hat’s that saying? Sticks and stones can break my bones but carrots and sticks can go nowhere near my property? I don’t know, it’ll come to me.
Short Term Rental (STR) Advisory Committee Chair, John Morris, kicked off last Thursday night’s meeting by dispelling a few rumors.
Morris clarified that the committee does not possess the authority to alter town policies or zoning but is tasked with making suggestions for the benefit of the Town Council.
“There is nothing in tonight’s packet that states that a homeowner who currently lives in an area of Mammoth Lakes where short-term rentals are currently permitted will, or should, lose their ability to keep or obtain a short-term rental license,” said Morris. “That is not something we’ve discussed as a committee.”
Finance Director for the Town and STR Advisory Committee member, Rob Patterson, similarly expressed concern over the inflamed reaction to the committee’s existence.
Patterson informed the public that a community member violated committee members’ privacy protections by publishing the personal home addresses of those serving on the advisory council.
“That is a violation of California State Law, and the Town. We have been working through our attorney to review processes and next steps on how to resolve [the issue].”
Patterson, as member of the Certified Property Subcommittee, spoke to his subsection’s recent findings and deliberations.
The subcommittee proposed a comprehensive plan, “designed to give us the administrative elements of how we administer the program for everybody, and identify where our current municipal code may need some updates.”
As spokesperson, Patterson advised enhanced safety regulations and inspections, an interactive STR map, 24-hour emergency contacts for rentals’ accountability, regulation of cleaning services, and the introduction of a code of conduct.
Safety inspections, occurring every four years for the town’s 3,600 certified rental properties, would aim to “enhance guest security, quality of life for the community, and the visitor experience.” The proposed interactive map would allow residents to verify the legality of short-term rentals—the idea is to promote transparency and community trust.
Patterson then delved into penalties for operational and major violations, demonstrating the committee’s commitment to holding operators accountable—sticks, if you will. Operational issues may incur fines and license suspension, while major violations, such as fraudulent tax reporting or unauthorized construction, could lead to a three-month suspension or a pause on rentals.
The subcommittee member clarified that the fees were not punitive, but rather essential for sustaining effective enforcement and compliance.
“We need to have a way of escalating these penalties so that people get the picture,” said Patterson.
Patterson also explained that, given the difficulty of tracking and monitoring TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) certificate activity in town and the current process of issuing certificates to the operator of a property rather than its owner, “TOT certs will go away, and certified property certificates will take their place.”
Community member, John Bourne, appeared virtually for public comment:
“With the TOT [certificate] being tied to a property, and/or the owner, there’s no guarantee that the TOT [certificate] would be reissued should the sale of that property occur—is that correct?”
Patterson confirmed that the sale of a property would not assume the automatic transfer of a certified property certificate, as to better maintain up to date contact information for the respective property.
“[The certificate] wouldn’t automatically transfer with the sale,” said Patterson, “but that doesn’t mean [the new owner] could not re-apply with the town.”
Nolan Bobroff, Acting Community and Development Director, grabbed the talking stick to address his subcommittee’s findings in regard to zoning policies.
“The proposal from the subcommittee was to consider a split of the RMF-2 zone into two new ones,” said Bobroff, of the proposed RMF-T and RMF-2 zones. “The goal of the split would be to separate that [zone] into areas which are eligible for the carrots and sticks, and those that are not.”
As explained by Bobroff, the recommendation doesn’t advocate for eliminating short-term rental (STR) ability in the RMF-2 zones, addressing a misconception held in town. As stated in the meeting’s agenda packet, “the distinction between the remaining RMF-2 zone and the new RMF-T zone would be that any of the ‘carrots and sticks’ (i.e., incentives and/or restrictions) that are being envisioned by the STR Committee would only be available to, or apply to, properties in the remaining RMF-2 zones. The goal of this distinction would be to encourage owners of properties in the RMF-2 zones to make their properties available for long-term residential use.”
Ski portals near Canyon Eagle, The Village, and areas northwest of Lake Mary Road, Minaret Road, and the west end of Meridian Boulevard were identified for exclusion from the incentives.
