The New York-based nonprofit Community Solutions closed Monday on the purchase of Santa Fe Suites — a 122-room hotel on the south end of St. Francis Drive — which it intends to convert into housing for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, city Affordable Housing Director Alexandra Ladd said.

But controversy over the proposal apparently is heating up.

The project faces opposition from several commercial property owners who have filed a lawsuit claiming it doesn’t conform to the shopping center’s covenants and city codes, which they say define a hotel as a business that offers lodging to the general public.

In a lawsuit filed Dec. 15 in state District Court, attorneys for Plaza Entrada Co. LLC and San Miguel Shopping Center LLC say that if the project goes forward “it will irreparably and permanently alter the nature of the current use of the property ... and impact the value of the surrounding properties.”

The proposed project is a public-private partnership in which the city of Santa Fe agreed to contribute $2 million of federal coronavirus relief funding to help Community Solutions purchase the hotel with the understanding it be used to provide low- or no-cost housing to community residents.

Community Solutions’ Real Estate Development Director Dave Foster declined to comment Monday.

But the nonprofit said in a Dec. 17 emergency motion for an expedited hearing on the complaint that the property owners’ lawsuit “reeks of improper gamesmanship” and their arguments are based on a “tortured interpretation” of the covenants and city definitions. It added the plaintiffs may be motivated by “selfish concerns” over the effect the project might have on their businesses despite the project’s widespread community and government support.

Plaintiffs attorney Mark Ish said Monday said it’s not his clients’ fault city officials never bothered to look at the covenants for the shopping center — which includes an Albertsons supermarket, fast food outlets, several medical offices and various other businesses — or reach out to area business owners or residents before approving the deal.

“These people were all in the dark,” Ish said Monday. “The first we heard of it was when The New Mexican printed the story [about the project being approved] Dec. 19. ... The people who were going to ram this project down our throats are the ones to blame.”

City Councilors Michael Garcia and Carol Romero-Wirth — who represent District 2 where the hotel is located — both said the city was not required to hold an early neighborhood notification meeting on the proposed new use because it does not require a zoning or ordinance change.



But Garcia said he was disappointed the community had not been included in the discussion earlier and felt the city should do better in the future.

Ladd called the project a “private transaction between two private entities,” adding the city merely acted a passthrough for the federal funding and had to expedite the process because of deadlines placed on the expenditure of federal coronavirus relief funds.

Ladd said Community Solutions — which contributed $6 million to the project, according to previous reports — will own the property initially and would be operated by St. Elizabeth Shelter.

“And down the line it will transfer wholly to a local entity,” she said.

City spokesman Dave Herndon wrote in an email Monday that under the proposed plan, 70 percent of the efficiency apartments in the hotel would become “affordable rentals for working men and women” and 30 percent would be “homes for those experiencing homelessness,” including veterans.

Mayor Alan Webber defended the project Monday.

“Affordable housing and family-friendly neighborhoods have been at the top of my agenda since I took office,” Webber wrote in an email sent by Herndon.

“The Santa Fe Suites project will provide homes for Santa Fe families and individuals who need a good place to live with rent they can afford. Everyone in Santa Fe should be proud of this positive step for affordable housing and the partnership that is making it possible.”

The property owners’ lawsuit seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing Community Solutions — and its local affiliate, S.F. Holdings LLC — from moving forward with the project and compensation for the cost of bringing the lawsuit.

The case is pending before state District Judge Matthew Wilson.

(36) comments

Frederick Jones

It's funny how the neighborhood gets so upset about not being included in the city's aqusition of the homeless facility. Pete's Place got rammed in by David Coss and Patty Bushee by keeping the neighborhood in the dark about the deal. It took 10 years of keeping the residents in the dark about leases for Pete's Place to comply and take responsibility for all of the extracurricular activity that goes on. Once a lawsuit got slapped on the interfaith shelter, they had to do something to mop up and comply. All the crazy stuff that they let happen there for ten years with no accountability. Now just find a way to keep them in check by auditing them regularly. Find out where all that funding really goes in this nonprofit world that we live in now. I'm sure facilities like this would work but the money always goes to administrative costs then to the real cause. It's always NIMBY, try IMB for 10 years. Puro Fanta Sé!!

Christina Gill

So disappointed that people in this city still believe a war on the poor is an answer to protecting their life style, what ever that may be. The location is well suited for the purpose. Without low income housing there will be no service workers for the upper class to be able to have housekeepers, waiters, stylists, dog sitters, store clerks etc. So sad that in fact our city in not an inclusive community.

Diane Gonzales

So disappointed that you don't know that there are two low- income apartment complexes in the area that were not disputed when built, by the homeowners in the surrounding neighborhoods. The apartments are a welcome part of the community. I would say these neighborhoods are some of the most inclusive in Santa Fe. Over the years, as some problems developed because of a FEW select people, there were simple questions regarding this venture and their plans for handling these problems should they arise. No one is saying "no" to this venture but it sure must make some feel good about judging and not trying to see the other side, especially when not knowing all the facts. Better to declare the need for information as a "war".

