Sierra Valley Sites residents get to root of neighborhood problems
After years of being more or less neglected by the Town, Sierra Valley Sites is finally getting its day in the Neighborhood District Planning sun. And at a workshop Wednesday evening, Sierra Valley residents finally identified the root cause of most of their concerns: density.
During the open forum portion of the workshop, numerous residents all came to consensus that a lot of the problems that need to be addressed in the Sierra Valley NDP can be traced back to density, and related variances and bonuses that the Town had granted to developers. Many of those developers have, over the years, opted to “dump” their affordable/workforce housing mitigation into Sierra Valley Sites. That, a preponderance of Sierra Valley residents think, has contributed to snow storage, parking, traffic and trash issues, among other nuisances.
Increased density on some lots has, many agreed, led to a web of small nightmares. Parking has expanded to the point where dumpsters are now located within the 20-foot required setbacks, when they should be behind properties. According to 2000 census data, 11% of renter households were classified as “severely overcrowded,” a number that’s likely to increase once 2010 figures are available.
Forty percent of the properties at that time were also classified as being “deteriorated” or in “disrepair.”
The Town has a certain amount of discretion over state-required affordable housing density increases and bonuses, and residents generally reiterated earlier calls for no further affordable housing or density bonuses relative to Sierra Valley, and even a possible return to original zoning specifications.
Current zoning has been in place for at least 30 years, dating back to the 1970s. Town Senior Planner Ellen Clark said there have been some changes in parcel and footprint sizes, etc., but added that overall zoning has remained generally consistent.
They also advocated stricter monitoring of parking and setback requirements.
Sites resident Steve Searles pointed to transient population as an additional component of the problems. Searles noted, to considerable agreement, that most assaults and other infractions typically get quick response from the MLPD officers, but many other problems do not, because they’re not reported. One local said she feared reprisals from angry transients.
“We have lots of locals here who care, most with hundreds of years of collective experience living [in Sierra Valley], and a Police Department that works and and is responsive,” Searles opined. “The problem isn’t with the locals, it’s with the transients.”
Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson thanked residents for their support, and said he’d look into extra patrols to remedy residents’ fears of assaults and cases of retribution directed at whistle-blowing locals.
He said the workshops, while not protesting their intent or effectiveness, are “preaching to the choir,” and indicated that the real troublemakers weren’t going to be at the bilingual meeting Thursday evening. “There’s really nothing wrong with the roads or the neighborhood. Things can be improved, but, bottom line, you’ve gotta get rid of the knuckleheads.”
Other issues …
Traffic calming might not be as much of an issue as first thought, in light of statistics that show fairly consistent observing of speed limits through the area. On Manzanita, for example, the 2008 Speed Survey revealed that 91.34% drove at or below the posted 25 mile per hour limit.
The area isn’t, however, without its problem spots. Lupin, south of Dorrance, showed that 48.08% of motorists were clocked at more than 25 mph, which Clark indicated could use some work.
Accidents involving pedestrians and bikes, however, were relatively scant. Most events involved cars skidding on ice, and then hitting trees, power poles and other “fixed objects.”
Between 2000 and 2010, just four incidents in each category were recorded, leading many to wonder if any sidewalk measures are actually needed. The Town has right of way through the area to put in sidewalks, but as Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw observed, the discussion comes down to one of safety versus those who don’t want them due to impacts on the “character” of the neighborhood.
Indeed, a show of hands vote Wednesday evening resulted in almost unanimous acceptance of keeping the streets more or less as they are, with perhaps little more needed than some widening for additional “shoulder” space. No one voted for a sidewalk system, and just 2 were in favor of a trail-connector system.
Still, some comments suggested more thought on how to address some trespassing problems. A delineated right or way was suggested to facilitate access to Sierra Star without trespassing on private property, and the Planning Commission added Chaparral to the study area specifically to look at how access to bus routes might encourage trespassing on private property.
Also, look for storm drainage to figure pominently on the radar screen, especially if expected runoff from another record year of snowfall cuts a path through Sierra Valley.
One option or idea that probably won’t see much action: relocating power lines underground, which was brought up in a previous workshop. Sierra Valley’s Leigh Gaasch did some fact-finding and reported that, according to Southern California Edison, underground retrofits would cost roughly $60,000-$100,000 per line, a figure that quickly moved the discussion on to other matters.
The public can follow the NDP progress when the Planning Commission conducts a workshop on the Draft Report in May. The timeline calls for results of that workshop will be sent to the Town Council for its review and possible acceptance sometime in June.