That decision is grounded in the high number of existing Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) permits and low local ownership in the proposed RMF-T areas. Conversely, the RMF-2 zone has fewer TOT permits but higher local ownership. The rationale is to direct limited financial incentives away from ski portal areas with few full-time residents, considering many complexes are condo hotels with lending limitations.
Bobroff emphasized that the plan is designed to strategically allocate financial incentives, without removing the ability to short-term rent in those areas.
And lastly,the officially-minted Carrots and Sticks subcommittee.
The discussion, led by Town Manager Dan Holler, explored a proposed program that serves, in and of itself, as a “carrot” to incentivize the transition of STR properties into long-term rentals.
As explained by Holler, the program would be policy-driven, and linked to potential funding sources. To ease implementation, it would not require a change in the Town’s Code.
Holler spoke of the need to target the “missing middle” income group—those who earn too much for low-income housing but can’t afford Mammoth’s standard real estate prices.
“What we need to look at is what it takes to compete in the marketplace in terms of transitioning some of what could be short-term rental properties into [long-term] ownership properties,” said Holler.
The program would aim to qualify individuals for a down payment assistance program, encouraging long-term ownership. In the case that the property was sold, there would be a payback requirement.
Morris seconded the need to tailor assistance to the broad socioeconomic spectrum in Mammoth.
“We absolutely need to have a long-term rental subsidy in Mammoth,” said Morris. “The situation we have now, is that we have programs that are great for the lower and higher ends of our AMI… We’re always going to be somewhat of a transient community…but the only way we’re going to get people to move to Mammoth is providing long-term housing solutions for them.”
The targeted areas for the proposed program are outside the resort core, with an emphasis on expanding real asset interest into Mammoth’s downtown in order to better support local activities and businesses.
Still in conceptual stages, the program could launch with a pilot if funding becomes available.
Holler also discussed the creation of more “live-work” units to add to the housing stock.
“Look at the Old Mammoth Road area, where there’s a lot of current commercial activity,” said Holler. “There’s the ability, there, to add additional [housing] space.”
Here’s where the Town Manager got rhetorical: “Is there a way to incentivize that type of development, in order to improve our downtown area, local shopping, and local businesses? If they put housing along with that, is there a way to help subsidize that housing component?”
Fellow Carrots and Sticks subcommittee member, Kelly Gardner, followed Holler by urging her fellow committee members and the general public not to lose sight of the moratorium’s initial intent.
“The moratorium was put in place because we need to house locals,” said Gardner. “I know we have a lot of different things going on with this committee, but if we can focus on the carrots—which is getting our locals housed—we can put the rest on the backburner.”
Public comment opened the floor to community member input.
Nick Roberts, a property owner in The Village’s Hidden Valley, acknowledged the housing emergency, but presented a new solution: a full-time employment tax to fund housing solutions.
“For every 2000 hours of employed labor that you hire, you pay a tax,” suggested Roberts. “That would spread this burden, fairly.”
Homeowner, Carl Wertz, expressed dissatisfaction with what he perceived as homeowner property infringement.
“I just don’t understand how this all of a sudden emerged as an emergency,” said Wertz, referring to the housing crisis. “It looks to me like it’s more of a land grab than anything else, which is not right for those [homeowners] that have long invested in this community.”
Wertz suggested raising the TOT tax, rather than adjusting the existing short-term rental policies.
“It’s a more equitable way of doing it,” said Wertz. “Changing the zoning that will negatively impact half of the short-term rentals is just not the way.”
JD Guillemette, a new owner in the Sierra Park Villas, expressed concerns with the zoning changes in that they could limit the pool of potential owners willing to rent out their properties as long-term rentals.
“I want to remind folks,” said Patterson, “we broke up into subcommittees to accelerate the [moratorium] process and bring forward suggestions… It does not prohibit us from bringing forward anything you want to discuss. We’ve got several meetings scheduled through the month of January, and the goal is to get as much on the table as possible.”