Mammoth’s Town Council vows to prioritize affordable housing
For Mammoth’s new Housing Action Plan to work, says consultant Wendy Sullivan, the Town of Mammoth Lakes needs to sink more money into housing programs and invest in at least one full-time Town staff member to tackle housing. “It’s important to keep in mind moving forward that this is needed to implement a successful program,” said Sullivan, who, along with Steve Frisch of the Sierra Business Council, led a joint workshop on Wednesday, November 15 with Mammoth’s Planning and Economic Development Commission and the Mammoth Lakes Housing Board to discuss the plan, which was developed by WSW Consulting.
A Housing Needs Assessment compiled by WSW found that Mammoth Lakes currently has a housing gap of 595 units which it will need through 2022 (340 of those need to be below market rate), said Sullivan. Just to play catch-up, Mammoth needs another 330 units right now.
The workshop was arranged so that the Housing Action Plan could be presented as a document to Mammoth’s Town Council on December 6, said Mayor John Wentworth.
The target of the plan is to provide 200 to 300 new community housing units within five years, target a full range of community housing needs not being met by the market, to produce community housing at a rate faster than job growth in the near term, and to retain a strong base of residents and employees living in town, said Sullivan.
Local resident Kathy Cage asked Sullivan if those new units accounted for proposed development in town (such as Jim Demetriades’ Old Mammoth Road property), and Sullivan said they did not. The numbers were “based on the job growth that we have” currently, she said.
MMSA’s Tom Hodges recalled the last economic boom in Mammoth in the early 2000s, saying “we had the hottest market we’ve ever seen in Mammoth and we had some good systems in place to build units, and we built 130 in five years.” He said that staff needs to “understand how daunting that [200-300 unit] number is, and how important it is we move quickly trying to identify and find units.”
Hodges also said that he’s concerned about a construction boom bringing an even larger workforce into the community.
Cage also said that Mammoth is “notable in our difficulty and expense of getting projects through to build …our development standards are so high it makes it virtually unaffordable to do almost anything.”
Cage also called for a revising of the Shady Rest Master Plan’s density requirement. “The current 172 units [proposed for the 17 developable acres] is woefully inadequate, considering the opportunity that amount of acreage affords us,” said Cage.
“I agree that the 172 would be way too low,” said Kirk Stapp, who sits on the Mammoth Lakes Housing Board. “If we put 16 units on each acre, we’re looking at 272 units. That would be something I would be supportive of.” Stapp cautioned against too much density, however, due to snow storage and parking issues.
Though the Town’s purchase of the Shady Rest Parcel is a good step forward, said the Sierra Business Council’s Frisch, “I can’t emphasize more that there’s no silver bullet. Though I think getting Shady Rest going is a great thing, the goal we set of 200 to 300 units is actually half of what you need, so there’s a big leap here.”