Get ready for some peripatetic rambling here.
In regard to the Mammoth Lakes Tourism Bleephole campaign walk-back … I’m not too worked up over a creative misfire. That stuff happens.
They should have called me to vet this thing. I would have told them as a general rule, no asshole likes it when another asshole tells him not to be an asshole.
This can be construed as fairly condescending.
Which is why, when I write editorial, the people I write about generally do the opposite of whatever I might advocate or recommend – they don’t like it when asshole Lunch questions their thought (or lack of thought) process. They find it condescending.
Sometimes it is. I get frustrated. They get frustrated. Politics is about the proper allocation of resources. Which is something worth fighting about.
My issue here is not with the creative misfire so much as the budgeting misfire. MLT has a $7 million budget without the obligation of a summer airline subsidy (normally an $800,000 expense). So you just get the feeling they’re spending money because they have to do something, not because it’s wise and/or necessary.
The other thing I have an issue with: Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director John Urdi would be far better served just telling the whole truth versus challenging the community to play whack-a-mole with his half-truths.
In his open letter to the community, he says the Bleephole campaign set MLT back just $6,000. Caveat: Small detail. The $6,000 refers to “media spend.”
Then at the MLT Board meeting Wednesday, he comes up with another number. The fiasco all-in cost $23,000, he says.
You engaged an ad agency and a PR firm, as well as on-air talent and production. You acknowledged that this was your “baby” during the July board meeting, and we know your time costs approximately $5,000/week in salary and benefits.
There is no way in hell this campaign wasn’t a $50,000 debacle minimum by the time it was pulled on Monday. Be honest.
For comparison’s sake, two weeks ago MLT Communications Director Lara Kaylor told us the Mammoth Lakes Love Song and Hug What You Love campaign incurred $44,000 in production costs with an approximate $400,000 overall spend.
Onto Wednesday night’s Mammoth Council meeting.
Council patted itself on the back for allocating $5.7 million towards housing in fiscal year 2021-2022.
But it appears Council is committed to spending more than half that $5.7 million on a proposed 4-6 unit development on Joaquin Street.
Let’s break down all the ways this represents a poor allocation of dollars better leveraged elsewhere.
It mostly illustrates that Council is so desperate for a near-term “win” that it is willing to sacrifice its long-term strategy as a result.
The Town recently purchased a quarter-acre on Joaquin for $200,000.
If one builds affordable on the site, it would have maximum allowable density of six units.
But double density on a quarter-acre with parking and snow storage? Meridian Court has double-density of 24 units on one acre with many studio and one bedroom units – and has had a long, crammed history of lack of parking, no visitor parking, illegal street parking.
Within a year of occupancy, the Meridian Court HOA ditched its playground area. Why? It needed snow storage.
But not knowing the lot’s capacity is only the first of many unanswered questions. There’s no financial model, no plan on who it’s for – is it for-sale? For-rent? What income target?
Council asked none of these questions on Wednesday night. The questions weren’t asked two weeks ago when the Town was finalizing its housing “strategy.”
Who commits $3 million without a plan?
Why not gather some information first. For the cost of staff time to write a design-build RFP they could copy from another jurisdiction … or just rip off the one Mammoth Lakes Housing wrote for Meridian Court … they could see who might be willing to take on the development and at what cost? Whatever response they got would provide a financial model to the town.
Or, let’s talk about the alternative, which is really the primary.
The Pacific Companies (the town’s development partner on The Parcel), outlined Wednesday that it will cost the Town $16.5 million over the course of the next 4-5 years in order to build out the parcel to 450 units and receive the full $20 million committed to Parcel infrastructure from the state.
Not one councilmember paused to consider, “Hey, wait a minute. If I put the $3 million toward The Parcel, I’m 18% of the way towards funding 450 units, versus maybe 100% of the way towards funding six (max).
18% of 450 is 81, by the way.
Mammoth Mountain Vice-President of Resort Development (and Mammoth Lakes Housing Board President) Tom Hodges expressed support for putting dollars now towards Phase II Parcel planning, because it’s a lot more cost-effective to build units aimed at higher income levels (between 120% and 150% of AMI – Area Median Income).
The thought also being that the more units you can construct right now, the more pressure you can alleviate throughout the chain.
As the chart below put together by Pacific Cos. illustrates, $3 million could get you 16 for-sale units (approx. $2.7 million) at 120% and another 15 at 150% ($300,000).
The Town’s own 2017 housing needs study showed a shortfall of 55 units in that price range.
At Council Wednesday, I asked directly what would bring a better bang for the buck, Joaquin or Parcel Phase II. Crickets.
In my next line of notes from the meeting, I then show John Wentworth suggesting the Town float a bond to cover its nut for Parcel development.
Given what we’ve seen over the past two meetings, who the hell would vote for that?