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The green-stuccoed home of Jimmy and Jessica Day. Under city code, houses in historic districts must be finished in ‘brown, tan or local earth tones.’ 

Roses are red. Violets are blue. If you stucco your house an unapproved color in a historic district in Santa Fe, woe is to you. 

Five years after denying Jimmy and Jennifer Day after-the-fact approval for the green-colored stucco on their east-side home, the city of Santa Fe has filed a lawsuit asking a state court to order the couple to comply with city code by changing the color. 

"The City has exhausted all non-judicial attempts to enforce the City zoning regulations," assistant City Attorney Michael N. Prinz wrote in a complaint filed March 22 in state District Court. 

Jennifer Day said Thursday she was "shocked" the city would file a lawsuit over the matter because she and her husband have been in communication with city staff who approved their new color choice for the home and were aware they've been out of town since late December dealing with a family tragedy.

And then there is the pandemic and the weather. 

"In case the city didn't realize this, we have been under restrictions due to COVID," she said. "A lot of people haven't been working. It's now winter and nobody paints in winter, and we told the city we would certainly have the property painted by the spring. Our timeline is that it would be completed by the first of June." 

The city's battle with the Days — who own several Santa Fe restaurants — began in late 2015 when the couple began applying green stucco to their home on Camino de Cruz Blanca, where city code dictates buildings "shall predominantly be brown, tan, or local earth tones." They also added a portal to the house without obtaining a permit for the work. 

The city ordered them to stop the work and obtain proper approvals, the lawsuit says. 

But the Days decided instead to ask the Historic Districts Review Board for an after-the-fact exception to the color requirement. 

The board declined to grant forgiveness, so the couple appealed the decision to the City Council, which upheld the denial. 

Not willing to take no for an answer, the Days appealed the city's decision to state District Court, which affirmed the city's decision.

Still not ready to say die, the couple filed a petition asking the state Court of Appeals to review the lower court's ruling. 

The Days argued their home in the Wilderness Gate area near St. John's College is hardly visible from the road and their "forest green stucco" is an "earth tone" under the plain reading of the code.

"The use of the disjunctive 'or' means that the 'earth tones' described are colors that are not brown and are not tan and are some other color," their attorney wrote, "except of course, 'chocolate brown’ and 'white', which are specifically discussed."

The appellate court declined to get involved and denied the Days’ petition in September 2017, according to court records. 

Nearly two years later, on June 25, 2019, the city's lawsuit says, the city notified the Days they were still in violation and gave them 30 days to come into compliance. 

Attachments to the lawsuit show the Days' negotiations with the city continued for another year after that.

The couple obtained city approval to apply a stucco color called "Soapstone" to their home in January 2020, according to the documents, but they went back to the Land Use Department in August and got approval to change the color to a "dark brown," similar to colors called "Whitall Brown" and "Cliff," of which they submitted samples. 

"The best way to describe it is ‘Tom Ford brown,’ ” Jennifer Day said Thursday, referring to the fashion designer, who successfully fought to be allowed to build a mansion atop Talaya Hill in 2006. "Tom Ford got approval to paint his property a color, and that's the color the city approved us to paint," she said.

But they haven't made the change yet, she said, because of delays caused by the pandemic, the weather and a family tragedy that has kept them out of town for most of the winter. 

"I'm not sure why they decided to sue us now," Jennifer Day said. "They knew we were indisposed, and the weather was such that you couldn't do anything. So it's really puzzling why they decided they needed to do that." 

In addition to asking the court to order the Days to change the color of their home, the city is asking that the couple be ordered to pay the city's legal costs associated with obtaining their compliance. 

"Sounds to me like the city wants to make some money," Jennifer Day said. 

(44) comments

Steve Fitzer

Sounds to me like the Day family is passive aggressive, disrespectful to the city supporting them vis a vis their restaurants, and think they are above the law besides being complete bullies. Remind me not to eat at their restaurant. This is the problem with easterners transplanting themselves to our region. Avarice.

Kathy Zimmer

Where's the outrage when the city allowed the architecture of the railroad yard right smack in the historic district

LEE HAI

Indeed, mostly very unattractive, lacking any inspiration, just modern industrial braindead......

Stefanie Beninato

The railyard is in a different historic zone than the Eastside. I too dislike the city's idea of railyard industrial but again the design requirements there are completely different. You are comparing apples to oranges. And green may be a color in nature--but it is not earth tones--they derive from the colors of local clay originally. People did not paint their homes; they stuccoed them, adding the colored clay to the final layer.

zach miller

illite is clay made from earth, and is the exact same green tone as this house everyone in santa fe is apparently forced to look at.

zach miller

"you can only paint your house based on living organisms that left behind brown clay, if you paint your house based on living organisms that left behind green clay: the entire town of santa fe will criticize you instead of simply just looking at something else."

zach miller

Methinks there is a lot more money in allowing a corporation to infringe on a historic area, than there is forcing a private citizen to paint their property the way the government wants.

zach miller

since when is "green" not an earth tone? Did I miss something where photosynthesis isn't a part of the earth?

zach miller

I really have a hard time wrapping my head around green being a problem the more I think about it.

the law says "earth tones"

If you compare the earth to every other planet in our solar system, green and blue are two of the major colors that make earth unique. At this point they should paint their house ocean blue. I would love to see santa fe argue in court that the "little blue marble" isn't blue.

nina lerner

when your eye scans the vista around Santa Fe, it is clearly a well thought out decision to keep things the colors that exited centuries back. I love it

there are hundreds of colors that comply. keep it real...

