The Town of Mammoth Lakes hired Lisa Wise Consulting (LWC) a few months back. The task: To complete a “Conceptual Land Use Plan” for The Parcel – the 24 acres in the center of town Mammoth purchased last year for the purpose of building an affordable housing development.
The price tag; $400,000.
*Former Town Planner Jen Daugherty is now a associate at LWC. Nepotism is alive and well. I hope bringing in the contract nets her a promotion.
As part of the scope of work, LWC set out to determine community priorities/values in regard to The Parcel and concocted a survey.
Survey questions and my answers below.
Question 1. What is your interest in The Parcel?
-My interest lies in self-preservation, because watching Town Staff try to build affordable housing may be enough to cause me to drown myself in a shallow pond.
Question 2: If you’ve been to The Parcel, how did you get there, what did you do, and what were your impressions?
-After dropping my car off at Alpine Garage on Center Street and learning what it would cost to fix, I sauntered over to The Parcel to have a good cry and look at the garbage strewn all over the forest. My impression was that The Parcel is a good place for a cry, and I’ll bet Mike Fiebiger goes there often after 49er games.
Question 2.1: Have you been to The Parcel?
-Are you people stupid? You just asked that.
Question 2.2: Where did you enter The Parcel?
-Okay dummy. Now I’m getting upset.
Question 2.3: What mode of transportation did you use and what did you do?
-Jesus H. We’re paying $400,000 for this?!?
Question 2.4: What were your impressions of The Parcel?
-As I said, it’s a place to make one cry … reminds me of this survey.
Question 2.5: How do you think future residents will get to and from The Parcel?
Question 3: What does affordable housing mean to you?
-About two bedrooms less than I really want, but way better than couch surfing.
-A better place to try to score after a date than a tent.
Question 4: What other uses should be provided on-site?
-Roads. Electricity. Water and Sewer. A Hooters franchise. And some Lawn Bowling courts for Scottie Marzonie.
Question 5: What are the obstacles to developing The Parcel?
-Town Council. Town Staff. Surveys like this. Consultants like you.
Question 6: What is your long-term vision for The Parcel?
-The same as my short-term vision. Housing. With a dose of boobs bursting out of tight orange tops and Lawn Bowling. Haven’t we been over this?
Question 7: What are your three objectives for The Parcel?
-To have the long-lasting construction and spiritual impact of Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids.
-To produce citizens who can Move Like Jagger, Walk Like Egyptians, Run on Empty, Fly Like Eagles and Stand in the Place Where They Live.
-To rename it. “The Parcel” is lame.
Question 8: What are some ideas you have for engaging the community?
-Engagement? Um. Speed dating?
-Beer always helps get people engaged. Well, beer goggles.
-How about hosting another one of those events where people get to put sticky dots on posters? People love those sticky dots!
Question 8.1: What other questions do you think we should ask the community?
-Hmm. Ask yourself, “What would Donald J. Trump do?”
-If Train A is traveling east at 25 mph, and Train B is traveling west at 46 mph, will either stop in Mammoth if the United States Forest Service and/or the Town of Mammoth Lakes is responsible for getting the train depot open?
-Corollary: Will Mammoth Lakes Tourism take credit for Train B being faster than Train A?
Question 8.2: How can we get more potential residents of The Parcel involved in the planning process?
-Free raffle entries. People love raffles.
-Maybe create a path of Reese’s Pieces leading to the site. Worked with E.T.
Question 9: Is there anything else you would like to add?
-I really like the Lakers signing of Jared Dudley.
-Goats. Lots of goats. They could help with fire suppression and yoga classes. Lunch knows a dealer …
-Elizabeth Warren can win.
The actual responses to the Lisa Wise Consulting survey were absolutely milquetoast, but I’ll be considered an irresponsible journalist if I don’t fill you in on all the insightful data gleaned by LWC.
1. The community is concerned about housing and affordability issues.
2. Two-thirds of the community has visited The Parcel. The majority entered via Tavern Road by foot and they enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Someday, they believe people will walk, ride, bike, or drive to and from the Parcel.
No one mentioned spaceships. No one mentioned Kirk, Picard or Skywalker when it came to transportation.
3. People believe affordable housing refers to a mixture of rental products.
4. Folks want nature, child fare, a trail system, parks in their development.
5. They think the biggest obstacle to construction will be neighborhood opposition.
6. They envision a strong community of long-time residents and a nice neighborhood.
7. Objectives? Well-designed. A lot of units. Open to range of income levels.
As if I needed a survey to obtain the very generic responses listed above.
The following was my experience with affordable housing.
It was 2006. The Town said it was building units. I didn’t care what they were building. I just needed a place to
call my own because I was in the middle of a child custody situation and was basically told if I could not provide my daughter her own bedroom, I wouldn’t get overnights.
I entered the housing lottery. Drew the fifth pick. And was elated to take whatever they would give me.
Not once did I go to a meeting and tell anybody that I wanted a park, or a trail, or an ice rink, or daycare.
What I wanted was a place which would qualify me as an upstanding parent in the eyes of the utterly broken “justice” system.
So 20-year resident Jim Clark (who has been visiting the area for 80 years) had it right at the June 26 workshop.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes [in Mammoth,” he began. “And a lot of stupid decisions made.”
Child care, a park system, playgrounds … a lot of these things aren’t affordable housing, he continued. They’re amenities, and we need to differentiate amenities versus need.
In short, he urged Council “to separate the wheat from the chaff.”
These were the most lucid comments offered that evening, and summarily ignored. Why?
Because when a consultant separates $400,000 from your pocket, they know they can’t come back to you with a mere housing plan. They’ve got to come back to you with a “vision.”