As a native New Mexican with family dating to 1610, it has been an honor to serve as a city councilor. In that role, I learned change is necessary to preserve what we love about Santa Fe.

Our culture, our way of life and our future will only move forward as we grow as an economically vibrant community. Doing nothing threatens things we hold dear. Growing into the future while respecting our past is important to Santa Fe. The proposed innovation district legislation does just that.

The latest U.S. Census shows another financial crisis looming. Older people are moving to the state, younger people are leaving, and our population will shrink. We need to diversify our economy to create jobs and protect future generations. The proposed legislation creates a path forward where innovation businesses can thrive on the south side on already commercially zoned land. It enables the creation of thousands of new, high-paying jobs and affordable housing while activating educational and job opportunities for our kids while enabling them to stay in our community.

Today young people face a challenging job and housing market and the prospect of moving away to be successful. We deserve a way to keep our culture and families intact, here.

The legislation enables the creation of innovation districts, which must provide: new, well-paying jobs for residents and new professionals; energy-efficient, LEED-certified buildings preserving our environment and water; on-site affordable housing rather than paying a fee in lieu; and a commercially zoned site of at least 50 acres in size. In addition, buildings may vary in height up to five stories (75 feet, or 4 feet taller than Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center) on up to 50 percent of the site. These requirements limit the number of potential Innovation District sites to two, both in the far south side of town — Las Soleras, adjacent to Interstate 25 and Cerrillos Road, and the Santa Fe Commercial Center at N.M. 599 and Jaguar Drive (both commercially zoned).

For those concerned about taller buildings throughout the city, you can rest assured this legislation doesn’t allow that. Views suggesting otherwise are factually incorrect. As a steward of our city for decades, I would never have suggested legislation that would negatively affect our historic cityscape. The goal is to allow for an urban, mixed-use “15-minute village” where jobs, housing and services coexist in a walkable community that is highly desirable to tech employers. Allowing urban density enables parking garages to replace the large surface parking lots we often see in town.

Innovation villages are in demand around the world because they are appealing to employers. Their efficient design reduces sprawl, saves water, cuts down on traffic and reduces environmental impact. The existing code makes it impossible to do this; thus, the proposed legislation. Approval of this legislation would not approve any development project and instead would allow an applicant to submit a proposal that would be subject to the same public involvement that we have now and a decision by the City Council.

Those who spread fear about taller buildings in town haven’t understood what the legislation allows or simply want to prevent our beloved city to grow in a good way on land already planned for commercial use. This distracts us from what’s important: jobs, housing and good land use. Despite moving on from the City Council, I cannot let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass us by. This legislation will be positively transformational — I ask, humbly, please support it wholeheartedly.

Roman “Tiger” Abeyta has served over 20 years in city and county governments. He is the chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Fe/Del Norte, which serves children and families in Santa Fe and Rio Arriba County.

(14) comments

William Mee

I RECEIVED THIS TODAY:

Philip Crump

Santa Fe 87505

Former member, City Planning Commission, Urban Policy Committee (1992-94)

Former member, City Growth Management Task Force (1990-92)

Former President, Old Santa Fe Association (2001-04)

Santa Fe resident since 1989; New Mexico resident since 1969

I am appalled that elected officials think that 75-foot tall buildings could be considered appropriate

anywhere in this historic city.

It is bad enough that a thin coat of tan stucco can be considered sufficient to honor Santa Fe‘s

cultural heritage or that three-story luxury apartment blocks address the shortage of affordable

housing.

Who among the planning commissioners and city councilors wish to be remembered for driving yet

another stake through the heart of Santa Fe’s cultural and visual heritage?

Ever since the adoption of the Old-New Santa Fe style as the appropriate building style for our

historic city, successive public and private efforts have been made to preserve the appearance our

city—blending with the landscape as much as possible.

The Escarpment Overlay District Ordinance describes the intent, which certainly contradicts the

thrust of the proposed new height allowance--

(a) Preservation of the City's aesthetic beauty and natural environment is essential to protect

the general welfare of the people of the City, to promote tourism and the economic welfare of

the City, and to protect the cultural and historic setting of the City;

[because]

(b) Development is highly visible on or about the ridgetop areas of the foothills for great

distances and detracts from the overall beauty of the natural environment and adversely

impacts the aesthetics of the mountain and foothill vistas as seen from the City;…

Likewise, it continues to be essential to preserve and protect the City’s aesthetic beauty and natural

environment and 75-foot tall developments will certainly be visible from almost anywhere in the city.

Furthermore, citizen voices in opposition to future development plan submission for such tall

structures have been again limited to appeal of an administrative permission; there is no public

hearing for development plans.

The proposed Code Amendment briefly considers the consequences of its not being

enacted—namely, that existing codes and procedures must be followed. Those code requirements

and procedures—even as they are so often honored in the breach—are our only protections against

inappropriate development.

