Inch-by-Inch The Ski Area May Get To Full Operation, Maybe Soon!
Market Summary – January 7 to January 21
Single-Family Home Inventory
Market Updates and News
This was the biggest weekend of the winter so far with some fresh snow on Saturday morning and significant snow anticipated tomorrow Monday. We’ll see (and I’m not a weatherman). The Ski Area desperately needs a dump of feet rather than inches. The lifts and runs not covered well with snowmaking remain closed; Chair 9, the backside, etc.. There simply isn’t enough terrain open to handle a big crowd like this weekend. And my check of the new Ice Rink on Saturday afternoon showed a small attendance—the visitors want to be on the Mountain, even if they have to wait in horrendous lift lines.
The most important real estate news continues to be the RMF-2 moratorium craziness and the local media just doesn’t have the knowledge or skill to really report on it, so I’ll do my best to cover it down below in the Other section. To use the famous quote from Dr. Chris Martenson, “It didn’t have to be this way.” And it didn’t. All of this could have been handled in a much more professional, intelligent, and less divisive manner. It is a leadership failure from both the Town staff and Town Council.
One laughable recurring theme that some of these numbskulls returned to during the period to “solve” part of the housing shortage was the redevelopment of the commercial properties on Main St. and Old Mammoth Road. This was a pet proposal of our former Planning Director (now the Mono County CAO—dear Lord) during the Main St. redevelopment push a number of years ago. The idea is/was that the commercial property owners should (immediately) redevelop their properties with understructure parking and workforce housing units on top of their commercial space. The concept is idealistically brilliant, but completely void of reality.
The majority of these commercial properties struggle to pay rent and/or keep up with expenses and maintenance (including snow removal). The handful of owners who actually might be able to afford such a massive expenditure would laugh in your face at the proposition. It is grossly uneconomic. The fact that the participants are even discussing it shows how “off the rails” this process has become.
Meanwhile, the frozen temperatures and snow that brutalized Mammoth last winter is wreaking havoc on the rest of the country. And Zerohedge was reporting that North American snow coverage was at a decades high. And the piles of electric vehicles stranded in Chicago made for great media coverage. But I thought EVs work great in Norway?
Town of Mammoth Lakes business license renewals are due this month. The fees are based on the gross revenues of the business the prior year. The numbers should be telling. Snow removal companies and contractors are probably gagging on their renewal fees. Many others will be paying less than they have in the last four years. And hopefully we can see some honest TOT and TBID numbers in the future. I’m guessing the Town’s numbers have to be running parallel to the State’s numbers, which if you are paying attention, are deeply negative.
A top floor 1 bedroom / 1 bath at Lincoln House was over bid; originally listed at $699,000 and closed for $715,000 cash. Village units continue to be popular and have strong price support.
A south facing Studio at the Westin Monache closed for $465,000 cash. A couple of financed buyers at the Westin were waiting for this to close to help with their appraisals.
Favorite New Listing For The Period
Here’s an original (original owners) 1970 condo in the heart of downtown that is begging to be updated to a successful STR property. This is the true 2 bedroom + loft / 3 bath floorplan. This has great utility for STR and the Sierra Park Villas project has decades of popular STR operation. This corner location will afford great “people watching” with Roberto’s right across the street and the newly renovated and enhanced Outbound Adventure Hotel and plaza area across the other street. A shuttle stop is right there. The property features FOUR covered decks. Close to the HOA’s pool and spas. Check out the video tour.
Listed at $709,000
Other Real Estate News
Odds are I’ve continuously written more about this RMF-2 STR moratorium process than any other topic, ever. My last two Q&As, last newsletters, etc.. There is growing consensus in the community that it is one big bungled mess and there was some serious bad judgement by those who instigated it. Many others are just ignoring the whole thing, and maybe they are the wise ones. But to cut-to-the-chase, the end result will likely be a new STR certification process that, assuming it won’t be too onerous, will be acceptable to almost everyone. Most of what is being proposed is already part of the Code but simply hasn’t been enforced or handled by the Town’s administration. The proponents seem to think this is far more contentious than it is, but the process has tempered them. The Town will have to hire more staff to manage, or mis-manage, all of it.
