Just like a home makeover show on HGTV, two Mammoth families will be uprooted from their living spaces and temporarily relocated while their homes are upgraded. However, this time, instead of “your friends at HGTV” doing the work, it will be the Town’s own Mammoth Lakes Housing (MLH).
On Wednesday, MLH filed a Use Permit Application with the Mammoth Planning Commission to rehabilitate an existing four-unit structure at 1829 Old Mammoth Road.
“This is the first step into upgrading existing facilities rather than building new,” stated MLH Executive Director Pam Hennarty, which is what she claimed the community had been looking for since the housing authority was first formed. MLH was able to obtain the structure with grant funding and will perform the renovations with that same source of revenue. Local architect John Clark has been commissioned for the project.
MLH had tried to acquire the property several years ago, but not only did the grant funding fall through at the time, the previous owner, upon receiving a bid from MLH, countered back at more than the asking price, just because it was the housing authority trying to purchase the property.
“Now we ended up getting the property for significantly less because the market has crashed,” Hennarty explained.
Hennarty estimated that by purchasing an existing structure and rehabilitating it, MLH would pay $100 less per square foot than it had forked out to build Aspen Village. The total cost of the improvements is expected to be $230,000, which is less than the four-plex’s assessed valuation of $232,926.
The task will be to take an existing, non-conforming four-plex and upgrade the units to meet health and safety requirements. MLH will also bring the units up to a high level of energy efficiency with the replacement of window and door weather stripping, putting in Energy Star appliances, efficient water heaters, and water saving fixtures, and more.
The structure is currently comprised of three, one-bedroom units and one, three-bedroom unit. According to Town staff, the structure originally contained two, one bedroom units and one, four-bedroom unit. The previous owner made the conversion without proper permitting, turning the four-bedroom into a one-bedroom and a three-bedroom. That particular one-bedroom does not have a proper kitchen or means of controlling heat, but has still been leased as a separate unit.
“Basically the previous owner went in and chopped everything up and ruined the outside look,” Clark said. “We are just trying to salvage it.”
The net amount of people at the complex won’t change much, according to Hennarty. In fact, two of the units are already occupied and have been for 10 years. These are the families that have the right to remain in the units, even with the change of ownership, which is why MLH will move them out during the upgrades and then they will be able to reclaim their new and improved units.
“We will most likely move them into two units that MLH already owns,” Hennarty told The Sheet. State law requires MLH to pay any difference between the rent the families are paying now and an increase in the temporary locations they will be moved to. “If we put them in our units we can just charge them what they are paying now,” she said
Hennarty said that optimistically the upgrades would take about four to five months, but realistically could be more like six to seven months.
“The goal is to avoid anyone having to move in winter,” she said.
Since it will be a MLH-held building, the current market-rate property will become permanent affordable housing. MLH will lease the units to households at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Mono County.
This change did not sit well with Mammoth local Leigh Gaasch, who believed that putting workforce housing in among market rate housing would lower the value of the market rate homes.
The four-plex is located across the street from another MLH project, Aspen Village, therefore the immediate area surrounding it is a mix of deed-restricted and market rate housing.
Hennarty stated, in response to Gaasch’s concern, that “deed-restricted units are not used in the appraisal process for [market rate] homes around them. Those sales are taken out.” Therefore, Hennarty believed they do not affect the value of surrounding homes.
Gaasch still did not agree. “We’re not stupid, if a home next to you sells for 90 percent less why would someone want to purchase yours for more?”
While Planning Commissioners did not seem to share Gaasch’s concerns, they did have some concerns of their own.
Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney hoped to be able to solve the neighborhood parking issues while rehabilitating this project. She claimed that often cars at this property stuck out into, and even parked in the street during the winter. She hoped to reconfigure portions of the structure to improve the parking. Hennarty however, clarified that, with their tight budget, they were really trying to focus on the interior of the units in order to help the tenants and improve their quality of life.
Town Associate Planner Jen Daugherty explained that each of the one-bedroom units was allowed one parking spot and the three-bedroom unit was allowed two spots, for a total of five parking spots on the property. According to Daugherty, the law does not require that the Town provide any additional spots for guest parking.
The Commission agreed with an earlier request from Hennarty that the curb around the dumpster required in the application would be a hindrance to parking and snow removal, and therefore modified the language to read that not a curb, but something, should be installed to keep the dumpster, which had a tendency move about, in place. The Commission then approved the permit unanimously.