This egregious (“outstandingly bad; shocking”) proposal must be stopped in its tracks and erased

from any further consideration, for the health and welfare of Santa Fe.

Lupe Molina

Except the "visual heritage" and the pueblo revival style of architecture is a 20th century invention.

William Mee

This comment is written in regards to an “Ordinance Relating to the Land Development Code, Chapter 14 SFCC 1987; establishing Permitted Uses, Definitions, Standards, and Incentives for Qualifying Innovation Village Projects, located within Planned Unit Development Districts, that allow for Building Heights of up to Seventy-Five (75) Feet.”

It may be possible to have more lower buildings that fit into the Santa Fe Style and don’t obstruct the view-shed. The Innovation Park concept can be welcomed into the community if it’s creative backer is willing to adhere to local customs.

The Ordinance itself breaks with tradition and all the accepted City processes for adopting an Ordinance since the Ordinance Resolution process was instituted at the turn of the 1900’s. This Ordinance is intended to be a “Text Amendment” to the Ordinance process and is the creation of San Diego resident and former Land Use Director Carol Johnson. A Text Amendment requires no advanced public meetings, like the required Early Neighborhood Notification (ENN) meeting since it is perceived as merely changing wording. Yet, the three story limitation has been a precedence for over four hundred years. Granted the first two hundred and eighty years were in adobe, and wall construction could not withstand the weight, but the precedence was set and it was universally accepted as what was livable. Some of those earlier buildings with these limitations of physics still exist.

The Ordinance is featured as “Old Business” although it is clearly “New Business” since it was pulled from the last Agenda without action. Labeling it as “Old Business” implies that it has been publicly presented before and that public comment was received on it; neither of which is the case. If this is allowed to stand as Old Business, all further, controversial proposals can be pulled from the agenda and then advanced to the approval stage as Old Business, without ever coming before public scrutiny. Additionally, no designated staff person is assigned to record the comments received, which breaks with ALL Public Noticing requirements of the past.

The concept that Qualifying Innovation Parks could be approved Administratively by the Land Use Administrator, makes this position a kingmaker. It is beyond any existing power they have presently and violates the Balance of Powers in the new City Charter. It becomes an extraordinary power. This lends itself to corruption when one-man rule is installed.

Out-of-state visitors are already writing letters to the editor about how they think Santa Fe is losing its charm because of over-development. How the City Different is becoming Everytown, USA. Nowhere is this more evident then on the Cerrillos Road Exit to I-25 and its proliferation of Big Box Stores. This is why Santa Fe Beautiful led by Rick Martinez built the first of six gateway welcome to Santa Fe signs. We have five more to build on the approaches before we destroy the view-sheds of previously protected approach corridors.

We are about to kill the Goose that lays the golden eggs, and wind up with a mouth full of feathers. This town is still billed as a “tourist destination” (recently as an “International designation”) and people that come call it: European, charming and spiritual. If there is NO MORE emphasis on our historic nature and "Santa Fe Style" and Pueblo Style, and the open spaces are turned into high-rise apartments for 4th, 5th, and 6th homeowners it will ruin our Tourism. We are ruining our Eco-tourism also (this is what we are putting all our tourism advertising dollars into NOW; to encourage skiing, hiking, and biking, etc.)---under the course we are under we are in this Ordinance FINISHED as a tourist destination. We need to highlight our historic roots, our European and Pre-European (Native American), our clean air and water, and beautiful vistas and Mountains. The more than 6,000 units built, remodeled and permitted since 2019 are going up and turning this area into New Jersey. No Pueblo style or adobe color. It is all greens, grays, white and orange in the color palate. Not even a fake viga. Yet, they all past the 200 point style checklist of Land Use. People are talking about removing the Historic District in the guise of providing Affordable Housing. Who is making the money off of this? Who will ever come here again on the path we are on?

Karla Harby

The opinion writer provides no evidence whatsoever as to how high-rise skyscrapers will keep New Mexico's youth from moving out of state. Stated that way, it's obvious the idea is preposterous.

Please provide a list of "innovative" companies that would move here and hire our young people if only, if only, they could locate in a campus of high rise buildings covering up to 50% (!!!!) of the lot--far on the edge of town.

It's shameful the way the "City Different" is being sold off piece by piece to the highest bidder.

Also, the opinion writer is clearly totally out-of-touch with real estate and employment trends that are massive and here to stay. Specifically, Work From Home (WFH) is what high tech workers want and expect and indeed are demanding. Technology makes it possible and better and the blight on the landscape that the opinion writer is advocating is foolish and will permanently destroy a lot of the beauty around here.

If you want to keep young people in New Mexico, then you need 1. Support better education 2. Support living wages and 3. Support affordable housing. This proposal does NONE of these things.

This is clearly a project to benefit big developers and big developers only.

