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.