No. 15 | Shifting Spirit


In the August edition of The Santa Fe New Mexican’s Home Magazine, I discuss how the lack of an updated general plan is causing the spirit of Santa Fe to shift south. Urban Sense.


Read the Article:

The spirit of Santa Fe has moved south, away from the Plaza, away from the humble beginnings of a village built on Indigenous land 400-plus years ago. Back then, most residents lived in small, modest adobe houses. Today, as the city preserves the historic compact urban form that makes Santa Fe so livable and so desirable (and also so expensive) — organized around the Plaza, with narrow streets — we have witnessed a shift.

Santa Fe’s Eastside, West Side, North Side, Southside and Midtown neighborhoods each have their own character. Historically, the land to the south of the city center was flatter and less expensive. Newer, denser developments have been built there, namely, the Casa Allegre, Bellamah and Tierra Contenta neighborhoods. More residences could be more easily built, for less, on the south side. With economics as the driver, the Southside has become one of the few more affordable options for living in Santa Fe. Even though the city owns land on the north side, it is hilly and requires expensive infrastructure to develop. As a result, it is unlikely that land will be developed soon.

Concentrating any one kind of development in one specific area erodes social inclusivity, diversity and equity in all neighborhoods. The city’s lack of an updated general plan, or even an agreed-upon public preference, contributes further to the problem. Instead, the city makes land use decisions incrementally, address by address.

Gayla Bechtol received her architecture degrees from Harvard University and from the University of Southern California. Gayla Bechtol Architects is a design-centered architecture/urban design/historic preservation practice that has created designs for homes, institutions, and urban spaces for nearly 30 years. Bechtol practiced deep democracy while leading the citizens of Santa Fe to the award-winning Santa Fe Railyard. She is a board member of Friends of Architecture Santa Fe.


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