It does seem a bit incongruous.
As you’re driving north on Highway 395 past McGee Creek, up in the distance you see a bright blue rectangle in the middle of what formerly was grazing pasture.
As you get closer, you realize the bright blue rectangle looks like an old railroad car. And you see other old railroad cars next to it.
As you get even closer, you see a poured concrete foundation, you see that the railroad cars have been cut, you see a mobile construction trailer.
What the heck is happening here?
The short answer is, a home made out of steel cargo shipping containers is being constructed on the site by an owner/builder named David Hastings, a resident of San Clemente.
Hastings began his quest to build on the parcel way back in 2009. He plans a 700-square foot residence with a 960-square foot garage and a 312-square foot porch.
Some of the three-acre lot is wetlands, and there’s also a stream running through the property, but Hastings was able to site the construction in such a way as to avoid triggering CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) regulations.
And because he conformed to the regulations of various state agencies, that is why the project never went before Mono County Planning Commission.
As Mono County Planning Director Scott Burns said, “The answer in these situations is a land exchange – get it out of private ownership.”
Mono County Planner Heather DeBethizy added, “It’s unfortunate that this is a private piece of property. We tried to encourage a land exchange … and we all thought he would eventually get discouraged [by all the phone calls and paperwork and communication involved with the various permitting agencies – including Fish and Game and Lahontan].”
“If anything,” DeBethizy added, “it was more expensive and took longer to build in this location … but at a certain point, outside people can’t tell you what to do anymore.”
Bea Beyer, who owns property above the Hastings lot, described Hastings as “one of those guys who thinks he knows everything and can do anything … I feel like he’s treating [the Sierra] like San Clemente.”
She predicted the home would resemble the new courthouse in Mammoth, and would blight the scenic corridor.
*Editor’s note: To be fair, there’s some blight out there already. There’s a Caltrans facility right up the road and the neighbors across the highway have various items, including a boat, stored uncovered on the hillside.
While Beyer acknowledged the home would have no visual impact to her, she said the three-year window Hastings has to complete the project will certainly impact millions of people traveling Highway 395.
“If he were building a little log cabin out there and he did it in a timely fashion, I wouldn’t have an issue with it,” she said.
She is also dismayed by the disappearance of the egrets and the fingerling trout at the site. “It used to be a major rookery [for the egrets],” she said.
Mr. Hastings did not respond to the several attempts made to reach him.
From Vane’s desk …
Danhakl parcel nears finish line
Mammoth’s Planning and Economic Development Commission (PEDC) concluded its deliberation on the proposal to subdivide the Danhakl Parcel along Old Mammoth Road, Tamarack and Carter Street, on September 25. The Commission voted 4-0 in favor of approving the Tentative Parcel Map, with Commissioner David Harvey recusing himself as a neighbor living within 300 feet of the parcel.
In June, Jim Danhakl, who owns the parcel with his brother, presented the PEDC with a Tentative Parcel Map for the proposed subdivision. Neighbors and other members of the Mammoth community voiced strong objections. Their primary concern was the effect that a subdivision might have on the wetland area on the Danhakl Parcel, familiar to residents and visitors as a lush, open meadow.
The proposed subdivision would split the approximately 2.44 acre lot in two, with the existing family home on Parcel 1. The tack room/garage, corral, majority of the driveway and wetland meadow would remain on Parcel 2. Although Danhakl pointed out that he was not proposing any development on Parcel 2, the subdivision would facilitate a development that could be as large as about 3,000 square feet, with easements and setbacks.
At the September 11 PEDC meeting, Danhakl outlined his efforts to preserve the meadow in perpetuity, either through a conservation easement with Eastern Sierra Land Trust, or through a donation to the Town of Mammoth Lakes. He was pursuing these options to satisfy the concerns of residents, as well as because, like those residents, “I want… to drive up Old Mammoth 50 years from now and see a beautiful meadow,” he said.
Associate Planner Jen Daugherty offered further assurance of wetland preservation in the form of a condition of approval for the Tentative Parcel Map. Should Danhakl or a developer pursue any development on the new parcel, that proposal would undergo a review and approval process by the Community and Economic Development Commission (CEDC) Design Committee. Per General Plan policies, the Committee would require any development to “avoid wetland disturbance to the greatest degree possible,” and maintain open space around slopes that exceed 20-25%, stream and scenic corridors, and wetland areas, Daugherty said.
To further convince the PEDC of his good intentions, Danhakl also promised a Letter of Intent for preserving the wetlands. He provided the letter, which outlines options for preserving the wetland, “In good faith,” said Commissioner Collin Fernie. Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney, who noted at the September 11 meeting that “I’ve been burned before because I voted for something before assurance was given,” was satisfied. “The key thing was the Letter of Intent,” she said.
Notwithstanding the Letter of Intent, Fernie said, “In our viewpoint, none of the wetland could be built upon in the future, regardless.” This is not only because of Danhakl’s assurances, but also because of General Plan requirements, and the oversight of the CEDC Design Committee. “The building pad will be confined to the already disturbed area,” Tenney said.s
Now that the PEDC has approved the Tentative Parcel Map, with the condition of development proposal oversight by the CEDC Deign Committee, the Tentative Parcel Map will now become a Final Parcel Map. That Final Parcel Map will “take into consideration all of the comments and the regulations on the parcel,” Fernie said. The resulting map will once again come before the PEDC for final approval.
Chamber bristles at Times article
A Mammoth Times editorial regarding a recently passed Minimum Wage increase raising the wage from $8 to $10 within 18 months provoked the response below from Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce President Jack Copeland:
“The Mammoth Chamber does not oppose raising the minimum wage. The Chamber advocates a gradual increase to the $10 mark rather than a quick one. A gradual increase will allow businesses to absorb wage increases without dramatic changes to their fragile balance sheets. A sudden 25% increase in the minimum wage over a short 18 months would require affected businesses and industries to raise prices proportionately in order to pay for the increases.
The Mammoth business community is very aware of price sensitivity in our market. We seek to avoid price increases that are not aimed at increasing visitation or that outright jeopardize visitation. We recognize the need for an increase in the minimum wage and support it, but would like to avoid increasing the already high cost of living in Mammoth and California.”
Editor’s note: The use of ‘bristles’ was Copeland’s, not mine.