The following represents our collective analysis of the current situation with the SFUAD property in general and specifically the “Midtown Campus Project Final Report” (“Report”) and the “Final Planning Guidelines for Midtown Property a/k/a SFUAD” (“Guidelines”), prepared by the City of Santa Fe’s Department of Economic Development and released in July, 2018. Both documents are available here. Chainbreaker staff and members of our Housing Justice Leadership team have compiled this document to highlight what we view as important aspects of the reports.
Addressing the Housing Crisis
The re-development of the City-owned property on the former campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design (SFUAD) presents itself as both an opportunity and a potential threat. On one hand, mindful and ethical development of the property has the potential to significantly address Santa Fe’s housing crisis as well as the growing inequities and segregation our city currently faces. However, without equitable input and informed intentionality, development of the property has the potential to dramatically increase displacement pressures on surrounding areas and exacerbate these problems.
Our city is already alarmingly segregated by race and class and gentrification is a serious problem impacting people of color disproportionately. Inequitable urban planning and development play a big role in perpetuating this dynamic. If done carefully, development of the SFUAD property can interrupt this trend and begin to heal these divisions.
Safeguards Against Displacement: The SFUAD property is immediately adjacent to some of Santa Fe’s neighborhoods most vulnerable to gentrification. High levels of poverty, residents of color, renters, low-income homeowners and disinvestment are key indicators of this vulnerability, of which the surrounding areas largely possess. If rapid development and/or outside investments flood the SFUAD property, it is likely to dramatically increase displacement pressures on surrounding areas. Therefore, it is critical to be mindful of the effects that the development of the property may have and to include safeguards against displacement. Neither the Report nor the Guidelines address this issue at all, leaving a critical gap in the process and plans.
Housing for Who?: Both documents prioritize housing in the development of the SFUAD property. Housing development is discussed, but the most attention is paid to student housing and “workforce housing.” Use of the term “workforce housing” can raise red flags because it is often used as a euphemism for housing intended for middle income earners who are resourced to a point, but still have trouble affording housing. Whereas the housing crisis does affect people in this category, the most urgent need for support is for those with few or no resources at all. It is our belief that the use of this term in these documents was not intentionally used to prioritize or limit housing to middle income earners. In fact, it is important to note that throughout the Guidelines use of phrases such as “housing residents can afford,” “all residents” and an emphasis of rental units abound. All of these are critical to addressing the housing crisis in a holistic and authentic way. There are few or no definitions of housing in relation to income, which is a positive exclusion, because it leaves the door open to defining terms as the process continues. If the phrase “workforce housing” and similar language is to continue to be used, it should be made explicit that low-wage earners and workers with no income (such as parents raising children) should be acknowledged as part of the workforce and as having a right to housing.
Non-Preferred Uses: Some areas of the Report specifically call out some measures that are critical to dealing with the housing crisis as “Non-Preferred Uses.” In particular, on page 8 of the Report it calls to “Avoid homeless shelters.” and suggests “enabling and encouraging job training for homeless people” instead. Whereas we believe that permanent, stable housing is the ultimate solution to a cycle of homelessness, it is clear that shelters are an important piece of the puzzle. Suggesting that people in need of homeless shelters simply need “job training” shows a lack of understanding of the issues and invokes some disturbing stereotypes. The same page of the Report, however, also identifies “suburban layout” as a non-preferred use, which shows an understanding that the sprawling nature of development in Santa Fe has, in many ways, contributed to the problem.
Building on Previous Work: On page 5 the Guidelines specifically call on the plans to “Develop housing options that align to any housing strategies or plans adopted by the Governing Body or City Staff.” The Resident’s Bill of Rights resolution (2015-65), which was created through a grassroots community engagement campaign and passed unanimously through by the Governing Body already serves as a guide for how this kind of development should take place in Santa Fe. Additionally, city staff and many groups with expertise in all sectors of housing, services and civil rights have been working together for many years to create a multitude of documents, recommendations and Guidelines that can be used to provide guidance for addressing our housing crisis.
Overall, there is wide consensus through these documents that the SFUAD property has the potential to significantly address Santa Fe’s housing crisis and therefore, must remain a top priority. This is backed up by years of hard work from service providers, housing advocates, City staff, elected officials and grassroots community members directly affected by the crisis.
Addressing the Equity Crisis
“We are mindful that we must connect this opportunity to the City’s rich history and culture, while looking forward to a more sustainable, resilient and socially equitable future.” That is a statement on page 9 of the Report. In several places throughout both documents, a commitment to equity as a value is stated. Putting this value into practice, however, is often harder than it sounds.
