No. 23 | Urban sense: How Can We Build a Better City?


In the November edition of The Santa Fe New Mexican’s Home Magazine, I discuss the the urgent need for more housing options in Santa Fe, exploring various community perspectives on increasing livability and density, and emphasizing the necessity for public discourse and intentional urban planning to address these issues. Urban Sense.


Read the Article:

There are not enough places for people to live in Santa Fe, affordable or not. Is that the only thing we agree upon? How to solve the issue, or even whether we should try to solve it, is polarizing and should be discussed publicly. (I am writing this before the affordability tax vote results and have appreciated all the comments pro and con).

Can we find common goals? Can we make the city of Santa Fe livable for those that want to live here? Can we provide enough choices between existing and new homes to satisfy all the iterations of households? How can we provide a great place to live for humans that works for most of us? What would the trade-offs look like if we tried? Santa Fe has a great foundation for growth, if we choose. Can we identify the design opportunities for medium density, when currently we have mostly low, with some now high density, in our town?

Let’s observe/define how we each live, work and consume. What do our daily lives look like? Santa Fe Is a wonderfully livable place. How can we increase the numbers of those who might live here and increase the livability? Let’s define as a community what socially appropriate and financially feasible density looks like. We may generate new forms of living in the process and add value to an existing neighborhood without taking away what is special and unusual about it. How can we allow self-determination and local families to remain without excluding the newcomer? Can we increase the current housing choices?

We need community conversations, community self-determination, intentional open spaces and intentional design based on the observations of how we can live in a habitat that suits more, not fewer, of us. Land use is a complex issue. It is hierarchical. Contained in the current code are complex relationships and assumptions, most of which are imported and have little to do with life safety as we know it today. I hope the current city administration and staff have the determination to see the rewrite of the Land Use Code all the way through so that it benefits all Santa Feans. I hope it will then craft a planning process that might address the issues we are facing. Let’s identify what is working and what is missing. Can we manage expectations of community while simultaneously providing for more community?

There will always be the folks who can afford and choose to live away from town. They are probably not driving in every day. And there are the folks who live outside of town because they must. It is these people to whom we must give a choice. Then there might be less driving, less traffic and so forth. Those of us already in town must give way for denser housing. What are the trade-offs? Vibrant community. Less traffic overall. A diversity of neighbors. Sustainable habitats for humans.

Can we identify who is here? Who wants to be here? Let’s identify our common goals and work toward them.


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