Beautiful Fall Weather, And Mammoth Scrambles To Be Ready For Winter!
Market Summary – September 10 to September 24
Single-Family Home Inventory
Market Updates and News
The Mammoth region has moved into some nice fall weather but with only a hint of fall colors so far. The 15-day forecast is expectedly cooler but sunny. Pleasant fall weather and the potential for some wildly colored scenery should bring some visitors to the region in the coming weeks. The Town has already placed a large volume of their street snow stakes—they don’t want to be caught by an early winter. The majority of property managers are hustling to get priority repairs and improvements completed. Some won’t happen even if we get a ~60 day reprieve from snow. The renovated Sierra Nevada Inn complex is now renamed/rebranded as Outbound Mammoth. The new corner plaza area has really evolved and is becoming increasingly animated (there was live music last weekend). The plan is to accommodate up-to-three food trucks to compliment the new Sierra Bar (formerly Rafters). Once the newly constructed guest accommodations are completed it will be exciting to see it flourish.
We had a County Assessment appeals hearing during the period that was worth noting. The appealing tax payer built a new, but modest home in the Bluffs in the past three years. He identified himself as a “data scientist.” He had the most comprehensive presentation of residential property valuation that I’ve ever seen. The Board ultimately sided with him. I couldn’t help doing a search of the gentleman, he’s a professor of atmospheric physics at the Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I guess the Assessor tried to “shoot for the moon” with the wrong taxpayer.
Last week’s issue of The Sheet had a poorly written lead article about an ad hoc community housing meeting that recently occurred in June Lake. A County Supervisor in attendance was quoted as saying “Structurally, we’ve done things” and pointed the group to a 40 item list on the County’s website of the steps they have taken to alleviate housing (funny, I searched the site and couldn’t find the list). But in reality the County has done very little of any consequence over the years. Especially compared to the Town of Mammoth Lakes.
I’ve had my head in the County’s Housing Element over the past couple of years in relation to three of my client’s properties. The Housing Element is a State requirement and identifies properties for workforce housing development. The most recent Element is dated 2019. Rumor is the State is now putting pressure on Mono County for not performing on any of these identified projects, and even rejecting proposals.
In 2020 the County Supervisors rejected the workforce housing proposal adjacent to the Tioga Gas Mart just south of Lee Vining. This ~40 acre site could accommodate up to 100 units. The site is relatively flat and has almost immediate access to Hwy. 395 and public transportation. The site also has a strong, established water supply and immediate access to electricity and fiber optic. This site alone could satisfy a great deal of the workforce housing demand in the central county. The political environment would probably lean towards approval today, but nobody cares to pursue it. And unfortunately, the County has probably now missed out on the gush of State money that was thrown at workforce housing in the past three years.
Another site identified in the Element is conveniently located between Mammoth and Bishop with good access to Hwy. 395. This property owner has essentially offered to give the property to the County for workforce housing. A good portion of the ~40 acre site is developable. It could certainly accommodate 10-20 single story duplex townhomes with garages. This could be valuable and much-needed “middle income” workforce housing. But, the County isn’t interested.
I also have a past client who deliberately came to June Lake to develop five units of housing (without any government assistance) which could accommodate 15 individuals or five small families. Sounds good. The County has made his life miserable. After three years the units still aren’t finished. The excessive engineering and environmental compliance has almost bankrupted the owner.
In the end, the County “hasn’t done anything” of any consequence. It has only squandered opportunities. Maybe the ad hoc committee people should be ranting at the podium of Supervisor meetings. Otherwise their big talk is all hot air.
For STR owners, here is a new and interesting video from Mark Kohler on a new tax strategy, if you can wrap your head around it. For more wealthy STR owners or those with substantial IRA accounts, this might be something to consider.
A fairly un-noteworthy group of closings, but 1 bedroom condos continue to consistently sell in the $500K price range—the less desirable units selling slightly less than $500K and more desirable properties selling well beyond $500K. The smaller condos remain some of the best properties for STR. This $500K threshold is an almost doubling in value since 2019.
Favorite New Listings For the Period
Of course, I’m getting ready to head-out on a relatively short, annual vacation where there is no internet service and I have a variety of sellers who have varying degrees of urgency—some lots, and other not so much. Makes life interesting…..I like properties that have true ski-in and ski-out access in Mammoth—they are a scarce commodity and even more valuable in the IKON era. And even better if they have tremendous views. This is a Bridges 2 bedroom / 2 bath that is updated and modernized, forced air heating, gas fireplace and washer/dryer in the unit. Understructure parking. Just in time for ski season!
