Multi-Family Homes in Mammoth Lakes

Development of multi-family homes, mainly duplexes and triplexes, started early in Mammoth’s real estate development history.

The original subdivisions of Old Mammoth (portions of) and Sierra Valley Sites were zoned to allow multiple units. The entire Sierra Valley neighborhood was specifically zoned R-2 and R-3 (now RMF-1 and RMF-2). Subsequent mixed-use areas were developed allowing both commercial and multi-family development. And fringe areas zoned and envisioned for condominium development experienced multi-family homes and apartment infill on certain parcels.

Like most of Mammoth real estate, the variety of multi-family homes is wide ranging both in age and in style. The old motel district of Old Mammoth (Old Mammoth Road just west of the Snowcreek Athletic Club) is a mishmash of properties ranging from the old motels themselves converted to apartments to modern apartments and deed restricted housing. Many older duplexes exist that date back to the 1940’s and 50’s. Many were originally built to include owner occupied vacation homes.

John Hooper Seizes Opportunity in Multi-Family Real Estate Development

A major surge of multi-family development occurred in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. Coinciding with an uptick in new single-family construction, John Hooper developed many fourplexes in the Sierra Valley neighborhood. These were typically four 2-bedroom / 1 bath units with garages. They were designed to maximize the rather consistent 10,000 square foot lots in those subdivisions. But many of the lots had irregularities.

The term “Hooper Home” was coined from the distinct building style of these fourplexes built by John Hooper.

I sat through many public hearings while Hooper applied for variances. And he was granted many. The buildings evolved over the period and many were built with propane gas heating. Today, these buildings are a mainstay of local housing. Hooper also developed some duplexes and triplexes of a similar style including some outside of the Sierra Valley area.

Town Housing Agency

The Town of Mammoth aggressively pursued a Housing Element to the General Plan in the 1990’s. The Town anticipated aggressive resort development and a subsequent housing crunch in the future. The plan included developer contributions (exactions) toward affordable housing and the establishment of a Town housing agency. The Ski Area also developed housing especially designed for seasonal employees.

Today the Town operates major housing projects in Old Mammoth and in Sierra Valley (including some “Section 8” housing). They have also developed “deed restricted” condominium projects for low and middle income ownership. These developments have occurred since the year 2000. And since then almost no free market multi-family and apartment units have been built.

Owning a Multi-Family Rental Property

There are many satisfied landlords in Mammoth Lakes, especially ones who purchased prior to 2000. But the tenant market remains rather transient and expenses tend to be on the high side. Most mature landlords prefer to keep their rents lower and preserve their tenants for the long term. Less desirable properties typically attract seasonal tenants and have higher vacancy rates. Snow removal expenses can be extreme especially in heavy snow winters, and property maintenance expenses and utilities tend to be higher in this mountain environment.

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