‘Let Mammoth Decide’ ballot initiative filed

– Press release

On February 2, long-time Mammoth Lakes residents, Kathy Cage, Michael Agnitch, and Tom Gaunt filed a ballot initiative regarding nightly home rentals in residential neighborhoods.

Mammoth Logo

A “Yes” vote on this initiative will require the Town Council to seek voter approval before changing the laws regarding transient rentals of homes in residential zones (RSF, RR and RMF-1 zones).

Last August, only two months after taking office, the newest Town Council reignited this debate by putting nightly rentals on their short-term list of priorities. Former Mayor and Town Councilmember Kathy Cage says once she saw that there were three votes on the Council to change the current zoning protection she decided it was time to take action.

“We’re tired of wasting our time with the Town Council on this issue.” says Cage. “If this Council doesn’t do it the next one will. We want the people of Mammoth to be able to weigh in on this issue directly rather than relying on elected officials to do it for us. A ‘yes’ vote on this measure will ensure that the Town Council must seek voter approval if they want to expand nightly home rentals into our residential neighborhoods.

“We’ve been debating this issue for over 10 years. I don’t believe the current Council majority who want to allow the commercialization of our residential neighborhoods reflects the values of our community.”

Cage added, “Quality of life for locals does matter. When neighborhoods are opened to nightly rentals, locals get pushed out as the cost of rentals rises and availability drops. We think quality of life for residents trumps the financial interest of property investors.”

Retired Mammoth Lakes High School Principal Michael Agnitch notes, “Mammoth actually has an excellent General Plan and Zoning Map which allows nightly home rentals in several zones. There are currently over 180 homes that are legally zoned for nightly rentals, dozens more under construction and hundreds of large luxury townhomes for our guests to rent. Any missing home rental product should be developed in the zones where it is permitted.”

Cerro Coso College Adjunct Professor Tom Gaunt points out that “My family and I have lived in Mammoth for over 30 years. We raised our children here, it is our home and our community. We know our neighbors and they know us. We’ve seen transient activity in both the legal and illegal home rentals nearby, and there is a fundamental incompatibility between transient renters and residents. By having separate zones, Mammoth currently allows for a wonderful quality of life for residents and a great guest experience for our visitors. Why in the world would we abandon that?”



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26 Responses to ‘Let Mammoth Decide’ ballot initiative filed

  1. A Citizen February 3, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    I never use the word stupid. But after reading this post and going to a non-existent website I can say that policy is no longer in force
    In the worst financial year ever, with the pie sliced so thin you can’t even taste it, these “Rocket Surgeons” decide to muddy the water again.

    It’s not enough that Cage’s record as a council is spotted with resignations and poor judgements that we will be paying for, for years, the arrogance and entitled attitude of ” we have ours” astounds me.

    We are faced with the worst scenario in Mammoth’s history and you want to nail the coffin closed on a POSSIBILITY that could in fact save our future? Our Children’s future?

    THINGS CHANGE, you have to adapt. You want public services, good roads, more cops, a better town? Then you shouldn’t have screwed this town over on your watch.

    I never agreed with the idea of opening housing rentals to all before, but YOU HAVE CHANGED MY MIND. I don’t want more hidden taxes, higher property taxes or more bureaucracy. I will now vote NO ON LET MAMMOTH DECIDE, ALLOW THE COUNCIL TO DO THE JOB THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO.

    You see, I have been here many more years than all of you and seen many more changes, most, BROUGHT BY YOU! It’s not about your neighborhood, it’s about survival.
    I watched as your policy making skills create a mass exodus of everything and everyone who made Mammoth so desirable in the past.

    Your ideas are the epitome of NIMBYISM. YOU GOT YOURS!


    • TJ Davey February 3, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

      While the misinformation and vitriol in your comment mostly speaks for itself, let’s get some facts straight:

      – Kathy Cage was the only council member who voted against the airport deal that ultimately bankrupted Mammoth.

