Leaders of Santa Fe: Despite increased efforts, our community is still failing to provide an adequate and diverse supply of housing solutions that are affordable, equitable and sustainable. We firmly support the policy platform of the Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition and propose four specific, actionable land-use and planning recommendations for immediate consideration by the city of Santa Fe’s leadership:

  • Eliminate obstacles to the permitting of accessory dwelling units and residential additions.

The city can stimulate the creation of more housing by streamlining the complex and expensive permitting processes for ADUs, casitas and residential additions — making their construction far more accessible to a wider range of homeowners and extended families, and reducing the burden of permit review by city staff.

To do this, simplify permit requirements by adopting a set of prescriptive, preapproved construction details and specifications for conventional one-story new buildings and additions (ex: Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety Wood Frame Prescriptive Provisions) and commission local architects to develop a number of standard ADU designs with preapproved permit sets so the city can offer off-the-shelf solutions to all homeowners (ex: LADBS ADU Standard Plan Program).

  • Adopt pro-housing amendments to Chapter 14 of the Land Use Code.

Chapter 14 contains regulations and practices which unnecessarily reduce, discourage or delay the construction of affordable, compact, dense and equitable housing. Relatively simple changes to the code can eliminate the most egregious anti-housing regulations and instead encourage or incentivize the provision of urgently needed homes. The city has already outlined the most feasible strategies and now must follow up by drafting and adopting the right code amendments.

These would include elimination of processing inefficiencies (i.e. requirements for initial subdivision, development-plan submittals, special-use permits) for smaller-scale housing development projects and remove ambiguity about allowable densities; incentives for affordable housing construction by providing increased development, permit and impact fee waivers if affordable homes are provided; the encouragement of better housing development by providing significant height, setback, lot coverage and unit-density bonuses (by right) when proposals exceed our minimum standards for affordability and sustainability (e.g. water and energy); and the reduction of parking requirements where residential projects are transit-oriented, provide innovative alternative transportation options and have excellent walkability scores.

  • Audit and rectify exclusionary-zoning policies.

Current single-family zoning and Historic District regulations include a number of measures that unfairly limit housing development, exacerbate economic inequality and reduce equitable participation in the cultural history of this city. A process to review and rewrite these code measures, already begun by city staff, must be restarted in order to better support inclusive housing practices and highly sustainable and equitable development.

  • Reestablish long-range planning.

After a long hiatus, the city must commit the necessary resources, staffing and leadership to engage in long-range, community-oriented planning efforts that can produce a principled vision for the next 10 years of Santa Fe’s development. This work is crucial for enhancing social equity, liveability and the vibrancy of our built environment while simultaneously addressing the urgent and complicated challenges of continued growth and a changing climate.

We believe these items are immediate first steps for systematically addressing Santa Fe’s housing crisis and are crucial for advancing the equity, sustainability and vibrancy of Santa Fe’s built environment.

Carlos Gemora is an urban planner working to facilitate creative changes in the built environment. He submitted this on behalf of Friends of Architecture Santa Fe, a group whose mission is to advance civic engagement and constructive dialogue about design and the built environment. Go to architecturesantafe.org/ to learn more.

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