
Lunch’s editorial on July 1, titled “The Funnel of Love,” mocked Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s (MLT) TBID solicitation/renewal letter. The TBID letter opens with, “Think of the success of the local community as a funnel. Visitors come to town and business owners pass along taxes and assessments… At the bottom of the funnel are … (tax) dollars that can be used to maintain the town…”
The TBID letter implies that marketing is at the top of a funnel, which is partly true. Visitors have to know about Mammoth before they come to visit. Once visitors arrive, however, there are expectations that need to be met: public safety, snow removal, roads without potholes, and a workforce that meets the visitors’ expectations.
While MLT touts the fact that more money than ever is coming out of the bottom of the funnel, it just doesn’t seem like the output matches up with the community’s needs, at least when it come to workforce housing and transit. Or schools.