      – Your assertion that moving nightly rentals into residential neighborhoods will somehow pay for more public services has no basis. There has been no evidence presented to show it would do anything other than move money from one pocket into the other (i.e., from currently legal rentals into currently illegal home rentals). There is no evidence that it would “grow the pie.”

      – Property taxes in Mammoth are not controlled by the town. If you own a home in Mammoth and pay taxes, you know this. Property taxes are assessed by the county.

      – The town’s revenue comes from transient occupancy taxes, which accounts for the majority of the town’s budget, and consequently the public services. It seems a dubious strategy to bank the future of Mammoth on the idea that you’re going to get a bunch of law breakers and tax cheats who are currently renting their homes in residential neighborhoods under the table to all of a sudden come clean and start following the rules. Instead if you would be rewarding the tax cheats, punishing their neighbors who want peace and quiet, and undermining those who followed the law and bought homes in the areas of town that are already zoned and designed for nightly rentals.

    • A Citizen February 3, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

      I’m going to break this down for you so you can understand how I perceive your stance better.

      Remember when Mountaineers and X-country Skiers were scoffed at on Mammoth Mountain? Skiers wanted to outlaw them.

      Remember when it was illegal to wear a Walkman on the mountain?

      Snowboarding was completely illegal too.

      It didn’t take a community vote to comprehend that as the Ski Industry was failing. The Snowboard Industry was growing. Growing enough to rescue the entire industry as a whole and… in the blink of an eye, SNOWBOARDING AND WALKMAN’S WERE LEGAL”.

      Mammoth has a serious problem. It’s failing! You don’t have to be an accountant to get that. Our current Council is a smart bunch of businessmen who, just like the Ski Industry executives who CHANGED and invited snowboarding into the fold are struggling to find a way to PAY THE BILLS and keep Mammoth from coming apart at seams.

      Secondly, in addition to a lack of snow problem, Mammoth is suffering from a serious customer relations problem. I don’t know what planet your from but for the last 12 years there were 20-25 property repossessions listed in the paper each week.

      Thousands of good people, (our clients) who loved Mammoth for a lifetime plunked down bags of life’s savings cash and invested in Mammoth only to deliver that property back to the bank and bad mouth this all to our client base in Southern California as a LOST CAUSE.

      The practice of allowing those rentals to go on under the nose of Council for a dozen years, waiting, hoping, praying that the market would recover so these people could make their mortgage payment was swept under the carpet.

      Do you remember the Bank of Mammoth? And the local “law breakers and tax cheats” who stole tens of millions of dollars from our town. I believe at the time we called them TOWN LEADERS and MANAGERS.

      I would never call someone a bigot. But your characterization of “OUR GUESTS” as a bunch of law breakers and tax cheats is down-right racist.

      You do not honor our current Council by this call to action to vote. You undercut the hard work and time they take from personal business to clean up your old mess. You insure that no person would want to take on the job showing as much Integrity and transparency as the new Council has.

      You insure by this vote that you will only get poor quality Council to be the Board of Directors of future Mammoth.

      • Realist February 3, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

        Citizen, you make people think about their actions.

        Bennett would have loved your posts.

        • Den of thieves! February 4, 2015 at 2:18 am #

          My guess is Bennett would’ve seen right through the self serving motivation and the lack of logic in A Citizens points a view. I would like to thing privately she was thinking, you want to see stupid? Start with a mirror, but that is my thought, not hers.

          Maybe she would of thought like I do that the towns business is the towns business, who skis on what, where,what ever music source they listen to is a MMSA issue and has really nothing to do with housing issue at hand. There is rarely a shortage of places to stay in our town, and when there is a sold out town “the customer quality of experience issue really comes into play in my opinion. Let’s face reality the real problem is the infrastructure for the large crowds are not in place and we have winged it as a community with mild success to a certain clientele that will put up with an inconsistent quality of service with a crowded mountain and most of the town night businesses are easily overwhelmed..