Steve Fitzer

Agree, this is a case of someone purposely being contrary to show they can.

zach miller

its not well thought out if people can paint their house an earth tone, and then the city wastes money because a private residence doesn't have the correct colors to you're own personal liking.

nina lerner

interesting view

Bridget Johnson

Entitled homeowners who believe the rules do not apply to them. Bullying the City and wasting taxpayer $$$. Shame on them.

Steve Fitzer

Agreed

John Robertson

If only it looked more like Santa Fe Village on Don Gaspar ...

Steve Fitzer

If only it looked more like LA or New Jersey wouldnt santa fe be perfect

LEE HAI

Much ado about nothing, with so very many real concerns and tragedies locally and globally I would think the PC nannies would have better things to fuss and whine about.....Too, most of many of these 2nd, 3rd, 4th homes seem little more than empty lifeless spiritless stage sets, they could use a bit of color, well that's the city different for you..... 

Steve Fitzer

It starts with green and ends with some overly entitled guy building a medieval castle...

LEE HAI

That argument seems just a tad extreme and not very relevant to this situation, just a little bit, no? A good quote for the PC Nannies though......

JL Barry

This house looks fine. Wish I could afford one like it. I think the H-board is off their meds.

Khal Spencer

What's wrong with an earthtone green? Sometimes Santa Fe, in its attempts to be of some sort of Little Brown Box Purity, has its head up its...

Robert Kowalski

Is green not an “earthy” color? Oh wait it IS. Just not the “earthy” color the city deems appropriate. How nice our tax money going to a frivolous lawsuit because a color of. Shiite is t what they say is good enough.

Nicholas Freedman

Rich Santa Feans. Whiny, privileged and entitled.

Yep that checks out.

Andrew Lucero

Those aren't "Santa Feans"... Those are Rich Transplants.

Angel Ortiz

[thumbup]

zach miller

I mean you are the one upset that a person won't paint their house to your personal liking, so I am not so sure that they are the whiny entitled ones.....

Leslie Fitch

I agree that they should follow the local rules on house paint colors but to be fair it is an earthy green color. Maybe the way the law is written is not specific enough and is open to interpretation. Seems like a gray area (no pun intended). At least its not bubble gum pink.

Karla Harby

While I agree the color is nice, I am concerned that these property owners built a portal without a permit and surely knew they were testing the color guidelines. The right way to pursue this is to get a variance in advance. Then they could have made all their claims about how the color is just fine.

To build a portal without a permit is a big no-no if only because so many Santa Fe builders don't know how to do build things right, and safely. No reputable contractor would have done this work, they all get permits, so it was some kind of side jobber or handyman (cheap) who did it. If that portal falls down their homeowners insurance will not cover the damage, and it would be tragic on many levels if someone got injured or worse in an accident like that. Also, smart buyers won't buy the house.

Finally, if they didn't want to play nice with the Historic District guidelines, they should not have bought a house in an Historic District. It's the same argument made about Homeowners and Condo Associations. Play along or move along.

Augustin de la Sierra

After a few years of wrangling both in and out of court, in June 2019 the City said to the Days paint the home in 30 days or else.

In January 2020 the Days committed to a brown color.

In August 2020 the Days changed their mind and wanted another color.

I am not a fan of the Land Use Department. I think its staff is in fact all about accommodating developers and less about following municipal law. As needed, odd, twisted versions of the municipal law are used, or exemptions are sought.

Family tragedy there may have been, but it seems to me the City has been more than patient over several years. The Days are costing taxpayers a lot of money with their machinations. If the Days do not paint the house by the end of April, and if I were the judge, I think I'd rule for the City and order the Days to pay the attorney fees.

Grace Perez

Absolutely. From the appeals to the chronology it's clear the Days are neither speaking nor acting in good faith. They should have perhaps bought a house in an area without restrictions. It was their choice and now they need to paint, pay and move on.

David Ford

To me this IS an earth tone and looks quite nice. The whole idea of making Santa Fe into a "Theme Park" motif is outdated, and unjustifiable. Looks better than all those so-called traditional homes all along Paseo de Peralta....

Khal Spencer

[thumbup]

Richard Reinders

Ask Descartes who they promised a job after their elected term was up to get there non compliant sign approved or Vladem Museum, see if Webber wants a donation for his Murals on the convention center. I am sure if you dig deep enough there is other cases of not being compliant with historic district codes in Santa Fe, you have to pay to play. You sound like you fit right in with this entitled crowd of code breakers like the old head of land use.

Andrew Lucero

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Dan Frazier

Maybe if it was pink or red I would feel more understanding of the City's position. But it is a nice green color that blends in with the surrounding landscape. When was green paint invented anyway? Were there no green buildings in Santa Fe in, say, the late 1800s or early 1900s? In any case, this is the 21st century. Santa Fe's approved color schemes are so dull and boring! Seems like the City could find better ways to spend tax-payer money.

Lupe Molina

There were no buildings that looked like this at all in Santa Fe during that time because "Pueblo Revival" is a 20th century invention undertaken more recently to give Santa Fe "consistent character." Its all made up.

Grace Perez

But it's the law. And the Days knew this when they elected to make their house a non-compliant color.

Maryann Palker

[thumbup]

Ramon David

[thumbup]

Stefanie Beninato

No, Dan, there were no greens. They were based on the clay colors in the soil. These people sound like they "are the universe". They knew they needed permits and H Board permission but decided it would be easier to ask forgiveness. When you have gone through all levels of appeal and it is still no, time to get it. And the whole bs about the pandemic etc--construction was/is considered an essential industry and was one of the few that never slowed down especially for outdoor projects.

LynneMarie Lowe

Sounds like the typical...privileged rich...who don't believe the rules apply to them too.

Andrew Lucero

[thumbup]

Grace Perez

Agreed.

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