“The Town’s information flow over the planning efforts of The Parcel may be a bit overboard. I can appreciate that they are trying to get people engaged in the process and are looking for feedback from people who normally aren’t expressive or involved. I’m not sure tons of mailings and advertising are going to be effective. There is an old axiom in the real estate business that you “can’t advertise the market into activity.” I get the feeling the Town is just trying to buy some time until they figure out what to do. And again, the rules of the game have changed; the State is promoting workforce housing and supposedly has dollars to infuse, but the last round of federal tax changes have removed some of the corporate incentives to be involved in workforce housing. Push may come to shove. The Town may have to increasingly reallocate some of its bed tax (TOT) windfall into housing.”
Paul Oster wrote the above in his newsletter earlier this month. Given Wednesday’s abysmally unproductive Town Council workshop on “The Parcel,” I think he was pretty much dead-on in his assessment.
You know what Wednesday felt like? It felt like the entire bureaucratic weight of the Town of Mammoth Lakes had its foot pressing the brake pedal to the floor.
Because no one knows what to do, and everyone’s afraid of making mistakes.
Public Works Director Grady Dutton said of The Parcel. “We’ve got one chance. We need to do it right.” He repeated this later in the meeting. It’s indicative of the mindset. It’s one thing to tell people they have to skate in a tent. It would be another thing to tell ‘em they’re gonna sleep in one.
Town staff is nervous.
The public presentation by consultant and former employee Jen Daugherty said nothing. Illuminated nothing. I wrote down some of the cliches for kicks: “Inclusive engagement,” “Guiding principles,” Development objectives,” “Conceptual planning work.” Lot of syllables. No meat. A McDonald’s hamburger.
At one point she let slip that she worked on previous concept plans for the property 14 YEARS AGO while she worked for the Town.
Sure we can’t recycle anything from that? Why can’t we just scoop some Tollhouse cookie dough onto the baking sheet? Why do we have to make the damn cookies from scratch?
Members of the public tried to engage staff and Council. Kirk Stapp said the latest housing needs assessment determined that the Town needs 600 more units by some date in the 2020s. He may as well have said we needed infinity. We’ll never hit that number. Why even commission housing needs assessments?
*I would’ve charged $20 for my expert needs assessment. I would’ve told them we needed “a lot.”
Stapp also mentioned that the maximum number of units the Town can build on The Parcel using affordable housing density bonuses is 344.
So Drew Hild, who has an ownership stake in the Sierra Center Mall, tried to at least commit the Town to that. Reasonable, right? If you don’t build the 344, where do the rest come from? Can you really settle for anything less than 344? he asked.
Hild was clearly trying to extract some sort of promise of … something. Some incremental movement forward. A tiny decision. Some sort of justification for attending the workshop so he could feel like the Town had made one baby step toward one poured foundation.
Instead, he was admonished for being way too far ahead of the process by Mayor Cleland Hoff.
“We’re just getting started,” is what he was told.
I leaned over to ask former Councilman Colin Fernie to remind me when the Town bought the property. Two years ago. And we’re just getting started. Christ.
So … I’m going to give a shout-out to Mammoth Lakes Tourism here.
I may not agree with the $3.5 million they give to their Sacramento-based advertising agency every year – it seems way too lavish – but you know what? It may not be the most efficient use of resources, but at least they get the job done.
Meanwhile, Grady Dutton and Town Manager Dan Holler are inefficiently NOT getting the job done.
For those playing Who Wants To Be A Master Builder at home, it‘s time for Grady and Dan to call a friend.
And as I’ve said a thousand times before, call Andrea Clark, Mammoth’s first Housing Director and the only person who’s ever gotten any affordable housing built in Mammoth.
Clark is still in the biz. She works with her husband Caleb Roope, who is the Founder and CEO of The Pacific Companies (TPC). From Roope’s bio on the TPC website: “He has over 20 years of professional real estate experience with a concentration in affordable housing development, and over his career has successfully constructed more than 160 apartment communities for lower and moderate income families and senior citizens.”
Clearly, we can’t possibly use any of that.
So I called Clark this week. I asked her if anyone from the Town had contacted her. Nope. She them mentioned that TPC is working on an 11-acre affordable housing project for Placer County. The escrow hasn’t even been finalized yet, and TPC is already in the site-planning phase.
Mayor Hoff said at one point Wednesday, “If this was [sic] easy, everyone would be doing this.”
Lunch response: It may not be easy, but why do you have to make it so damn hard?
Council needs to tell Holler and Dutton it’s time to step aside on this one. But honestly, I don’t think this Council has the heart or the nerve to manage its one employee (Holler) or stand up for its constituents.
Are dogs good for your health?
As a tie-in to our story about dog feces, (because we want to remind our visitors that this is a small-town newspaper bent on covering the biggest, stinkiest issues around), there was a story in The Economist this week concerning the “Global Boom in Pet-Keeping.”
A few observations:
“Pet-pushers have spent years trying to prove that animals improve human health, and have largely failed.
Yes, a study might say dog owners get out more and visit the doctor less, but that might also suggest comparatively sociable, healthy people are more likely to acquire dogs.
A study of California that tried to correct for social and economic influences concluded that having a pet is not associated with better general health. It is, however, correlated with having asthma.”