          Bennett had seen a many a council members come and go and the short time these folks have been in office I have not noticed anything special as leaders or managers and I would bet neither did she.

          I imagine Bennett would ask A.Citizen to stop looking in the mirror and prove this ludicrous statement. ” I don’t know what planet your from but for the last 12 years there were 20-25 property repossessions listed in the paper each week.” I’m not sure there is that many units in the entire county?

          The statement “The practice of allowing those rentals to go on under the nose of Council for a dozen years, waiting, hoping, praying that the market would recover so these people could make their mortgage payment was swept under the carpet.” Is really funny to me. I’ve rented from two of the current council members for cash more than a decade ago and know of friends of theirs that have recently done the same. So if you’re looking for tax cheats look no further, and thats just the tip of melted iceberg. Our bigots and tax cheats problem aren’t our guest, they’re are some business owners, town leaders and some of our neighbors! Playing the race card is a new low even for you A Citizen.

          Your final statement of “You do not honor our current Council by this call to action to vote. You undercut the hard work and time they take from personal business to clean up your old mess. You insure that no person would want to take on the job showing as much Integrity and transparency as the new Council has.”

          “You insure by this vote that you will only get poor quality Council to be the Board of Directors of future Mammoth.”

          These are the same folks that approved voted for the TBID to pick the pockets of the town citizens and our guest you claim to be so concerned about. They are enjoying the largest percentage pay raise awarded any employee group ever and even added a PERS pension benefits for themselves as a bonus because their middle class millionaire wages just aren’t keeping up..

          I beg to differ with you, we have that poor quality and lack of integrity now or they would have proposed the ballot initiative themselves to measure the support of the community.

          I agree with one point their motives are very transparent, there is only one house that matters when it comes transit rentals! I’d bet if you offered the horses ass a zoning variance for their house this issue would go away.

      • TJ Davey February 3, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

        Did you even read my comment? The “law breakers and tax cheats” are the Mammoth homeowners who are currently renting their homes on a nightly basis in flagrant violation of town law. These are the folks that you’re going to be relying on to pay TOT in the future, if you expand nightly rentals.

        I have no idea what you are talking about re being racist, and fortunately your rant seems to be so devoid of cogent thought and reason that I can’t even take offense.

        But the strangest thing of all about your “line of thought” is that you slandered Ms. Cage, in part, for being a member of our town’s past leadership, but in your very next post place the current councilmembers on a pedestal and, as such, conclude that we should just accept their decisions regarding our community and residential neighborhoods without question. It sounds to me like you simply like the current council’s position on this issue and don’t want anyone to get in the way of their plan.

        Finally, your claim that nightly rentals in Mammoth are currently prohibited like walkmens used to be is absurd and illustrates a lack of understanding of Mammoth’s zoning. No one has advocated for the absolute prohibition of nightly home rentals in Mammoth. Many residents simply feel that due to quality of life impacts, there is an appropriate place for those rentals and it is in the resort zone (where there are already home rentals with ridiculously low occupancy rates).

        Nightly home rentals in Mammoth are already legal, but only in the resort zone, where they were intended. There is no shortage of legal rental homes and giant town homes in Mammoth, but I guess if you are looking to rent out your own home and make your neighbors bear the burden, that is no consolation to you.

    • sierragrl February 3, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

      I have to agree with TJ Davey….your comments are full of vitriol and are nonsense. Letting the people of the town decide with a vote is the american way. BY putting this on the ballot, they are letting YOU and the other residents decide this issue, the way it should be.

      What’s with your comments? What’s wrong with letting the people decide?

  2. Kathy Cage February 3, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    I certainly get your perspective. Clearly you have made up your mind on this issue and I respect that.

    My interest is just to allow the all citizens of Mammoth, including you, to be able to weigh in on this matter directly themselves instead of having to rely on the Town Council to interpret the “will of the people”. As a former representative myself, I understand the limitations that exist for an elected person to interpret that will. Particularly with an issue like this that I suspect will be very close.