Listed at $750,000
Courtesy Mammoth Realty Group
Other Real Estate News
Some of my readers were interested in my recent discussions about the original zoning of condominiums in Mammoth and the history of allowing short term rentals (STR). One was curious about the history of other zoning in Mammoth that have created unique situations in Mammoth. In the evolution of the Mammoth community and real estate, there is some interesting history. I’ve actually been part of some it, but some of it happened long before I was born.
When I first joined the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission in 1990 there was a member by the name of Helen Thompson who was famous for talking about the “giant eraser” we needed in Mammoth to clean-up all of the odd planning in the town. Since then there have been at least a dozen plans or concepts to re-design and redevelop parts of town. The Village is the only true redevelopment plan that has been successfully implemented, and it is far from complete and is changing with demand (or lack thereof) and vision. Ultimately, Mammoth’s land use has been, and still is dictated by the simple fact that we are a mountain resort community where the majority of the visitors come by car. And despite decades of efforts to do otherwise, it will remain so.
I was intimately involved with one of the most critical rezoning and downzoning efforts. Shortly after Intrawest bought-in to Mammoth in 1996, they pushed to downzone one of their newly acquired properties; what is now known as Juniper Springs adjacent to Eagle Base. (The “juniper” is for the juniper trees that grow is this little micro environment that are not indigenous to this area or region. No one is really sure how they got there, although there are theories.) Intrawest sought to downzone the property from Hotel to Resort and it was controversial at the time. And yours truly was the Chair of the Commission, and I had to run the very lengthy public hearing.
This became a major pivot in the community’s education and thinking about our future development. This idea had been planted in my head in 1991 when Rusty Gregory took me to Whistler and Vail. In 1997 Intrawest now had to educate Mammoth about hotel financing, or the lack there of, in mountain resort communities where occupancy rates rarely came over 55% in good years. (And again, this is why the Limelight, the bulk of it being a pure hotel, is actually a profound opportunity for Mammoth.)
During the public hearing many of the community leaders feared we would lose the opportunity to produce the valuable bed tax from this prime property. The Juniper Springs property had been zoned for, and envisioned to be, a massive ~500 room luxury hotel project. It took an extensive public process to get the local leaders and public to grasp the need for the zoning change. But it happened. In retrospect the grand hotel concept was laughable and certainly not economically viable. What we got instead is a mix of individually owned condo hotel units and townhomes that produce plenty of tax including property tax and TOT.
The relatively new “Resort” zoning in Mammoth generates confusion too. The Lodestar master plan is all of the property encompassing the Sierra Star Golf course. It is all zoned Resort. The master plan includes a major hotel site adjacent to the existing clubhouse. But the lands along the fairways were envisioned for condominium development (as we are learning, why else have a golf course?). But along the way developers got ahold of the land and convinced the Town that there was greater demand for single-family homes, and got the residential subdivisions got approved. Hence Graybear and the like. And the Resort zone uniquely allows for STR in single family homes. That is unless the CC&Rs don’t allow it, like in the Starwood subdivision. Buyers of luxury home real estate are often specifically looking to be in one neighborhood or the other.
The infamous “Ghetto” zoning is interesting too. These are the four streets that run from Meridian Blvd. to Main St. in the heart of town. They are officially named Sierra Valley Sites I and II. They are the original R-2 and R-3 zoned properties from the 1940’s. There is a history of development from early cabins and cabin-y duplexes to multi-family apartment buildings in the late 80s and early 90s. The Town and Ski Area built significant workforce housing in the 2000s. I often refer to the area as a real mishmash of housing, and it is. But it is all founded in the original zoning. In the late 90s, the majority of the Ghetto was rezoned to RMF-1 to prohibit STR and reserve the area for housing. The historic condos aligned with Meridian Blvd. remained RMF-2 which does allow for STR.
Another little quirky RMF-2 zone is the historic Old Mammoth Road area just beyond the Snowcreek Athletic Club. It is surrounded by the Rural Residential zone which is the majority zoning of the Old Mammoth neighborhood. This is the old motel district from the 1940s and 50s. Some of the old structures are still there. But it was rezoned to preclude STR also. And again, the Town built substantial workforce housing on the land next to the Club that was acquired in the renegotiation of the Snowcreek master plan development agreement in the early 2000s.
That’s just a little history of the odd assemblage of zoning and property development in Mammoth Lakes. Someday there may be more gondolas into town like was planned decades ago. Or geothermal heated sidewalks and roads. But as long as the majority of guests are still coming to town in their own vehicles, things probably won’t change very much. And some will dream of having a giant eraser.
I’ll be back in three weeks.
Thanks for reading!