So often news organizations are criticized, and rightly so, for lack of follow up. The hazards, I suppose, of a business that’s subject to a fair amount of immediacy and triage and too little contemplation.
The front page story on the Meridian Court affordable housing project is the culmination of about four months of work that Angela Evans put in (when she had the luxury to devote the time).
I was interested in the story because I was one of the original owners in Meridian Court, and one of three original owners fortunate enough to sell before the 2008 crash.
As luck would have it, I got married in 2007 and my wife owned her own condo, so we sold the Meridian Court unit back to Mammoth Lakes Housing when we became eligible in the summer of 2008 (having owned the property the minimum of two years).
I really liked my little place, but during the two years I lived there, the issues cropped up pretty quickly.
I thought the construction and design were perfectly reasonable. The worst part was the parking. I move in, one car, fine. But as soon as my family expanded, it was a nightmare. There were four guest parking spots total for 24 units. And by the second year, the unit below us was being rented by three or four guys – not the original couple.
The other issue was that the buyback program was presented as a guarantee. Worst-case scenario, we were all told that Mammoth Lakes Housing would buy our units. So it was presented as a no-risk proposition. Obviously, experience teaches folks that nothing is no-risk, particularly real estate, but at the time, you could say all of us neophytes were being preyed upon. When I read about the plight of my former neighbors, all I can think is, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
Yes, I got lucky by accident (my wife saving me from myself, however, has become a common theme) and was able to unload my unit. However, if I had simply rented a place for $1,000/month (I had rented a room on Pinecrest in a very nice home prior to moving into Meridian Court) versus spending $1,900/month in mortgage, HOA and property tax, I would have come out just as well.
Another thing we followed up this week was in regard to the Town’s legal expenses. Last year, we made a public records request and found that the Town spent approx. $254,000 on legal services in 2013.
So what was the damage this year?
The projected billings (we extrapolated the totals because a few bills remain outstanding) of Town Attorney Andrew Morris (~$112,000) and farmed out work to his former firm Best, Best and Krieger (~$115,000) total $227,000 for 2014.
Just finished reading “The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power” by Robert Caro, published in 1982 (The Sheet is always current) and found the chapter on rural electrification striking, just because the current issues with broadband connection appear similar.
As Caro wrote about Texas farmers petitioning to have their homes hooked up: “The answer they received was almost invariably that it was too expensive – as much as $5,000 per mile, the utilities said – to build lines to individual farms; that even if the lines were built, farmers would use little electricity because they couldn’t afford to buy electrical appliances; that farmers wouldn’t even be able to pay the monthly bills, since, due to low usage, farm rates would have to be higher.”
However, Caro added, studies had long disproved the utilities’ figures. A 1925 survey … found that the cost of lines would be, not $5,000, but $1,225 per mile.
“The utilities true attitude became clear; not that rural electric service could not be profitable, but that it would not be as profitable as urban service. Or as surefire.”
The criterion for utilities was return on investment. “As long as the rate was higher in the cities,” wrote Caro, “why bother with the farms?”
My favorite was the story about the fifty-yard rule.
If your home was within fifty yards of the electrical line, they had to hook you up.
Some folks, in order to get electricity, physically moved their homes within fifty yards of the line … but were still told by the utilities that they wouldn’t be hooked up. Why? It was argued that such a policy would establish precedent.