    I’m not an advocate for the elimination of our representative system of democracy in our local government, but every once in a while there comes an issue that is so controversial and doesn’t seem to have a clear, strong majority view that I think the decision making process benefits by taking a direct vote. We have a history of doing that in Mammoth. Former Councils took votes on whether to increase TOT to dedicate money to marketing efforts and to ask whether or not Mammoth should take over the airport from the County. Even though the results weren’t legally binding, all subsequent Councils have honored the results of those votes.

    I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t know for sure how this will turn out. I just believe that, like you, many people have passionate views on this issue and would like to be able weigh in directly. I personally don’t agree with allowing hotel-like rentals in residential neighborhoods and will advocate for my view, but I’m sure that there are many others who don’t mind it.

    I just feel that if we can all vote on it, then we will know what the people of Mammoth really want and can be done with this issue once and for all. It will be nice to free up the Council and staff to be able to work on other more pressing things.

  3. johndoeml February 3, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    People bought these houses with full knowledge of zoning and rental limitations. The full-time residents who live in these neighborhoods bought those houses because of the limitations and because they were trying to find actual neighborhoods with real live neighbors (like in the Trails or Knolls). If these houses get turned into rentals, the houses will eventually transition to investors and short-stay renters. Further, it’s hard to see how our town’s future during a multi-year drought hinges on adding even more excess inventory to the rental market. All that will do is hurt the rentals that are currently profitable. Everybody loses except for a few second homeowners. A local homeowner who lives in the Knolls who also happens to own rentals would lose twice by having loud renters in the neighborhood while also losing rental income on his/her condo. Just doesn’t make sense.

  4. Tinner February 3, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    Maybe this wouldn’t be such a hot topic if the average renters from So Cal weren’t what we’ve all come to know and what we all moved to Mammoth to escape from.
    I got no problem with visitors staying for a few nights in my neighborhood as long as they don’t keep me up at night yelling and screaming, lighting off fireworks, take my parking space, leave litter scattered about, speeding up and down the street and yelling and throwing things at my dog, which by the way is the line in the sand…or pine needles.
    Boy, I love living here!!!
    I almost feel sorry for those folks.

    • Ken Warner February 3, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

      I live on a street with lots of employee housing and lots of second homes. Most people are quiet and non disruptive. The MMSA employees are the noisiest and even they are not so bad. There are laws against the behavior you describe. Sounds more like a police issue than anything else. This might be an imaginary problem.

  5. sugarmagnolia February 3, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

    After giving this issue some thought over the last year, I am definitively opposed to letting SFR’s be renting out on a short term basis.

    It’s nice to think, ‘let the little guy make some money from his asset’….but thinking it through, before long (possibly really quickly) the little guy would be completely priced out of the real estate market by the rich, who could invest in real estate and now bring in income too.

    It’s not rocket science. It’s not easy to buy a house in Mammoth if you live and work here, but if this comes to be, then most working people in Mammoth will end up commuting up from Bishop.

    I live in a neighborhood of condos, SFRs being rented out on a weekly or nightly basis won’t directly affect my living conditions. I’m not worried about idiots being loud next door. I’m worried about the longterm economics of our housing market and this is a BAD idea!

  6. JP February 3, 2015 at 11:27 pm #

    I am also am against changing the rental laws in the RSF, RR and RMF-1 zones. I own a Single Family Home in one of these zones even though I no longer live in Mammoth full-time. I struggle to justify _any_ of the purported benefits of allowing nightly rentals. I see it only as a small short-term gain with a potentially massive long-term loss.

    I was fully aware of the restrictions when I purchased. They were actually a major selling point for me in many ways but most importantly for the “neighborhood”.

    I do echo others fear that removing this restriction will fuel speculative investment. While this would be a short term “win” for those who prioritize the return on their “investment”, I think it would do more to unweave the fabric of our neighborhoods.