William Mee

I think it was pretty clear that when we elected a "Strong Mayor" that their main job was to build affordable housing for the tourism industry workers who had basically relocated to Rio Rancho and are sending all their spending there. After a while, they were even just dropping off the train and getting jobs in Albuquerque, because maybe child care was the deal breaker. The thing is that when we looked at it last time the Living Wage was $11.16 and hour, and employers were working them only 32 hours a week so they didn’t have to pay fringe benefits and when you figure a net budget they only have about $500 a month to spend on housing. Which goes directly into our earlier conversation on the inability to build something that is affordable at the $55-100 a square foot range when the actual building costs are $250-350 a square foot. So government has to come in with that subsidy and it is like an outrageous $200 a square foot. So maybe all that can be built are shells of homes or tiny houses. Amenities come later. 75 foot tall luxury stuff cancels any possibility of this land ever being converted to affordable housing.

Brooke James

The apartments that have been constructed in the last 2-3 years already hide the beautiful mountains. Also there is more light pollution from the construction over the last two years that now make the stars difficult to see.

These higher density apartment developments are happening in Dallas ,Phoenix, Austin , Ft. Worth, and parts of Arkansas and it has totally changed the landscape of these cities. I think the developers are pushing this. And city leaders suddenly forget who they are representing and cave to the developers demands.

This type of get richer quicker development only benefits the already wealthy developers and harms neighborhoods and natural assets and resources.

I was reading that a current development trend is to now build housing developments that are rentals. I feel like this impairs and diminishes a person’s chance of being able to afford to buy a house and of course developers get richer. D R Horton is currently doing this in Texas. If our elected officials approve this change in building height, it will destroy the very things that people love about this town and make it look like every other cookie cutter town that allows developers to write their rules. Fast food and apartments will block the natural views, sunsets and mountains which are magical.

We also need to be very mindful of our limited water supply and recognize we live in a desert with limited resources. Developers really don’t care much about that but citizens do and so should our elected leaders!

William Mee

Exactly!This is about the last Mayor was confronted with a tremendous need for Affordable Housing and to get the Short Term Rental Policy under control. The very lifeblood of our tourism industry was suffering. The workers in hotels and restaurants could no longer afford to live in Santa Fe. The quaint little adobes that they were renting on the east side, were being remodeled into luxury Airbnb. Suddenly, the money they earned was taken to Rio Rancho for spending. So Webber had the problem defined for him and some research done on it. Instead, he started to drive the City staff to approve apartments for a high-end market, under “Market-Rate approvals” that are now like $1,850 for a studio apartment. What waiter can afford this? Then he defended this with the myth that opening up more housing creates a vacuum at the bottom. He vastly denigrates the history and three cultures of the area, which is a major tourist draw.

Rick Martinez

Thank you KT Rivera could not have said it better.

KT Rivera

Citizens of Santa Fe understand well the concept of “precedence”. Once exceptions to ordinances are granted for ‘special circumstances’, the door is opened for other applications leading to a possible trend that the exceptions become the rule. Similarly, new ordinances for certain ‘zones’ could be the first step to the bigger plan of re-zoning Santa Fe at large. The recent decisions by the governing body to disregard existing corridor overlay ordinances in favor of new development proves the true intent of this administration. We see this Mr. Abeyta, and we are aware. We will not recognize this city in 5 if your plan goes forward.

Lupe Molina

Times change and so do city ordinances. We live in a city, the grow. And the young people of this city need more opportunities.

Karla Harby

You are absolutely right. But a skyscraper is not going to give them opportunities. New Mexico has some of the worst schools in the entire USA. That's why our young people are not getting ahead.

Lupe Molina

Oh stop! A 75 foot skyscraper? The exaggeration from nimbys is getting absurd.

William Mee

I believe our kids that need the jobs are not connected to out-of-town builders. Normally increased density lowers the price of housing. Recently, the cost of concrete, steel and wood is up 300%. Meaning that building buildings taller than three stories, which require an elevator, will be done at 300% higher than smaller units. So each 75-foot tall building permanently takes away units that could be used for affordable housing. Additionally, the 75-foot tall building maybe more unsustainable in the future whereas the electricity costs will be higher than the solar energy potential that is possible on top of them; if we look at putting solar arrays on top of every housing unit. Whereas, a solar array may be able to power less than three stories in height. The steel and concrete required in 75-foot tall buildings is much more unsustainable than in smaller units. Paul’s adobes for example.

The hidden costs in the 75-foot tall building, are that doesn’t take into account that anything over 3 stories will require elevators, a design component in a building that only a few Albuquerque companies will be able to provide. Then to build it only out-of-state vendors will be able to bid. The 75-foot tall superstructure will be in steel, a design component in a building that only a few Albuquerque companies will be able to provide. Then to build it only out-of-state vendors will be able to bid. So what is the point of building this all, when it lessens the profit to the local economy? 

Lupe Molina

Can you substantiate any of this with a citation? Seems bogus.

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