But now for the good news. Pets are good for men trying to meet women.
“A decade ago, researchers positioned a 20-year old man in a park in Paris and had him repeat the same chat-up line to 240 young women. When the man lacked a dog, he obtained 9% of the women’s phone numbers. While holding a dog on a lead, however, his success rate rose to 28%.”
Okay, before I continue further I’m gonna let you in on a secret: I’m running on fumes here. It’s 8:17 p.m. I’ve got two columns left to finish (pages 23 and 27). I should just publish the nonsense stats from the Town’s Parcel “Outreach” presentation to kill space.
But I’d kill myself first. You know, there were 13 Town staffers at that workshop Wednesday. For a total of 3 hours apiece. that’s 39 hours of staff time at an average rate of about $125/hour if you factor in benefits. That totals about $5,000 from the taxeating trough for that travesty.
As a dovetail to James’s story on page seven regarding the Inyo County Sheriff’s dept. salaries.
I recently made a public records request of the Town of Mammoth, City of Bishop, Inyo County and Mono County regarding wages and union contracts.
What was interesting to me were the adjustments made in 2012-2013. Let’s use Mono County as the example.
For the Mono Sheriff’s Dept., if you were hired before 2013, the retirement formula was 3% @ age 50.
After 2013, it became 2.7% @ age 57
For Paramedics, there was a hit in “Longevity compensation.” Employees hired before 2013 shall receive longevity pay of 6.5% of base pay after 12 years of service.
Same deal with the Mono County Public Employees, who are eligible for longevity pay if they were hired before August, 2011.
And in relation to retirement, if they were hired after 2013, they get 2% @ 62. It used to be 2.7% @ 55.
The Public Employees Pension Reform Act of 2013 is credited with these changes, which I’m sure were truly initiated by the Great Recession of 2008.
What I can’t find offhand is the Inyo County Sheriff Deputies contract. I would tend to go with James’s story regarding pay disparity, but I want to research their retirement deal.
As we reported last week, Mammoth Lakes pays more than Bishop, but the City of Bishop offers superior benefits. Does the same hold true with the respective counties?
Shoot. I just found this in my notes. Ward Jones admonition to Town Council regarding The Parcel: “Go make a mistake. Do something!”
In regard to Graham Inder’s letter and the photo of 71 Davison Road, Mono County Supervisor Stacy Corless weighed in as follows:
Corless said Mono County Behavioral Health backed off on pursuing “Supportive Housing” at 71 Davison because of neighborhood pressure.
The general consensus was: “I don’t want those people living by me.”
The upshot: Corless says we’re going to have an eyesore there for as long asit takes for the County to figure it out.
“Print my number,” she said. “They can call if they’d like.”
I hope folks have had a chance to pick up a copy of The Sheet’s Eastern Sierra Summer Guide, which hit the shelves last Friday.
Aleksandra Mendel truly did a fabulous job putting the book together.
One of the stories in this year’s publication talks about Robert Joki and the two 1992 Penske racing team cars which he has restored.
The cars will make an appearance in this year’s 4th of July Parade in Mammoth and will be featured in next weekend’s Concours d’Elegance car show at Mammoth Museum’s Hayden Cabin.
A few details which were omitted from the Summer Guide story due to space considerations:
1. Robert Joki is a big, big guy. He’s gotta be 6’5” minimum. And he’s built like a mountain. So one of the fascinating things about his Indy car obsession is the fact that he restores cars that he’ll never be able to drive. He can’t fit.
“Race car drivers are built like jockeys.” Joki observed while I was out visiting him at his airport hangar in Mammoth where his cars are currently stored.
Though he said Indy driver Paul Tracy has offered to strap him to the wing of the Mears car and take him for a lap if he wants.
2. The explanation for Joki’s obsession lies, I think, in the fact that Rick Mears is his favorite athlete of all time.
And I guess I’ve never met someone whose favorite athlete is a driver.
Mears grew up in Bakersfield. He won the Indianapolis 500 four times, tied with A.J. Foyt for most ever.
The speedway car you’ll see this weekend was the same car Mears used to reach his final podium, a 2nd at Surfer’s Paradise.
After he wrecked at Indy in May, 1992, Mears never raced again.
3. Speedway cars, explained Joki, have no brake ducts. Why? You only use your brakes in Indy racing to go to the pits, so there’s no risk of overheating.
“If you’re using brakes for anything [on the track],” said Joki with a twinkle, “that probably means you’re not winning.”
4. Joki bought the car in 2005. It took abvout ten years to restore. Original Penske team members who were pivotal in the restoration process were John Cummiskey and Chuck Cornelison
5. When Joki bought the Mears car, it didn’t have an engine, and Joki thought it was an absolute impossibility to acquire one. After all, Penske only built six cars for that racing season.
But as he explains, “We paid to restore one guy’s two engines … in return, an engine magically appeared on our loading dock.”
He still doesn’t know where it came from.
Some of Joki’s photo albums will be on display at the museum for 4th of july weekend.
And a final little piece of trivia. That “Marlboro” you’ll see placed prominently on the Mears car – these days, you’re not allowed to put “Marlboro” on cars as a sponsor anymore. Only the logo.
Hope to see you all on Victory Lane.