    Having witnessed the on-going speculative real estate insanity in San Francisco first-hand and past investment booms in Mammoth, it scares me to think of what could happen if the restriction is lifted. I’m not ignoring the fact that the Mammoth market has been rife with speculative investment but I think this rental restriction is the last gate preventing a massive uptick in prices. Most importantly this is the last gate that is somewhat within our control. What’s not in our control are mother nature delivering consecutive drought years, VONs running out of bread during storms, and worst of all: unchecked speculative investment. I must sound insane by not being excited about potential for return on my “investment” but it is much more important to me to retain as much freedom for our neighborhoods to thrive as possible.

  7. Trouble February 4, 2015 at 7:16 am #

    This isn’t really my business, but I think the owners of these properties should have their freedom to do what they want with their property. I kind of enjoy pissing of my neighbors every now and then!

    • TJ Davey February 4, 2015 at 10:18 am #

      Trouble, you may be speaking tongue in cheek, but your statement that “I kind of enjoy pissing off my neighbors every now and then” is a good example as to why nightly home rentals shouldn’t be located in Mammoth’s residential neighborhoods.

      As for “rights,” I believe that is a red herring in this debate. When you own property, you never have the “right” to do anything you want, otherwise you could open a restaurant or a liquor store out of your living room. In Mammoth, everyone who bought a home in the RSF, RR and RMF-1 zones did so with the understanding that turning their home into a rental business was not one of the “rights” they were receiving, but that “quiet enjoyment of one’s home” certainly was.

      • Trouble February 4, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

        TJ- this subject totally sounds like Mammoths version of our Adventure Trail System debate we just went threw. A lot of people assuming the worse. It would be a dark day in hell before I’d allow strangers to stay at my house. But I’m sure 99% of the people that would like to rent it for a week or so, are probably better behaved and more concerned about neighbors than I am. Over all I think Ken had the best suggestion, let the people vote on it.

  8. Ken Warner February 4, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    The meanness of the replies here — pro and con — just validate Kathy Cage’s initiative to put this to a vote. This is an issue that should be decided one way or the other. There are fallacies on both sides and no amount of discussion will ever resolve the issue.

    Vote — then live with the results.

  9. Tom O February 5, 2015 at 7:36 am #

    As someone who has lived next to a ‘nightly ‘ rental….Here is what you can look forward to-
    Friday night-about 1130 car pulls up, then 2-3 more cars pull up.Loud music,people talking very loud/yelling. No place to park all of them cars so lets park them on the neighbors driveway[mine] Let scrape ice and shovel snow and play loudly in it because we have never seen fresh snow…now its midnight…..lets go knock on the neighbors door to ask where the water shutoff valve is/ is.Gotta let the locals/neighbors know we are Kayne West fans….at 1230 am..I go out to ask them to be quiet because I have to get up at 630 am to go to work, Im told to go back in my house and mind my own business because they are on vacation….after all it IS about them right? Next night same thing cept now they have been drinking all day at the mountain….bottle and cans are starting to gather for some reason on my property…hmm. Why is my firewood disappearing? On Sunday morning as a token of appreciation from them, their trash is put in the back of my pick up or just left outside the front door for the animals to get to..This has happened dozens of times in that house, thank God I moved…Does trading quality of life for some extra tax dollars seam worth it? I dont think so.

    • Ken Warner February 5, 2015 at 11:04 am #

      Question: Why didn’t you call the cops? Why didn’t your neighbors call the cops?

  10. Turtleneck February 5, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    I can see a system where:
    a) The areas in which single family home rentals are allowed are limited (say, around the ski portals). I don’t think it’s appropriate in Old Mammoth, Sierra Valley, for example – but Mammoth Slopes, the Knolls with a high proportion of second homes..sure, why not?
    b) Homeowners should have to pay a (hefty) registration and license fee, and agree to abide by certain terms and conditions related to the conduct of their renters, and the maintenance of their property.
    c) If homeowners fail to have their renters abide by those terms (like noise complaints, garbage, illegal parking), their license is revoked.