Page 13 of the Report acknowledges some of the limitations that City staff faced including budgetary constraints and timing that was less than ideal. On page 13, the Report acknowledges “…certain neighborhoods and populations can be disconnected from civic engagement.” It is absolutely clear that concerted efforts were made by the City staff members who designed the outreach to make the process equitable. Unfortunately, we believe that these limitations, coupled with systemic challenges inherent in city government attempting to conduct truly equitable outreach led to results that clearly indicate there is still further work to do in order to make this process truly equitable.
It is important to note that equity and equality are not the same. Equity is rooted in civil rights and social justice, whereas equality is rooted in simplistic numbers. Equity takes people and circumstances into account, seeks to right historical wrongs and bring resources to areas and people where need is greatest. Equity requires that input be proportional to the extent to which a person and/or community will be impacted.
Ethnicity: On page 13 of the Report, it states that Santa Fe consists of “Over 50% Hispanic population, including roughly 14% first generation immigrants.” However, only 17% of survey respondents identified themselves as Hispanic and only 6 out of 2,235, or 0.3% of surveys, were completed in Spanish. In a city that is majority people of color, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents were white.
Income: Low-income people are largely absent from the Report, with people earning over $35,000 a year making up nearly two-thirds of survey respondents. $35,000 a year is 48% higher than the city’s minimum wage, and is 67% higher than the median income of Hopewell/Mann, the poorest neighborhood in the city and immediately adjacent to the SFUAD property.
Youth and Families: On page 2 of the Guidelines the stated goal is that the plan should be designed especially for “…young people and families, with opportunities to grow and continue the tradition of multi-generational families in Santa Fe.” However, input from these demographics is limited. Over three-quarters of survey respondents were over the age of 35, and although it didn’t make it into the Report, survey results published on the City of Santa Fe’s website showed very little representation from families with children.
Surrounding Neighborhoods: Geographic representation is also problematic. Survey respondents may have been distributed throughout (and outside of) the city. However, the nature of this project has particular geographic implications and whether positive or negative, the results will impact surrounding areas more than areas that are father away. This is particularly true of the Hopewell/Mann neighborhood, which is highly vulnerable to displacement. Representation from Hopewell/Mann and other areas immediately adjacent to the property are not represented in the survey proportionately to the impact that they will bear.
The Guidelines state the goal of “promoting social equity” on page 2. In order for this goal to be met in an authentic way, the process of creating development plans for the property and surrounding areas must itself reflect this value. Representation and participation in the process of creating guidelines for development plans that may help shape this important piece of public property must be equitable for any plans to be considered equitable. It is clear that city staff made good-faith efforts to create an equitable process, however, it is equally clear that there is still work to be done to fill the gaps in the current results.
Conclusion and Recommendations
There is much to be celebrated in the reports and the work of elected officials and City staff is to be commended. At the same time, there is still work to be done. The process of designing and implementing the development of the SFUAD property bears great weight and has vast implications on the future of Santa Fe. Too much is at stake to move with anxiety and haste. It behooves us all to move forward with deliberate forethought to ensure that the development of the SFUAD property helps to heal Santa Fe of our growing divides and make real the promise of our shared values of equity.
We encourage the Governing Body and City staff to actively partner with community organizations that represent the people who will be most impacted, but whose voices are currently not represented to augment the City’s current work. This partnership should be official, intentional and funded so that grassroots groups, who are already the experts at community engagement yet often under-resourced, have an opportunity to honestly and realistically contribute their expertise. A truly equitable plan, must start with a truly equitable process. We must ask ourselves soul-searching questions and be ready to hear heart-felt answers.
“How would the Report be different if people of color and low-income people were better represented?” “What is missing from the Guidelines that people experiencing homelessness can contribute?” “What would people who are directly vulnerable to displacement think about the development plans?” “What do youth and families with children have to add to the story about a development that will largely impact future generations?”
It is our organizational experience of over 14 years of community engagement, that when done appropriately, the people who bear the brunt of Santa Fe’s housing and equity crisis are eager to be part of planning the future of our beloved city. We want to remain here, where our families, our culture and our histories are rooted. We want to see a future with us in it, where equity is real and where our voices are not only heard, but responded to. We want to leave the false choice between disinvestment and displacement behind.
We believe the SFUAD development can be a shining example of Development Without Displacement and it is our hope that if we work together, we can make that happen.