Rock Creek subdivision gets a green light

The often-contentious Rock Creek project slated for the old Paradise Lodge and Restaurant property was approved this week by the Mono County Board of Supervisors, green-lighting a project that has taken the better part of a decade to finalize.

On Tuesday night, the Mono County Board of Supervisors approved several and various mitigations and changes to developer John Hooper’s original project, most of them recommended by the county’s planning commission at an earlier meeting and by residents who have been very vocal about the project. 

The 4-0 vote (District 1 Supervisor Larry Johnston recused himself because he owns property near the project) comes nearly two years after the board approved the environmental analysis of the project which paved the way for developer John Hooper to complete the project he started more than five years ago.

About 30 members of the public attended the Tuesday evening meeting, which lasted several hours.

Called the Rock Creek Project, the new residential subdivision will consist of 15 residential-zoned lots located right behind and up the canyon from the old lodge, replacing many of the old cabins and buildings of the original resort. Hooper already has several residences on the property, including a high-end home he built for himself.

The project is described by county planners as the following: The project “proposes to subdivide the parcel into 15 lots: 12 market-rate single-family residential lots (the applicant has already developed and would retain one of these parcels as a private residence), with two lots deed-restricted to require a secondary unit and one parcel reserved for sale as a workforce housing unit ... and two parcels devoted to complementary uses, including a trailhead parking lot and dedication of 5.7 acres of open space.”

The project has been mired in the usual land development controversies that surround almost every project in the Eastern Sierra: deer, water, traffic, noise—along with a few unique to this project.

Three main issues have worried local residents the most.

One, the old Paradise Lodge and Restaurant literally spans the creek. Many locals and visitors have fond memories of eating at the restaurant with crashing Rock Creek right under their feet, making the old building a much-beloved landmark.

To mitigate that worry, the old sign for the restaurant and the building front over the creek have remained and the restaurant is now a private residence for Hooper.

Second, the only access to the subdivision, which is locked between the narrow walls of Rock Creek Canyon, is off a hairpin turn of Lower Rock Creek Road. Getting in and out of the subdivision, and the possibility of collisions with the frequent bikers and vehicular traffic, has been a big concern of residents and planners alike. To address this, Hooper has added a “no parking” area at the corner itself.

Third, the hairpin curve is also the traditional trailhead for the popular Lower Rock Creek trail. To funnel hikers, mountain bikers to the trail without allowing them to wander through the private residential area, to find enough parking in the narrow canyon for both hikers and residents; all of these issues have been something of a logistical nightmare, or at least an engineering challenge, that have taken years to resolve, with some fierce resistance from locals to anything they perceived as a shortcut or safety hazard to the public.

In the end, though, the project will go forward, adding another few dozen residential lots to the county’s sparse private property holdings.

Hooper said in a previous interview that he intends to make the development as environmentally friendly as possible, including using the latest technologies to build energy efficient homes.

“I am going to live here, and this is the last project I intend to build in Mono County,” he said. “I want it to be the best.”