If you think attending a Floor Area Ratio (F.A.R.) discussion at a Mammoth Lakes Economic Development and Planning Commission screams self-abuse, well, you’re right. My goal here is not to pass this self-abuse onto the customer.
What is Floor Area ratio and why are we talking about it? Well, according to some website called investopedia: “F.AR. is the total square feet of a building divided by the total square feet of the lot the building is located on. F.A.R is used by local governments in zoning codes. Higher F.A.Rs tend to indicate more urban (dense) construction.”
If one were a cynic, which clearly I am not, one might assume that F.A.R., which proponents would categorize as a widely-accepted industry standard, will be used as a Trojan Horse to gain political leverage (and allowable development density) at the planning level.
Use a F.A.R. of 2.0, and the Town’s staff report released during Wednesday’s workshop iondicates that you would have maximum density of 76 rooms/acre.
In the current code, a maximum of 80 rooms/acre is allowed provided “community benefits” (the historical example being the provision of underground parking) are extracted from the developer.
In the F.A.R. model, the developer gets almost as many rooms without having to promise any community benefits.
Long-time local Gordon Alper clearly thought this perplexing. If a F.A.R. of 2.0 creates a number that is out-of-whack with the Town’s General Plan, why wouldn’t planners revise the proposed F.A.R. downward (say to 1.3, or 1.5, or whatever) to have it in better alignment?
The muddled answer appeared to be that Mammoth, saddled with a cumbersome commercial zoning code, needs to simplify its rules for developers by creating a “white box” concept. In other words, the F.A.R. calculation gives a developer the box size, at which point he can do whatever the heck he wants within the parameters of that box.
Conveniently, the F.A.R. being proposed now would allow that developer to do a lot more than he used to.
Planning Commission Chair Mickey Brown tried to assuage Alper with this bit of misdirection: “We’re not going from 40 to 80 [rooms per acre]. We’re going from 40 to 2.0.”
At another juncture, Brown suggested that the Town would save water by doubling the number of units. Lost me there.
MMSA’s Tom Hodges made the more cogent argument for F.A.R. He said, “We want to make sure we can utilize fully the boxes we’re creating.”
The implication being that current code can be applied a bit too rigidly. And for comparison’s sake, he noted that the Village at Mammoth basically has an F.A.R. of 2.0.
I did find it interesting that Brown appeared to advocate for a 2.0 F.A.R. in the morning workshop, and then, in the afternoon, voted
against recommendation of a project (Inn at the Village) which, as proposed, boasts an F.A.R. of 1.75.
I wrote the following to John Urdi last week:
“My daughter subscribes to Discovery Girls Magazine. In the October/November issue, there is a feature entitled “BFF Contest Winners.”
One pair of BFFs, ages 10 and 11, writes:
“Our friendship is unique because we both are weird and we don’t care what other people say about it … Our most memorable moment was when we got lost while skiing on Mammoth Mountain. We were following Zoe’s dad down the mountain, but when we got to the lift station we couldn’t find him anywhere! We were both scared. We skied down to the lodge and told a worker we were lost. He gave us a phone to call Zoe’s dad. We were scared but at least we had each other!”
The little profile occupied a half page.
How much does this equate to in in-kind marketing value?
Is the marketing value diminished by the fact that they got lost, or enhanced by the fact that the MMSA employee was helpful?
I think it goes back to the idea “that any PR is good PR” – They say it was their “most memorable moment” which means it meant something to them and the fact that the staffer assisted shows they were taken care of in a scary situation. As for marketing value – anytime Mammoth Lakes, Mammoth Mountain or any business in town gets mentioned, it helps create awareness for our destination. That’s pretty cool as I am sure that Discovery Girls Magazine has a huge distribution and Mammoth Mountain was mentioned. Obviously not something we had a hand in, but I see this as reinforcement of us as a destination and a good exposure opportunity.
Finally, this little exhortation from John Wentworth regarding the Forest Plan Revision. He said that the USFS is actually trying to plan three forests at once, and the Inyo is far different from the other two (located on the west side of the Sierra), because our natural resource is recreation as opposed to other interests (such as timber).
“The Inyo should be managed as a sustainable recreational forest.” he said.
Sheet: What’s it managed as now?
Wentworth: I don’t know.
The forest plan was last updated in 1988. Wentworth believes forest managers should be incentivized to collaborate with local partners like the Town of Mammoth.
The first of four Eastern Sierra Recreation Collaborative public meetings takes place this Tuesday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Bishop’s Cerro Coso campus. MLTPA (Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access) has raised money to fund the facilitation of these meetings.