Pictured: Watch out for parking tickets at the Village/
This holiday season added a new chapter to the storied history of the Village at Mammoth’s parking with the introduction of new management provided by EscapeLA.
Intrawest Real Estate Manager Jason Roland informed Village commercial tenants of the agreement between Intrawest and EscapeLA on Dec. 21, 2012 one day before EscapeLA began to limit Village employee parking and enforce paid parking rates for day skiers and shoppers in the lot across Minaret.
EscapeLA is just one in a long line of managers who have attempted to divine order from chaos in the Village parking lot since Village owner CNL signed a lease with lot owner Credit Suisse in November 2011. Until that time, in the words of former Intrawester Doug Ogilvy, who acted on behalf of Credit Suisse during the 2011 lease negotiations, Village manager Intrawest was “effectively squatting in the parking lot” (see “Don’t Shoot the Manager”).
Village parking has been a thorny issue since the Village was first built in 2003. Many Mammoth business owners believe the culprit for the current parking challenges is not CNL or Intrawest but the Town itself, which allowed Intrawest to shirk its responsibility for building an appropriate parking area for the Village, and then failed to follow through on its own promise to create a parking structure next to the Westin.
According to Principal Planner Ellen Clark, “The parking ratios established for the North Village are lower than in other parts of town because it has characteristics that can typically support lower parking requirements: good transit service (bus, gondola), pedestrian-orientation, and mixed uses that facilitate shared parking.”
Yet the roughly 220 parking spaces available in the paved lot across Minaret have proven far too few to support heavy traffic during holiday seasons, and this has much to do with the aforementioned gondola. The Village lot, which was intended only for Village patrons and employees, has instead become an overflow lot for day skiers wanting access to the gondola to Canyon and the buses to Main Lodge. “From someone who is right across the street from the lot, it is full on any busy day before retail even opens,” said Tonik owner Kristi Rowley.
This problem would perhaps be less frustrating if the Mountain also shared the Common Area Maintenance (CAM) fees that help pay for parking lot maintenance and management. However, that financial burden falls squarely on Village commercial owners, who then find themselves paying for a lot that none of their customers can park in. “We have this huge expense and no benefit,” said Old New York Deli owner Michael Raimondo. “They tell us the parking rates will help offset the CAM, but all that happens is the tenants get less business.”
Owners were therefore frustrated to discover that new management did little to deter skiers from parking in the lot over the holiday season. The fee for a skier’s full day of parking: $5. As many business owners noted, that is significantly less than comparable preferred parking, which runs at $20 a day at any of the Mountain lodges. “When I saw that [$5 fee] I thought, ‘this isn’t going to work,’” said Rowley. According to the horror stories related to her by customers over the following two weeks, it didn’t.
But customers weren’t the only ones telling horror stories: Village employees also had their fair share. With only 30 spots reserved by EscapeLA for employees, and 1-4 passes distributed to each commercial tenant according to square footage, many employees could not find parking during the holiday rush. Kristi Rowley wondered whether employees at non-CAM contributing businesses, like the gondola and McCoy Sports, were also eligible for the pool of 30 parking passes. “The parking area is over 10% of our CAM fees a month,” she said. “We pay rent, snow removal, electricity, signage, management. We paid to get those parking passes made. If employees of Mountain or Intrawest-owned businesses get to park here, shouldn’t they also pay into the CAM?” Both Intrawest and EscapeLA declined to comment.
Another complaint from Village business owners was the 1-hour limit imposed upon Village shoppers, after which they must pay a $3 day rate. “1 hour is ridiculous,” said Rowley. “It takes time to get to and from the car. Then all you have is 40 minutes to eat and shop.” Her suggestions: charge upwards of $30 for day skiers, and allow 3 hours of validated parking for Village patrons with proof of purchase. “If you want to buy a sandwich at Old New York Deli and get some riding in, fine,” she said. “But after 3 hours it shouldn’t be free.”
Most customers had little opportunity to rush through a meal or shopping trip, given few could park in the lot to begin with. As has happened in the past, Village parking then overflowed into the Berner Street lot, as well as Burgers, and the Alpenhof Lodge owned by the Schaubmayers (which houses Petra’s and the Clocktower as well).
Kirk Schaubmayer noted the challenges his businesses face when parking spills over into his lot. “People are always poaching,” he said. “It gets to a point where we should have a parking attendant. We love having the Village across the way, and the benefit of having the gondola. It could offset the cost of having an attendant, but the bummer is having to go there in the first place.”
Next-door neighbor Burgers pays some $3,000 per season for an attendant to staff its parking area, according to owner Ed Hurley. “It’s challenging,” he said. “$5,000 to $6,000 out of my pocket, it seems egregious for the Village to put that burden on its neighbors. That’s a bad neighbor policy.” Hurley noted that much could be done to help the Village parking situation were the dirt lot between Burger’s and the paved lot opened for parking. But, “Nobody wants to pay. Credit Suisse is not going to give it for free.”
Other Village and adjacent business owners noted that the Community Center could provide a temporary, or even long-term, solution to the Village parking problem. “I just brought up to the Town Council last week that the Community Center lot should be opened to parking,” said Councilman Michael Raimondo. “The Town owns it. It’s a logical site to build a structure.” Mammoth Brewing Company owner Sean Turner agreed; “Frankly, my opinion is we need to think outside the box with what happens to the Community Center. The tennis courts are 35 years old, and may need to be moved. That may be blasphemy to some, but that area could provide potential, additional parking for the North Village.”
Business owners concurred that the responsibility for building additional parking remains with the Town. “This is not a Village problem,” Ed Hurley said, “it’s a Town problem, and it’s becoming a neighborhood problem. But the Town money is gone. We basically have a broke entity, so what are you going to do? The Village is going to have to suffer the slings and arrows, so to speak.”
Michael Raimondo was more optimistic. “It’s a financial issue, but I think it’s time that the Town takes some leadership and creates a long-term plan for development,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how do we fund it, and getting all the landowners to participate.”
Until that time, business owners like Kirk Schaubmayer argued that ultimately, the plethora of cars, whether they belong to Mountain or Village patrons, is a positive problem. “It’s just a bummer we have to deal with it.”