Karla Harby

This lawsuit might turn into a good mechanism to get more information out to the nearby property owners and to Santa Fe generally. It also might make the nonprofits doing this to think harder about security, safety and appearances for the project. But I doubt it will stop the project.

Comment deleted.
Elisabeth Wooster

You must have missed the last 15 minutes of "A Christmas Carol".

courtney winter

It’s interesting to see people complaining about this this new housing opportunity for the most vulnerable in our community- usually they seem to be the same folks that complain about “the homeless problem”. St.Elizabeths has an outstanding reputation for helping people get back on their feet and in to housing. I’m sure they will do a stellar job at the Suites. Their shelters are program based with strict rules. They cannot control every person in the city who is without housing but I am very confident that they will be able to provide the city and it’s NIMBYS a shining example of how to run a permanent supportive housing program. Did you know they already run 3 others? No complaints about those!

Jarratt Applewhite

I can remember 40+ years ago when one of Santa Fe's most charming attributes was its tolerance. Rich folks lived cheek-to-jowl with people who still raised chickens. Gays were fully accepted decades before the rights movement. Heck, people smoking a joint on the Plaza seldom suffered more than a warning. The advent of the NIMBY crowd has had a very real destructive effect on the quality of life in the City that one prided itself on its Difference. A pox on them.

Diane Gonzales

Why the city could not have even held a meeting just to explain the public-private partnership was dismissive to the surrounding communities. What are the security plans? Will there be management on-site 24/7? There are a myriad of concerns that people have a right to know if they have invested near that area This is not about not wanting to help low-income and homeless people. Not at all. Rather, it is all about being up front with the communities affected by this decision and how this endeavor will be managed. Private companies often invest in low-income housing only for the tax breaks but do not care about the day-to-day management.

The city knew the money had to be used by the end of the year so they were not going to take the time to inform the businesses and homeowners that will be affected. It will be pushed through so it will be a feather in someone's hat. It would have been nice if the councilors we elected to represent this district would have been better advocates for us.

LeRoy Sanchez

You are so right about this! You can be sure if Cristo Rey or St. Francis Schools were going to be transformed into “affordable” housing without a meeting, folks in those areas would be up in arms!

Harvey Wright

"Are there no workhouses or prisons?"

Donato Velasco

such an inclusive community as long as its not in my neighborhood ..

Jarratt Applewhite

[thumbup][thumbup]

Jeff Clark

I live on Cerro Gordo next to low income housing. No problem with property values here. These old residence motels are the perfect thing to turn into housing for homeless and low income.

Dennis Romero

Jeff - thanks for mentioning that. I'm glad that your neighborhood is functioning well and people are getting along with each other. I'm a big proponent of low income housing and homeless programs. I think what the adjacent property owners, residents and homeowners in the area are choking on is the lack of government transparency and opportunity to provide input. Public hearings, whether the City thought they were legally required or not, could have done wonders in educating the area about the project and defusing these issues before they began. Just my two cents.

Hope all is well, you are staying warm and enjoying the holidays.

Dennis

LeRoy Sanchez

Very well explained!

Jarratt Applewhite

[thumbup]

LeRoy Sanchez

Where exactly on Cerro Gordo is “low income” housing?

Stefanie Beninato

In the 1200 block of Cerro Gordo. I used to live across from it. Just like rental units anywhere. One time some almost teenagers came on my property and were acting out, I found out which apts they lived in across the way, talked to their parents, and guess what? Like most responsible parents, they took action and there never was another problem. I think it is lack of information and the idea that this project will be passed onto another entity that are the sticking points. Low income housing does not translate into bad neighbors. Recent studies show that the way of generational poverty is to distribute low income/subsidized housing across socio economic areas in the city--not to cluster all that type of housing in one location.

Molly Mix

Housing-first homeless initiatives are ALWAYS going to have hurdles, and this is one of the most common/insurmountable. Liberals vote for/raise the funding for these projects but in the end no one is willing to live next door to them.

New Mexico MUST address its horrific homeless crisis at it’s roots. Treating mental illness and substance abuse on the individual level is the ONLY way to resolve this. It’s not easy or cheap, but it’s logical and compassionate.

Stop spending money our money on Netflix and solar panels and help the people in the streets, please!

Kathy Fish

The issue here isn't "liberals" in the area or folks' discretionary spending on "Netflix and solar panels" - it's about government transparency and neighbor input and buy-in. This flippant and assumptive post only undermines those whose property values and sense of community participation are at stake - and who deserve, at least, to make their voices heard.

LeRoy Sanchez

So true!

Ramon David

Solar Panels save money - solar is the cheapest, safest means of producing electricity:

https://ourworldindata.org/cheap-renewables-growth

B. Rosen

People tend to get upset when anything is done that could possibly lower their home’s market value. I understand this as a homeowner myself. However, there is no proof that this development will in fact lower home prices or pose any danger whatsoever to folks in that part of town...that remains to be seen. Perhaps, an additional investment in security needs to be made before moving these folks into these units to calm their fears. We need to remember that many people are struggling right now and need our help.

