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Affordable housing proposal doesn’t quench neighborhood’s thirst for open space

Bows and a sign showing support to keep the open lot on South Meadows Drive undeveloped
Kaveh Mowahed
Bows and a sign showing support to keep the open lot on South Meadows Drive undeveloped

Santa Fe is in desperate need of more housing, especially homes that are affordable to its working-class. Homewise, a non-profit that helps people with home ownership, wants to purchase an open lot where they’d build 160 homes, but neighbors say the project is not what they were promised.

Santa Fe County bought the 22-acre lot on South Meadows Road, near Airport Road, on the city’s South Side with bond money in 2001. There was intention to build a park or open space for neighbors to enjoy, but the park never materialized because of the cost to develop it.

In 2018 the county offered the land to the City of Santa Fe to develop a park, but again the cost of the project was prohibitive and the city turned down the land.

Now, Homewise wants to buy the land from the county to build a mix of affordable and moderately priced homes and a 6-acre park in a project they call Los Prados. That is, if they can get city approval for their plan.

The Homewise plan for Los Prados has changed significantly because of public input since last summer. Initially there was going to be a charter school, fewer homes, and a smaller park on the parcel. The outcry over the loss of open space pushed the developer to scrap the school in favor of a larger park. And the increase in housing units has allowed for a larger percentage that would be set aside for low-income buyers.

Next week the city’s Planning Commission will decide on the proposal that includes changing the general plan from the lot being held as a park and zoning changes to allow for greater density than the current single unit per acre allowed.

Homewise Community Development Director, Johanna Gilligan, said in a Zoom discussion of the development this week that the non-profit’s plan is now the neighborhood’s best chance of getting a park on the site.

Gilligan explained that the old promise of open space from Santa Fe County is no longer on the table. “It’s either this, or it’s the county selling it to somebody else which would likely be a for-profit developer. And those people, in that scenario, may not end up with a park.” 

Nevertheless, neighbors are feeling short-changed. Public comments submitted last month to the Planning Commission are overwhelmingly against the project, citing the broken promise of open space, a perceived increase in traffic and building density.

The public can submit written comments before 5pm Monday by navigating to the 3/3/22 Planning Commission meeting and clicking the "comment" button on the right side of the screen. In-person comments will be taken during the virtual Zoom meeting of the planning commission Thursday at 6pm.
This report is part of our Your New Mexico Government project, a collaboration between KUNM radio and New Mexico PBS. Support for public media provided by the Thornburg Foundation.

Kaveh Mowahed is a reporter with KUNM who follows government, public health and housing. Send story ideas to kaveh@kunm.org.
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