This week, Mammoth Lakes Housing (MLH), and the Planning and Economic Development Commission (PEDC) watched and commented on a presentation from Town staff regarding a proposed zoning code amendment that would allow developers to double the density on a parcel as long as the excess units are designated for workforce housing.
Nolan Bobroff, the Town’s housing director, said at Monday’s MLH meeting, “The last private development to use [the density bonus] was 2004 and it has only been government subsidized projects that have used it since then.”
In 2007, the Town adopted a new Town Density Bonus Program to incentivize developers to build workforce housing rather than just market rate units but, according to Bobroff, it didn’t really work.
There is a statewide density bonus, up to 35%, that has concessions, waivers, or reductions to applicable fees associated with it. However, the Town has no ability to make amendments to this program. The program that the Town wants would allow them more flexibility in regards to implementation.
All of which leads to the updated density bonus program, which essentially allows up to double density as long as a percentage of the additional units on a parcel are designated to workforce housing.
Here is a broken-down version of the density bonus program:
Mammoth Lakes is zoned for parcels with 12 units per acre. If a developer wants more units on that parcel, up to 24 units an acre, they can get the added density if a certain percentage of houses are designated to local workforce within a certain area median income (AMI).
Why is it confusing? To determine what percentage of units need to be deed-restricted to certain AMI’s, the Town uses an equation which calculates a percentage of usable density requested to come up with a system of eligibility points.
In order to get eligibility points developers need to designate some units to workforces within AMI’s.
For example: If a developer has a one acre parcel designated for 12 units and wants to build 18 total units then they are requesting six additional units. Six additional units divided by 12 total possible units the developer could request due to double density is .5 which leads to 50 eligibility points. According to the eligibility points system in order to get 50 points a developer can deed restrict their units in four different ways, 30% to low income (41-80% AMI), 40% to moderate-income (81-120% AMI), 50% to middle-income (121-150% AMI), or 60% occupancy restricted (no income limit).
The percentage of deed-restricted units comes from the additional units requested.
In the example above, a developer wanted six units and realized they needed 50 eligibility points, so they could choose one of the above four options.
-Low-income (30%) = 1.8 units rounded up to 2
-Moderate-income (40%) = 2.4 units rounded up to 3
-Middle-income (50%) = 3 units
-Occupancy restricted (60%) = 3.6 units rounded up to 4
So the developer requested six additional units on a parcel designated for 12 units meaning 18 total units. They would have to deed restrict 2 units to low-income, 3 units to moderate-income, 3 units to middle-income, or 4 units being occupancy restricted. The developer would only needs to pick one of those options and they can build 18 units on the parcel.
There are concessions and incentives associated with the density for developers. They are eligible for one concession and can request more. The concessions are as follows: increase in lot coverage, up to 20% reduction in setbacks, up to 25% reduction in guest parking services, up to 10% increase in maximum permitted structure height, reduction in one of the multi-family residential development and operational standards, approval of mixed-use zoning in an area not otherwise allowed, and projects granted a town density bonus are permitted to haul snow off site.
The MLH board was mostly receptive to the idea and wrote a letter to PEDC with a few minor changes to the code amendment. They supported the points system and the reduction of the program to developers with a minimum of 2 zoned units (the 2007 code required at least 5 zoned units). The board did, however, want the parking reduction to be for all units and the reduction of guest parking to be a maximum of 1 space per unit. Parking often becomes an inequitable policy, and District 1 Supervisor Jennifer Kreitz desired the parking ratio to be across all AMI’s and not just the deed restricted ones.
The board also supported the prohibition on nightly rentals and liked the need for a use-permit as it could deter developers from applying for the density program.
They recommended developers only need a use permit if they have more than one concession.
Lastly, they supported the 1-year review period of the program, telling staff they wanted to see processes laid out showing the monitoring of the additional units.
When the PEDC saw MLH’s amenments, they mostly agreed besides a couple minor changes. Bobroff summarized, “The changes that were just discussed and agreed to by the commission were to keep the use-permit requirement, no reduction in parking, include the liveability standard for unit-size and distribution. And then add into the policy language and/or process for monitoring of the deed-restricted units.”
PEDC unanimously voted in favor of the amendment, 4-0, with Board Chair Michael Vanderhurst absent.