Richard Reinders

Ask the downtown real estate owners in downtown San Francisco and Seattle with people using the doorsteps of businesses as a toilet .

Stefanie Beninato

How does this add to the discussion? Not al all?

Bob Res

It adds quite a bit as one can first hand data on the destruction of two once-great American cities who have spent decades “moving forward” and using screamed accusations such as “NIMBY” to avoid real discussions of the potential ramifications of ill-formed decisions in the name of progress!

Have you been to either of those two cities recently?

———- Bob

David Cartwright

Dear New Mexican, part of journalism is actually investigating. Why not read the covenants and even print the relevant ones out for us in the article next time. And maybe even ask some local real estate attorneys to comment.

Comment deleted.
Kim Griego-Kiel

David Brown, you should be ashamed of yourself. Just because one is poor, does not mean you are into illegal drugs and illicit sex! How demeaning of you. Many people have lost jobs this last year and they were barely making it as it was, but they were making it. Now they are not. Many people are one medical disaster away from losing everything. Maybe they have had a child who has been sick from birth and it has wiped out all their savings? Or they were simply born into poverty and they have struggled their entire life to support an extended family and could never get ahead. Shame on you. Your privilege is showing. I would bet it would never occur to you to offer a helping hand to any of those who need this housing assistance.

MP Paul

The concept that all homeless programming is successful and a benefit to our community is inaccurate. How the programming is being administered with the use of funds and a positive impact on those it’s serving, all while maintaining public safety, is critical to the success of homeless programming in Santa Fe.

The organizations providing homeless services must have the integrity to honor the commitments made to our community when establishing the programming. Sadly St. Elizabeth has a poor and lengthy record of not honoring the commitments they made to our community to provide solely a residential program at their location on Alarid St. St. Elizabeth is surrounded by residential homes, and insisted that they would not provide emergency shelter services of handing out food, clothing… to those not in their residential program. They also committed to assisting the surrounding neighborhood in keeping it clean and safe. St. Elizabeth is failing on those promises.

Several years ago the railyard was suffering from a significant decline in public safety and the previous director of St. Elizabeth was called out on providing emergency shelter services and not honoring their commitment to run a residential program. With nearly 75 people present in a meeting that included both the mayor and city manager, St. Elizabeth’s former director stood in front of our community and once again committed to running a residential program only that would not include handing out food and clothing. She lied.

Today St. Elizabeth, under the direction of Ed Archuluta, is again operating the shelter with emergency services and handing out food and clothing with no regard for the public safety of their neighbors. We have had severe public safety issues with transients that have threatened neighbors with clubs, threatened their pets, dedicated on neighbors property, trespassed inside neighbors homes, sold narcotics in front of residential homes, and simply walked over to St. Elizabeth and got a bag of food and support to live in the railyard.

The lack of integrity of honoring commitments when homeless programs are established should be of concern to any neighbors of new programming, as I can say that our experience in the railyard with St. Elizabeth is very disappointing. While I believe a residential program is manageable in our neighborhood, it is up to St. Elizabeth to operate with integrity, rather than change their programming with changing political forces. It is also essential that programming be overseen with greater sophistication as to where, how, and when services are offered. The public safety failure in the entire railyard area, including the underground pass, the railyard park, and the surrounding railyard neighborhood is another whooping failure for our community and the Webber administration.

Frederick Jones

St Elizabeth's has been a great job once they swept everything down to Pete's Place.

Barry Rabkin

The issue is not whether this action is moral or ethical or caring or needed ... the only issue is whether it is legal according to the laws of the city and the State.

Elisabeth Wooster

I lived at the Santa Fe Suites for a few weeks while some work was being done on my home. It's close to a grocery store, a pharmacy, and transportation. The units all have a full-size stove and refrigerator. It's well set up to give people who need it a leg up and back out into the community. It's in a safe area, and other than Albertsons, it's not a particularly busy shopping center. I think it's an excellent plan. People like to say they want to help the homeless unless they're in their own backyard.

Johnny Duran

As predicted, it has begun. Good luck property owners. The city does not give two bits about what you think. Drive by Harrison Road to see your future.

Adrianne Montoya

Sometimes in life you get lucky, deal with karma whether to you it’s bad or good, are blessed, be dealt a good hand or through the grace of God are shined upon. However you see this option for taking care of fellow human beings sure shows quite a bit of where you fall on the spectrum of selfishness and selflessness. If you are so unbelievably lucky to have a home by no means should homeless or unfortunate humanity taint your area. But your option is to sell and probably not at a profit and check into the higher mountainous east side of the area. That’s if they want you there since you will lower their property values.

Richard Reinders

Adrianne, people are lucky to have a home , they work their butts off to build a life with a home on the most part luck has nothing to do with it just hard work. How many of the homeless are able body people , if it was just people with mental and physical issues the current system is well equipped to handle them and I believe we should help them. But since Webber has socialized Santa Fe they come from everywhere for a free lifestyle, and the more we give the more will come and give up their jobs. This I think is the issue with most people, not just the devalued real estate. By the way do you own a home in the neighborhood?

David Brown

Exactly right

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