Mammoth Summer Is Pushed Back, And Local Construction Booms!
Market Summary – May 7 to May 21
Single-Family Home Inventory
Market Updates and News
The weather has turned nice in Mammoth with the lows in the 40s this past week. This accelerated the snow melt in town and the lower elevations are turning green, very green. The higher elevations are going to take some time. The opening of the Lakes Basin will be delayed, eventually they will use blowers to clear the road but the area will have to be inspected for public safety hazards, namely fallen or falling trees. The Mammoth Motocross that marks the beginning of summer special events has been pushed back to the Labor Day Weekend period (Aug. 25 to Sept. 3). If the majority of kids are back in school by then it will change the dynamics of the event—it has always been a very family-oriented vacation period for the industry. Overall, summer visitors better bring some patience, and maybe snowshoes.
Most of the major construction projects in town appear very motivated to get back to work. The massive sky cranes at the Limelight construction site have just been erected and they will be highly visible all summer. They are taller than the Westin Monache. The last time there were similar cranes in the Village the local real estate market experienced strong momentum. It is a strange psychology, but these giant cranes moving materials back and forth sends an impressive message of progress and creates enthusiasm. The new Chair 16 project is well underway (see top photo). The lower base and towers are gone and snow clearing is heading up the hill. The Canyon Lodge parking lot is full of rebar and other building materials. This will be a state-of-the-art new chairlift with enclosed loading and unloading areas. If you ever wanted to observe how a modern chairlift gets built, this summer will offer a front row seat at Canyon Lodge.
The Sierra Nevada Inn project is back to full bore. The last courtyard townhomes are under construction and the renamed Sierra Bar (Rafters) restaurant had the doors open last night (Mammoth needs more dining/bar opportunities). Workforce housing construction at The Parcel is back but the big winter put them way behind, and presumably way over budget. And the Ice Rink? Hard to say. And this summer will be the best opportunity to catch-up on landscape projects, no one expects any water restrictions. Let’s hope the Main St. and Old Mammoth Road projects get completed—they are long overdue.
Many of the red and yellow-tagged properties from the winter have been inspected and cleared for occupancy. But there are others with clear structural damage. I know several second homeowner properties that were tagged and they simply shut the water and propane off and walked away. They will reinspected once all of the snowpack melts away. Most structures and condo projects have countless incidents of minor damages; light fixtures ripped from the walls, snowblower caused gouges everywhere, broken windows, smashed railings and decks, roof and eave damage, blasted paint and plenty more. And lots of tore-up asphalt all over town.
The public agencies and media are warning about flooding and in some places it is going to be a serious issue. In Mammoth proper there are various urban creeks and streams flowing through neighborhoods in search of a storm drain. Mammoth Creek is flowing high and fast and the creek drainage area already has spots of inundation. Warmer temperatures should get the higher elevation snowpack really going, and there is plenty of it. Mammoth may have some of the least impact from flooding in the region. That would be nice.
A nicely remodeled 2 bedroom + loft / 2 bath at Sierra Manors closed for $750,000. I hope the new owners like Roberto’s Cafe, because they are now right across the street and downwind from the kitchen exhaust. Yum.
A luxury home on Monterey Pine Road closed for $1,580,000. It sold in December of 2021 for $1,400,000. It sold in 2005 for $1,525,000.
Other Real Estate News
The lead photo from the last newsletter featured the beginning of construction for the next trophy home in The Bluffs. The architectural plans look spectacular. The trend is now almost like a competition. The photo brought some comments including “Where is the Bluffs?” This unique subdivision continues to attract owners looking to construct and/or own increasingly outrageous luxury homes. But the subdivision has a fascinating history that is like no other in the Mammoth region. And as time goes by, it may have an even more compelling future.
The Bluffs subdivision sits at the very southwest corner of Mammoth Lakes. Most visitors have no idea it is there except for maybe seeing a few homes built up on the rim overlooking the Meadow and most of Snowcreek. It is basically at the end of Old Mammoth Road, with the entry at the historic point-of-winter-closure. The subdivision sits on a plateau that rises approx. 300 feet above the Meadow and Old Mammoth.