There is also going to be a new “funding source” (for subsidy) to incentivize owners in the revised RMF-2 zone to move to long term rentals. The unknown heavy-handed mechanism to force owners has yet to materialize. At least for now. But they have completely missed something critical, and this has been reiterated to me by many people; the point of owning an STR property in Mammoth is not about return on investment (ROI), but USAGE. And a long term rental precludes owner usage in most cases. The usage concept seems to be lost on many of the participants, both on the STR Committee and the Town Council. Mammoth is not a place like Nashville or the Gulf Coast where people recently bought into the Airbnb craze for sheer ROI and profits.
At this point the “funding source” (the Town wonks love this term) is likely going to be a 1-2% increase in TOT, or a ~$1,000 annual fee for an STR license. Their goal is to raise approximately $3.5M for the subsidy program. The TOT increase is generally viewed as being more equitable to the STR owners because of the varying sizes (and revenues) of STR properties. But how will our guests react to a new 17-18% (or more) bed tax?
As of last week’s Council meeting, the home addresses of STR Committee were apparently published somewhere and there are “threats” being made by various people. And the members “don’t know if they can complete the mission.” Please…. The last Committee meeting was so inundated with public comment that the meeting ran over the allotted time and some business was left undone, and some members left early. There appears to be some wokeness in the process that believes that things like criticism, questions, debate and the desire for intelligent discussion falls into the category of “threats.” Some of their body language is very telling. So much for the modern public process. Maybe they never heard Andrea Lawrence’s line, “Living in a small town is an art form.” Being part of any public process and decision making makes it even more so.
But if the goal here was to establish an improved STR inspection and certification process, and to create a subsidy program to motivate condo owners into a long term rental scenario, Why the hell did they enact this emergency moratorium that created all of this panic and divisiveness in the community? The community and property owners would have accepted an intelligent public process to do both without the moratorium. In retrospect, it is all horribly misguided.
They are also proposing to create a new zone out of the RMF-2 zone around the Canyon Lodge, the Village, and Eagle (the ski portals), the RMF-T zone. The remaining RMF-2 zone will be the target area for the subsidies and push for long term rentals. Does this make sense? What if there is an owner in this new RMF-T zone who would actually like the subsidy and the long term rental? They would be excluded. Some of these locations could be rather ideal for members of the workforce who could benefit from being in close proximity to their workplace, and especially during extreme weather events. Certainly there are critical Mountain employees who could be ideally living closer to where they need to be. It is part of our past. Dave McCoy understood this. The whole premise is a falsehood.
And what about using the subsidy in the Resort zone? Under the proposal it wouldn’t even be considered. And yet more and more local residents make their home in the Resort zone (like me). It is actually more conducive to resolving the “missing middle” problem. A well compensated new hire (and the family) would probably be happier living in a Resort zone property than at Mountain Shadows or Horizons Four. Maybe the employer could pitch in too. The whole thing smells of subsidy redlining to me.
And this Placemate company is already being introduced around town and the Council hasn’t even made a decision on all of this—aren’t we in the “advisory” stage? I suggested they would be called “saviors” but their company line is that they will “revolutionize” housing in Mammoth. Good luck. Giving up usage may take some big incentives (I’d like to be at that negotiating table). And if people consume any non-fake news they know that affordable housing shortages and employee shortages exist in almost every community in the country. The solutions aren’t that easy. And then we still have the consultant BAE lurking out there somewhere. What bullshit are they going to bring to the table that we don’t already know?
The Council is rather adamant that the STR (Advisory) Committee process will “finish their mission” so that their recommendations can be considered in their February meetings. The Placemate dog-and-pony show will probably come along at some point (and it will be revolutionary). And BAE’s grand housing report will undoubtedly be a profound influence on the Council’s ultimate decision, which will likely be a poor one and chocked full of unintended consequences. The RMF-2 moratorium is revisited in May. The sooner this process is over, it might be for the best. It didn’t have to be this way.
And let’s hope the search for a new Town Manager is successful. We clearly need new leadership in this role.
Thanks for reading!