We’ve all been offered something we didn’t want. More than 75 residents in City Council District 3 recently had that experience.

JenkinsGavin development management and Homewise are proposing a charter school and 96 domiciles be developed on 22.2 acres of natural parkland habitat. Homewise CEO Mike Loftin repeatedly has stated his commitment to give the residents what they want. Residents answered emphatically and to a person: They wanted nothing but to keep the natural parkland.

Nature has covered the surface of the parkland with natural juniper, chamisa, grasses and cholla cactus, among other native plants. Native animals, reptiles and birds have moved in as well. There exists a natural harmony that would be destroyed and could not be replicated by human attempts.

Neighbors have emphasized the problem of lack of parkland areas in District 3. Romero Park in Agua Fría, according to William Mee, village president, is overburdened because of development and the lack of neighborhood parks and parkland. Another developer, seeking city approval to build 59 homes on Kates Way, sandwiched between the Cottonwood Trailer Park and El Camino Real Academy, referenced Romero Park along with the Santa Fe River Trail to serve the new community. This adds to the 400-plus apartments on the academy’s east side. Meanwhile, the nearby natural parkland on South Meadows is within walking distance of the new housing on Agua Fría and the apartment complex adjacent to the academy. It offers public access.

Santa Fe’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan described District 3 this way: “Council District 3 had the lowest percentage of residents within walking distance of a park with only 15 percent of its estimated population within ½ mile of a park” (Sept. 30, 2017).

Traffic is a problem. Residents detailed jams due to high traffic volume and accidents on South Meadows Road during work-time commutes. Traffic is clogged beyond the Rufina Street traffic circle, nearly reaching the intersection at Airport Road. The city has plans to widen and improve the traffic flow at Agua Fría and South Meadows, but funds for the project only recently were allocated. To date, District 3 is about to receive approximately 400 apartments on South Meadows, 59 single-family dwellings on Kates Way and a cluster of Twilight Homes at the Cottonwood Trailer Park entrance on Agua Fría. Drivers will feed into the South Meadows relief route to N.M. 599. While traffic studies claim adequate capacity, reality appears differently to residents struggling to exit their access streets onto South Meadows or use a crosswalk.

Neighbors are faced with an inexplicable conundrum between Santa Fe County and the city of Santa Fe. More than 20 years ago, the 22.2 acres were designated as parkland by the county; it’s a matter of record. However, administrations change, money becomes reallocated and promises are unknown or forgotten. Santa Fe’s population grew in the southwest section, and the parkland was annexed into the city in 2014. Thus arose the conundrum; the county owns it, but the city controls it? No, wait, the city doesn’t control it because the county owns it. But the county doesn’t have jurisdiction in the city, yet the county owns it. No, wait, the county offered it to the city (in 2018), but the city didn’t accept the offer, so since the county can’t develop it because it’s in the city, and the city doesn’t want it, it’s for sale. Parkland? If you are confused and frustrated by the above, so are the residents who are trying to navigate this maze.

Both the city and the developer just want to give the residents what they want. The neighbors want to leave the 22.2 acres of natural parkland untouched. Please, give the gift of status quo, of nothing, of preservation of a pristine piece of parkland. It will be the gift that keeps on giving to the resident families in the surrounding communities. Neighbors, who walk this parkland daily to enjoy the view of distant mountains and the natural beauty, can continue to do so.

Alba Blondis lives in District 3, where she is chair of the Southwest Santa Fe Advocates, a retired educator and community advocate. She also is a small-town mayor’s daughter.

(8) comments

William Mee

NONE, of these housing developments in the last ten years have provided any parks for their residents. These 22 acres of open space (which can have the Eberline property added to it once it is remediated from nuclear contamination), are the ONLY available lands in this Southwest Sector of town. This is the simple truth, Homewise needs to backoff of this. If you know their Boards of Directors tell them to rein in their Executive Director who was very rude and unhinged in the ENN meetings.

Janette Smith

The residents of this south side area were promised Open Space decades ago. The citizens voted for the bonds to pay for the purchase of the area. The decision to 'sell' our Open Space was made by Santa Fe County Commissioners in a closed door 'executive' session without any input from the residents. The residents voted FOR the Open Space and the Open Space should remain as is.....OPEN. Native grass, trees, animals do not need to be exterminated by more asphalt; increased traffic in the area is definitely not needed; three story complexes on 22 acres are not needed. When asked what benefit this proposed development would give to the residents, the response was "we are giving you a two acre park'. A two acre park in place of 22 acres of Open Space? 22 acres of Open Space in District 3 whereas the other three Districts have over 100 acres each? Let our Open Space become the southside Frenchy's Field for our area.

Lupe Molina

The city really needs affordable housing too. And a developed park would seemingly serve more people.