    The cost of the license pays for the cost of enforcement; owners have a strong incentive to keep their renters in check, and nuisance is minimized.

    I believe there is a market for single family rentals in Mammoth, and I don’t think the existing stock of condos serves it (and we lose TOT because of it). I don’t believe SF rentals belong everywhere in town, but, judging by my experience as a resident of Mammoth Slopes (for example), there are many neighborhoods of predominantly second homes where the effects on residents would be minimal, and, quite honestly, between second homeowners and their “guests”, we experience those same issues anyway.

    I also see communities all over the state, in all sorts of places, figure this out with proper regulation and enforcement. Mammoth is no different.

    Just my 2 cents.

  11. MJA February 6, 2015 at 5:55 am #

    Isn’t there 30,000 plus rentable beds in Mammoth, and some people are concerned about renting beds? I vote my bed isn’t rentable, how do you vote about yours? =

  12. Wayne February 6, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    There does seem to be adequate room in the inn, so to speak.
    Higher priorities should be:
    1) long term protection of our water source such as keeping things like ORMAT well downstream,
    2) affordable housing and eliminating or at least reducing the need for service workers to commute up the grade,
    3) adequate internet infrastructure to accommodate the 30k visitors we can currently house, 4) adequate well planned parking (low or no dust) and expansion of bike lanes and trails.

  13. mike February 6, 2015 at 9:47 am #

    I recently purchased a home in the “Mammoth Slopes” area… I’m truly on the fence with this one, leaning slightly towards NOT allowing single family home rentals. I’ve lived in the rental condo’s and know the joy of idiot weekend renters, but I also believe that everyone has the right to do what they want with their property (just as long as it does not disturb everyone around them).

    I like turtleneck’s approach…

  14. A Citizen February 6, 2015 at 6:51 pm #

    To everyone who responded.

    Imagine reading your words as if it was 100 years in the future and then tell me your intent isn’t prejudiced against a class or group of PEOPLE.

    To say that you missed the target on this one is an understatement.

    It’s not about renting empty homes in your neighborhoods.
    Its about finding the money to continue living the lifestyle you have become accustomed to.

    It’s akin to finding oil on your swampland while hunting for dinner, then foolishly forgetting where you live.

    So… get ready to change Mammoth! Less services, bigger pot holes in front of those Hooper McMansions, fewer cops to call when you really need them. No covers on your cement ponds. Jed, Elly May and the Drysdales will be so dissapointed.

    I believe that if you intend to vote on this issue you should each be required to get a academic degree in accounting and read the entire P&L of the Town for the last 30 years.

    Then imagine you lost your trust fund and now you have to pay your bills.

    Good luck in your self-righteousness!

  15. Den of thieves! February 6, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

    Do any of these save the town by growing it campaigns ring a bell?

    1.The Airport purchase / Hot creek development

    2.The Village / parking structure

    3. The tax measures R & U

    4. Air subsidies

    5. Mammoth Tourism

    6. The TBID

    7.The Main Lodge landswap

    Single family neighborhood rentals is nothing more than another carpetbagger scheme A Citizen. You should be ashamed of trying to sell the taxpayers another White Elephant using the same old fear tactics.

    Another hero going to save the town for our children by “finding” some money.


  16. Eastside Bum February 6, 2015 at 11:25 pm #

    During my time here, I always held to the belief that “those who reside in single family residences have the right to separate themselves” from the daily work they provide in Mammoth. In other words, imagine being employed daily in the resort industry, then coming home after a hard day and putting up with the same issues you just escaped from!
    This is exactly the reason nightly rentals should NOT be allowed in Mammoth’s family neighborhoods. Please Town Council, and voters if need be, make the right decision.


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