Although today’s subdivision is a modern subdivision (“post California subdivision map act”), it is actually a historic subdivision. It was created in 1923 and was literally laid to paper with a ruler without any concern for the extreme topography of the land, and that many of the lots were unbuildable. Despite the existence of the subdivision for decades, there was never any utilities brought in to the lots. As of 1990, there were only two “family cabins” constructed on individual lots; the infamous Forde Cabin and the Benz Cabin. The Benz cabin still stands, built in 1933. Interestingly, the current assessed value for the property is $142,000.
The subdivision was also “rumored” to have a cemetery know as the Pioneer Cemetery, a burial site for early settlers and miners to this region. There were a couple of headstones up there for years of unknown origin. As part of the new subdivision process in the mid 1990s, it was determined that the site had been completely exhumed at some point.
My involvement with the property began in 1990. I was on the periphery of a transaction for 70% of the lots in the historic subdivision, which is one of the odd parts of the history. Over the decades, individual lots were sold off but one owner retained 70% of the lots. Many of the individual lots had ended up in estates and even some owned by entities like the Archdiocese of Stockton.
In the summer of 1990 I got to sit down and talk with Stan Hudec who was the owner/seller of the 70%. Stan had developed some of the old subdivisions in Mammoth including Mammoth Heights A and B which are located to the east of today’s Village. I remember some of his trivia; there is a cul-de-sac named Mala Ulice which is Czechoslovakian for “short street” and there is Rusty Lane named after the golden retriever of the heavy equipment operator who accidentally drove over his dog.
Hudec sold the lots to a developer based in Temecula by the name of Bill Johnson. Johnson had the vision to “redraw” the subdivision and make it something special. But he had to get the other 30% of lot owners to cooperate, or sell him their lots. Johnson wanted to name the new subdivision Valhalla. The proposal went through some of the public process including push back from the local environmentalists opposing the development of the new subdivision. Ultimately, the poor economic conditions of the early 1990s put an end to Johnson’s dream.
A few years later a Temecula rancher by the name of Bill Dendy acquired the property via a sheriff’s sale. Dendy also had real estate development experience but was also an extremely affable man, and wore a big black cowboy hat. He was a perfect fit for Mammoth, the era, and the task at hand. He got the cooperation from the Town and the balance of the lot owners and pushed through the subdivision as we know it today. The old subdivision was reconfigured for proper circulation and to create optimal aesthetics. Many of the existing lots are very similar to the lot locations of the past. The subdivision’s construction, namely roads and utilities, was funded through an assessment district bond attached to the individual lots.
The new, modern subdivision exposed one of the challenges for land surveyors in the Old Mammoth district of Mammoth Lakes—lot corners and lot lines aren’t necessarily where they are supposed to be. The survey techniques of the 1920s weren’t as precise as the satellite based systems of the modern era. Today the Benz Cabin sits off to the side of the new lots because it really wasn’t built in the right spot. That alone was one of the challenges of creating this new subdivision. In the end, all of the miscellaneous lot owners had to sign-on to the new boundary agreement, thus creating the new subdivision.
There are several attributes to The Bluffs that make it very appealing as a high-end luxury subdivision. Almost all of the new lots are at least 20,000 square feet, so there is plenty of space for large homes and even out-buildings (and now ADUs). The lots have a variety of truly spectacular views including big down valley views, and in-your-face Sherwin Range views, and unique Mammoth Mountain views. But the privacy of the subdivision may ultimately be the most intriguing aspect of all, and be foretelling of what the future may hold.
The subdivision is bounded on two sides by Forest Service land. The other two sides are steep rocky faces with near impossible access. I always envisioned it as perfect for a gated community. And as more and more outrageous homes are built up there, it may very well become one. And we have already seen a micro trend in the Snowcreek Crest and Juniper Ridge neighborhoods where adjacent homes have been torn down to expand existing homes. Sounds crazy, but it could happen in The Bluffs. Or maybe a vacant lot could become a helipad for neighborhood.
The Mammoth luxury market has come a long way in the last 30 years. And it might just be getting started. Compared to many other mountain resort communities, Mammoth remains a relative bargain.
I should be back in four weeks. Time to seek some blue water in the tropics.
Thanks for reading!