Marlow Morrison

Lupe Molina, the south side has more than its fair share of affordable housing, in fact the neighborhoods surrounding this OpenSpace are the most affordable housing in SFe. What we don’t have our fair share of is Open Space. Recorded fact is this open Space serves 2600 residents that otherwise do not have access to a park within the national standard of a 10 minute walk. A 2 acre park (that will NOT be a public park, and will be subject to being closed to the public) is not an acceptable offer. Affordable housing may serve Santa Fe in a whole but at this level it becomes a burden and a Quality of life issue to this area of town. We are not against affordable housing, we are for good city planning and a balance in the quality of life for everyone in SFe. We need our Open Space for our mental and physical well-being.

Caleb Parson

Thank you Alba

Saving this Open Space is important to the neighborhood and to the city as a whole. We need this space, and this is an important opportunity for government to keep its word to constituamos

Caleb Parson

Susan Dorn

Most of us are not for EITHER affordable housing OR open space. Most of us realize the importance of both. Why can't city leadership understand this concept? Can't it be both / and? Drive around southside neighborhoods and you will see big yellow ENN signs posted literally everywhere. To say the least, much of this appears haphazzard and poorly thought-out. I used to live in a city where there was no zoning and everything was overbuilt. It leads to all kinds of problems. So that discussion needs to occur and some pause buttons need to be hit. Secondly, I was quite interested in the comment "the city and the developer really just want to give residents what they want." That's the easiest action to take. And if they really want to do that, then it takes practically no effort. Residents of these neighborhoods, and adjacents ones as well, have been consistently vocal about what they want. And it isn't these high density additional homes/condos and a small park and another school where area residents will only have a mathematical odds of their children attending it. They are happy with their open space, which they themselves maintain. The overall problems Santa Fe is facing are not easily solved, but this one is. Put a stop to this and give them what they want.

William Mee

When the City annexed the 4,000 acres in 2008-2018 it inherited 13,000 more people and their NEEDS. Areas in the Southwest Sector of town although flat and good for sewer gravity flow and housing had a lot of issues such as: being landlocked, having no paved roads, sewer or water, no parks, grocery stores, job areas, schools, libraries, trash service, etc. Since this annexation time the City has done very little to alleviate these NEEDS. All while adding more people to the mix. People are fed up......

This Meadows/Rufina Street Roundabout Open Space/Park was a part of the District Court-ordered Settlement Annexation Agreement (SAA). The City, County and Judge signed off on it. The County was to bring the Open Space up to standards and turn it over to the City as a Park. The Mayor felt that the City could not afford another Park and felt that the Judge would never catch him, and that the decades long planning of the County Open Space, Trails and Parks Advisory Committee (COLTPAC), could be ignored. So that is where we are at.

My reason for approving this as a park is a very selfish one: the open space and eventual park was part of a City-County planning effort, the COLTPAC that would make this a "Regional Park" and take away some of the pressure on our Romero Park in Agua Fria---which is our local park moving quickly into "Regional" status (we never bargained for that). We ask County government, “wouldn't a regional status of Romero Park raise the costs to the County?” An overworked Las Acequias Park also raises costs to the City. We already know it increases gang activity because of the number of teenage incidents there.

There are only 20 acres of parks in Council District Three compared to the over 100 acres in the other 3 Districts. Four teenagers have been shot in Las Acequias Park in the last two years and the residents are afraid to go there after dark. Where else is 22 open space acres already owned by the County/City?

Marlow Morrison

This is an accurate account of S. Side citizens current situation with S. Meadows Open Space. The Public school district and residents had the foresight to lay the foundation to this educational Open Space benefiting everyone involved, by dedicating many many hours to it’s purchase with tax payer bonds and it’s planning. Their reasons to do so were valid and they are the same reasons this property should remain Open Space, today. County and city abandoned its commitments of proper annexation and improvements without notification. It’s unclear how or when it was zoned R-1 a blanketing zoning subject to unorganized planning through spot zoning, which is what HomeWise is trying to take advantage of. What happened? How can this happen? Accusations that discredit the value of this space are shameful. Saying this property promotes, crime and prostitution or people just take their dog their to poop are short sides uninspiring examples you could say about ANY park, these accusations are also just not true about this space.

Residents aren’t “ all of a sudden” opposing developing it into 95 units and a school because they don’t want housing development in their neighborhood, they are opposed to making it anything other than Open Space because it’s the 1st time they heard it was proposed at something else. Their is a county sign posted on the fence that announces it as designated open space belonging to the county and numerous legal public records of its existence. Anyone against this property remaining Open Space in a district that only has just over 20 acres of parkland does not appear to have the residents best interest at heart for their Quality of life.

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