HARD TO KILL
The one joke I’ve been recycling since last week regarding my traffic accident:
“I’m like Steven Seagal. Mediocre, yet Hard to Kill.”
Former Sheet writer Colin Wolf had this to add. “It would’ve been a damn shame if a Prius had been the end of The Sheet … I’m still betting on a lawyer.”
Yeah, killed by a Prius would’ve been awfully lame. Would’ve been like the ‘78 Red Sox losing the pennant when banjo-hitting Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent hit a cheapie three-run homer over the Green Monster off Mike Torrez.
That was back in the day when my New Hampshire elementary school literally sent kids home early in order to be able to watch the one-game playoff.
I was told by CHP this week that it was actually a two-car accident, not four cars as a previous press release had indicated. Sometimes, said the CHP spokesperson, cars that pull over to aid victims are thought to be part of the accident, but actually are not.
I was also told that if I want a copy of my accident report, it’s gonna cost me $10.
I happened to run into (figuratively) Mammoth Police Chief Al Davis this afternoon. I asked him if there had been any increase in the number/intensity of calls the MLPD has been fielding to date this summer. He said no, it’s running about the same as last.
He does anticipate an increase in bike-related accidents, given the volume of traffic, e-bike speeds and the unfamiliarity that some bikers have with the town and its traffic patterns.
He did relate one story that sounded horrible but didn’t end up that way.
A 9-year old kid on a bike literally skidded under a work van and was run over (thump) on Minaret Road at the Village at Mammoth. Not to fear. The kid managed to escape with a mere concussion.
I don’t know how that’s possible. I guess kids are just spongy. And he was wearing the proper gear and a helmet.
Page says he’s fired up this week, so we’ll give him the next section. I think he’s just compensating since his parents were visiting this week and he feels like he’s been slacking off. Which he hasn’t been.
As was made clear in last week’s front page article about local employment, there aren’t enough people available and/or willing to work to fill empty positions. Since last issue, the classifieds page has grown even more, with new job listings joining some that have been there for months.
And while it’s been discussed, it may not always be apparent exactly what the scenario is at a given business. I stopped by Stellar Brew on Thursday and made note of a new sign gracing the entryway: Closing at 3 p.m. until further notice.
I asked inside and was told yes, they’re closing early because there aren’t enough people available to run the shop until 6 p.m., joining a growing number of businesses who have opted to shorten their hours.
One local restaurant, Dish Bistro, has closed its doors fully until it is able to hire more staff.
When you go out to eat or grab a drink or even shop, employees are running various forms of double duty all over town. A bartender is waiting tables while running the bar AND handling takeout orders; waiters double as bussers frequently; retail workers are stocking, receiving, and running the register simultaneously. And a good deal of the employees are new to the job, if not the workforce altogether, and are running headfirst into difficult situations.
Come the end of the summer, many of these newbies are headed off to school or for greener pastures. Bummer. As you knew these kids had housing at mom and dad’s. What happens next, when the rush of customers continues while the labor pool constricts further?
People seem … exhausted. And fed up with what they have to deal with.
It also doesn’t help that the power has been cutting in and out all week.
I was out sharing a drink with my brother and girlfriend when the entire bar went dark. The bartender almost immediately threw up his hands and declared, “Alright, we’re closed!” As patrons slowly filed out into the now-dark parking lot, one of the waitresses sat in the corner running the night’s receipts by flashlight.
Never mind factoring the Covid-19 Delta variant into the mix.
There’s no solid data that explains the numerous unfilled positions across town. Simply chalking it up to people taking advantage of unemployment seems unlikely until you consider that one manager last week told The Sheet that his business has had people apply and be accepted as employees, only for them to not show up for work and cash in on unemployment.
But that’s an easy out, chalking it up to laziness and moving on. And it ignores some of the very real problems that plague the town.
Take Crocetti’s article about first responders on page 20.
The call volume is higher than normal. There’s more injuries, more mental and psychological emergencies. And there’s fewer people to help out, making for tired and stressed out EMT’s.
There’s a feeling that while things are great because people are back, you can’t admit that it’s not all great.
In some respect, having a year-round destination is exhausting. There’s no time for taking a break because, while there may be slow weeks, there is no slow month or months necessarily.
And that’s a Grade A recipe for a burnout.
So work isn’t enjoyable. Fine. But at least there’s a payoff: you get to live in one of the best natural environments in the country.
Only if you want to do that, you’ve got to put in even more hours, as there’s been a significant increase in the average rents in town for units of all sizes.
Because affordable housing is virtually non-existent in Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding area; Mammoth Lakes Housing, an entity whose purpose is to help people find housing that they can afford, reports a waiting list of over 40 applicants and on their website estimate that the town is 260 homes short of being able to accommodate the workforce needed to keep it running.
Currently, neither Mammoth Lakes Housing nor the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce Workforce Housing websites have any available listings.
It’s to the point that employers are starting to invest in housing just so that they can guarantee employees that there’ll be a place to live when they get here (see Lunch’s talk with Matthew Lehman on pg. 10).
There are available units in town, make no mistake about that.
It’s just that they aren’t available for local workers.
According to a 2018 housing element update, 59.4% (5,841) of residential units in Mammoth Lakes were designated for “recreational, temporary, or occasional use.”
These units accounted for 83.0% of the total vacant units in Mammoth Lakes at the time.
In total, only 28.4% of available units in Mammoth Lakes were occupied.
Those that are available don’t come at an easy price.
Data taken from Zillow put the average monthly rent for a 2 bedroom unit in Mammoth at $2,642 with a median of $2,000. In Bishop: $1,200.
And that was in 2018. Available listings online in July 2021 run up to $2,500 for a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment and almost $4,000 for two bedrooms and two baths.
Applicant lists for available housing in a moderate price range extend into the high teens and low twenties.
On a $15 minimum wage, those prices make the budget … impossible. With two earners.
Is there a solution?
Hard to say. Prices are increasing across the spectrum due to inflation and the next major affordable housing project (The Parcel) is still years from being complete.
In that time, it’s difficult to predict just how much will change. The current pace would indicate that local businesses will have to cut hours, days, or just leave altogether if the situation persists.
Perhaps a minimum wage increase brings workers back or staves off the worst of the shortage.
Or maybe Mammoth evolves into a place like Crested Butte, where the majority of the workforce lives about over a half-hour away and the concept of a “local” disappears altogether.
But the undeterred commitment to a 12-month destination is revealing its downsides, little-by-little.
Last year, the Sheet reported that 36% of the people who visited the MLT Food Bank during the earlier months of pandemic were Mammoth Mountain employees.
And this is one of the most profitable resorts in the country.
It just feels as though the community is headed for an reckoning; people I’ve talked seem to be wearing thin on the idea of living in a town where they can barely afford the roof over their heads.
The Mono County Board of Supervisors recently rejected an affordable housing project in Lee Vining that was paired with a hotel/restaurant development.
The hotel and restaurant is still going forward in theory. And the need for housing in the unincorporated county may have increased by 100 or so units.
Didn’t stop Mono Supervisors Duggan, Halferty and Peters from voting themselves a pay raise.
Ed. snark: Not in my backyard (unless you’re tossing me dollars).