Park Place vs. Boardwalk
Mammoth’s Town Council and Planning and Economic Development Commission (PEDC) held a special joint meeting on Wednesday to discuss the preferred draft plan for The Parcel workforce housing development.
Public Works Director Grady Dutton, told Council and PEDC members that, “We have a request for qualifications submitted [for developers], and we think we have captured the desires of the community while balancing the financial realities.”
The consultants who have been advising the Town for what seems like the past forty years then gave their presentation to the audience of 25-30 people. Some key takeaways:
-The full parcel plan is split into four phases to be rolled out as money and/or developers become available.
-Every phase has a mix of unit types from studio apartments to one, two, and three bedroom units.
-According to Iman Novin, President of Novin Development, a conservative estimate for completion of phase one of the project is November 2023.
-This first phase would deliver 138 units and service a predicted Area Median Income (AMI) between 30-80%
-The total development cost of the first phase is around $60 million, or approximately $435,000/unit. Based on predicted grants, tax credits, and soft costs (waived developer fees), Novin predicted the funding gap, or the amount the Town would pay, to be $ million, or $36,000 per unit.
-The second phase, which has no timeline as of right now, would deliver 85 units servicing an AMI between 30-80%
-The cost for the second phase is an estimated $45,000,000 and the funding gap is $9 million or $106,000 per unit.
-The third phase has 136 units and the fourth phase has 84 units which leads to 443 total units on the Parcel. These phases have not been analyzed for feasibility because Novin said, “we wanted to focus on the tangible first two phases.”
The final takeaway was the bus stops, with a focus on the walk/ bike/ ride initiative. This led to the consultants’ presentation on parking. Jen Daugherty, of Lisa Wise Consulting, gave the case, “Providing parking can be prohibitive and costly. We looked at transit alternatives to incorporate into our preferred plan. This was to make it conducive to reduced parking.”
Parking was an issue at the last Parcel presentation by consultants in November. Councilman Wentworth gave the consultants direction by asking them to “find creative solutions” to the problem.
The solutions proposed: a car stacker garage. An electric bike and scooter rental share programs. And an “unbundling option” which would provide parking to tenants for a fee. Households that needed extra parking could pay for more spots and households that didn’t need any would save money.
The team ultimately created a conceptual use plan that offered a parking per unit ratio of 1.36, which is less than current developments at Aspen Village (1.5), the Jeffrey’s (2.0), and Manzanita (1.5).
Daugherty explained that adding more parking leads to a “cycle of automobile dependency.” The argument, as fickle as it may be, is a generous supply of parking creates a community reliant on their vehicles. This leads to more demand for parking and thus the cycle continues. Daugherty told Council a lack of parking spaces is a realistic option because the Parcel is abnormally “walkable,” due to its proximity to key areas in town.
Councilman Kirk Stapp did not believe Lisa Wise Consulting would free Mammoth from being too reliant on automobiles. “Based on the units, we will need 886 parking spaces (443 units x 2) and we have 500. I understand there are some parking solutions but how are we going to deal with this? People can walk, but there are only so many people employed at Schat’s Bakery,” he said.
During public comment, proponents of the plan claimed that the town pursuing its walk/bike/ride policy goal was a commendable effort properly executed by the consultants.
37-year resident Mark Davis demurred. “In my time here, we have come a long way as a pedestrian-friendly town … but it is just not that [pedestrian-friendly] in the winter. The key to get people to use public transportation is to leave them a space at home. To tax that might be inequitable.”
Jennifer Kreitz, Mammoth-based Mono County Supervisor, reiterated the inequality, “I agree with everyone’s comments of ‘let’s be feet first, let’s ride bikes, let’s not waste resources on parking’. But one of the things as an elected official is how to make policy decisions equitable. You are asking this local group to have less because you are championing this foot first policy. But you are not asking wealthy people to do that. So there is a disparity … ”
Councilmembers Wentworth, Stapp and Cleland Hoff agreed that parking was an issue, with Hoff telling the audience, “I am not comfortable asking somebody to do something I am not willing to do,” before she referenced the “deja vu” she was experiencing in comparison to the Village at Mammoth – which infamously was built without adequate parking in place.
Salcido then posed a question to staff. “If we do not accept the preferred plan would that stall out the process?” she asked. “What does it do if we stop and consider [our options]?”
Dutton responded, “Speaking from a developer point of view, they might look at it and say ‘well I am not going to wait and back out’.”
Tom Cage, owner of Kittredge Sports, took the podium to tell Council, “We need to set goals for timing. Look at what can be done in parallel so we can move forward with this project.”
Council and the PEDC were in the middle of semantic arguments while Cage told the Sheet, “John [Wentworth] is willing to make sure this doesn’t break ground in two years.”
Next, Tom Hodges, Vice President of Development for Mammoth Mountain stepped up. “These things can be analyzed under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act),” said Hodges, “We don’t want to pull the reins on this.” He urged Council to “hire a developer and we can figure it out in the meantime. We need to do things concurrently so we don’t hold up a developer in the process.”
The remaining public comments were in juxtaposition with Hodges. Wentworth summed up their rhetoric, “I am prepared to accept this, this evening. But I take specific issue with Mr. Hodges’ comments that CEQA is going to figure this out. That is absolutely the wrong approach. CEQA is a way to get out of doing things. That is not leadership, that is not proactive, that is a way of getting out of doing things first.”
When Wentworth proposed an action item that added multiple modifications to the proposed action items, Cage stormed out the room, telling Council, “It’s going to be six years before you finish this!”
Wentworth clapped back, “See you, Tom.”
Cage exited, saying “See you, good luck.”
The Sheet followed Cage outside and asked him why he disagreed. “[Wentworth] is willing to hold up this whole thing for transportation issues and a trail system/plan … “
Cage told the Sheet that housing is the number one issue facing the community. He explained the difficulties of hiring employees anecdotally, referencing certain employers who offer employees 25% raises to leave their present job.
The end result of the meeting: Wentworth’s motion that Town Council “accept the Parcel conceptual land use plan as presented and that Council further direct sStaff to come back with proposals and financing to mitigate the parking transportation and mobility and connectivity needs of future residents in the Parcel to the rest of the community of Mammoth Lakes.”
The motion passed 4-0.