ONE THING WE CAN ALL AGREE ON
… is that everyone likes an extra six inches.
We learned that at a four hour Parcel workshop on Tuesday. A workshop via Zoom that was briefly halted by a power outage – perhaps there wasn’t enough brain activity on the call to maintain an electrical current.
Alright, that was mean. But honestly, warranted. Because there was nothing about this call that couldn’t have been discussed on the last call. None of the slides had changed. None of the details of the previous presentation altered.
It’s like every bureaucrat in town equates maintaining “momentum” with holding another damn meeting.
And if you’re gonna have another damn meeting, you may as well have it be a joint Council/Planning Commission meeting so when they ask all the Commissioners and Councilmembers their opinions, you get to yawn through ten comments versus the usual five, because, you know, everyone has to say something.
*Except Cleland Hoff. She tries to go light on gratuitous commentary for the sake of gratuitous commentary. I’ll miss that. And I’ll miss those magical moments – like the frown on her face during the November 4 Council meeting when she was on a Zoom call helplessly watching her dog throw up across the room. Now that was good theater!
So there was a bit of an echo chamber on Tuesday evening. As in, “I’d like to echo what so-and-so just said.” Echo-echo-echo …
Never mind the echo chamber in Kirk Stapp’s own head. Kirk clamps onto a few points and won’t let them go. Density and parking. Density and parking. Don’t move onto building height unless you want Kirk to talk about density and parking.
Speaking of building height, I did appreciate that the developer needs a six-inch height variance for the phase one project. How it came out to six inches is anyone’s guess. I’m surprised no one asked for eight.
But let’s indulge Kirk and go back to density for a moment. The rough parameters right now are somewhere between 400-580 units for the six-phase, 25-acre site.
Shellan Rodriguez, representing Pacific Companies, the Town’s development partner, said that to qualify for housing grants, you typically need to guarantee 18 units/acre minimum, so throw out the 400. You’re at 450 (18 times 25) to start.
Rodriguez, by the way, gave me a good chuckle when she stumbled over Mayor Pro-Tem Lynda Salcido’s name, calling her Mayor Pro-Tem Sausalito. Oops. Sausalito was running the meeting in Mayor Sauser’s stead. He’s recused because he lives too close to the project site.
Salcido is expected to become Mayor next month.
I think we’re going to miss Sauser running the meetings. Sausalito is too Sausolicitous. We really should operate such meetings like a round of Jeopardy! (RIP Alex Trebek). As we all know, a Jeopardy! contestant who’s not quick enough to buzz in never gets to answer any questions and therefore never gets any air time.
PEDC Commissioner Paul Chang got some air time. Man, he’s got a deep voice. He’s more like Paul Robeson. Chang said we need to educate our visitors and residents about public transportation and that we need to exercise discipline to meet our mobility goals.
Fellow Commissioner Jennifer Burrows echoed that, referencing the Walk, Bike, Ride program.
Surely, Chang and Burrows practice what they preach. They must be the hearty ones riding those empty buses around town these days.
Okay, I don’t mean pick on Chang and Burrows. Too much anyway. Reality is, don’t shortchange the project parking because you have a utopian vision as to how other people should live – a vision that conveniently doesn’t apply to you.
Seeing John Wentworth and Stu Brown riding around town on their bikes has dramatically more impact on me – leadership by example – than listening to any public official (other than John Wentworth or Stu Brown) talk about riding, biking, etc.
But the parking. Yes, Kirk, the parking. Town Planner Chandler Van Schaack said the project, as designed, features a 27% reduction in parking (from existing code). The project designates 0.5 spaces for a studio, one for a one-bedroom, 1.5 for a 2- or 3-bedroom and two spaces for a four-bedroom. This is all just a calculation, an estimate. The spaces aren’t even assigned. “A parking management strategy will have to be developed,” he said.
Here’s a strategy. Assign the spaces and build more.
When I moved into the Town’s first-ever affordable housing project, Meridian Court, in 2006, the development featured 24 units on a one-acre parcel. Because they sought to cram as much density on the site as possible, they had to skimp on parking. All the same arguments about public transportatioon and getting peoplle out of their cars came up. Well you know what? If there’s a kid(s), and you both have jobs, you’re gonna have to juggle. And each person’s gonna have a car. My two-bedroom unit had one dedicated parking space. There were four visitor spaces in the entire place. What did we end up doing? Battling over those spaces and parking illegally on the street.
And what people forget. Once people have a permanent place, they tend to nest. And sprawl. And share that deeply ingrained American thirst for toys – boats, snowmobiles, et. al.
Now I understand the argument. You want boats and snowmobiles, then don’t move into public housing. Because that’s understood to be the bargain – if we spend a half-million apiece on these units so that we can provide below-market accommodations for you, you’re supposed to live like a churchmouse, go to work and not cause trouble and not acquire toys. Except skis and tennis racquets, which tend to store easily and don’t take up much room.
But why the meeting was a waste of time: It’s the first phase of a six-phase project. Once you finish it, there will be still be plenty of places to store snow, plenty of illegal carve-outs for parking. Plenty of time to debate ultimate project density calculations. The developer needs approval from Planning Commission and Council in order to go after grant money. Applications for that grant cycle are due in March. Approve now. Worry about philosophy later.
Shoot, I almost forgot one of the highlights. That was commentary made by Tom Hodges, Mammoth Mountain’s Vice-President for Development.
Hodges gave the usual Mountain speech that we’ve heard a thousand times before – expect 2-3 hotels might get built over the next 3-5 years. Lot of employees. Best to maximize housing density. Great downtown planning opportunity. Etc.
But it’s hard not to hear this spiel and think about the underlying message: Hotels, built by us, are going to need employees, and we’d like you to take care of that thorny issue [housing] at public expense so that we can maximize private gain.
Hodges is a community guy. But he’s also a corporate advocate. And I know a lot of folks in Mammoth are still sore about the Ski Area’s determination that Ikon pass sales are made out of Colorado and therefore not subject to the 2% lift ticket tax initially promised when the Town created the TBID (Tourism Business Improvement District).
When the TBID was renewed in 2018, that former lift tax contribution was left off. By my calculation, 2% of 100,000 (estimate) local (California) passes sold at, say, $750 apiece = $1.5 million in forfeited annual tax revenue.
I think if the Mountain wishes to get involved in downtown planning issues, the first order of business should be for Alterra to haul out the checkbook.
Speaking of all-time Zoom moments, I was on an Inyo County Supervisors meeting several months back and Supervisor Dan Totheroh’s computer froze while he was in the middle of a yawn, but it looks as though he’s in the middle of a fiery oration. I somehow came across this today (it has to be clear to the reader by now that we are scrambling to fill this paper) and figured I had to dredge it up.
He was frozen like this on the call for about thirty minutes.
Look for this issue in the coming months. More than one local business owner has brought it up. And that is the domino effect, not only of Covid, but of false Covid (i.e. you think you have it, so you’re cautious, and you stay home from work, and your friends, having been in your orbit, and also being cautious, stay home from work, and suddenly there’s no one left to work – and often, these friends are all employed at the same place. Sure, we dealt with this in the spring, but the labor market is thinner now, and the flu market hasn’t even geared up yet.
Finally, I thought this was pretty clever of Brent Truax over at Sierra Nevada Resort. When I asked him about operating the Resort restaurants this year, he said he’s absolutely going to open the Red Lantern – and hand out Jimmy’s menus.
Upstairs and downstairs, at 50% capacity, Jimmy’s will be able to accommodate about 100 patrons at any one time.