Three significant events occurred this past week around housing, all focused on how to get stuff done.
They couldn’t have been more different.
The first was the Western Regional conference of the American Planning Association, held from Sunday through Wednesday at the Drury Plaza Hotel. That’s a pretty big deal for Santa Fe, directed to professionals in the West with jobs that influence governing bodies.
Planners are indispensable to the functionality of a city. It’s a profession guided by data gathering, with a presumption of a graduate degree a given, at least for senior planners. They also interpret and enforce land-use codes, subject to appeal of course. As with most professions, they are regular people — some are obstinate, some helpful.
They keep up on the latest ideas churned out by papers and conferences, and then try to implement what they believe the community and/or governing bodies are willing and able to accept to be a healthy and modern city. A recent buzz-concept among data wonks is “values data,” which tries to get at why people answer a certain way instead of just being for or against something. They believe it can help tailor the selling of new ideas. It probably can.
Which brings up the second event, organized by Creative Santa Fe and held Tuesday evening at Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. Creative Santa Fe has been the driving soul behind the vision of Siler Yards, the soon-to-be-built apartment complex with ambitions of being the coolest thing any local developer has ever attempted.
It’s going to have live-work spaces for artists and craftspeople with super-sustainable design and construction — some rents fixed for those making only 30 percent of area median income. All of this is being done by a nonprofit developer called New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing, headed by Daniel Werwath.
The eclectic crowd of a couple hundred networked and heard dramatic recitations of housing angst. They also heard from four out-of-town disruptive housing innovators before breaking into groups for more discussion.
Which leads to the third event: The city’s briefing and tour of the midtown campus, directed to entities intending to respond to the curiously named request for expressions of interest.
Mayor Allan Webber kicked it off with a joke about his perceived love of unicorn references and then acknowledged it’s exactly what the city may be seeking in a master developer for the area. As a designated Opportunity Zone inside of an overlay zoning district that grants entitlements and incentives that amaze and excite developers, there’s no question there is interest in the midtown campus.
On the other hand, virtually none of the development pros had ever responded to an RFEI; the normal process being to submit a competitive proposal and hope for the best. In this case, the mayor’s wish for a unicorn developer may be serious.
Given the city’s wish list of future campus activities — film studios, affordable housing, walkable nightlife, educational institutions, public buildings — it begins to sound like someone will need to ride in on a mythical horned steed to save the day.
Two important questions were asked of staff and went unanswered, questions critical to any future requests for proposals to do something concrete. What about existing and future below-ground infrastructure? What about the largely vacant adjacent state, federal and school district properties that separate the campus from Nava Elementary and Franklin Miles Park?
Kim Shanahan is a longtime Santa Fe builder and former executive officer of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association.