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Divided panel backs campus redevelopment

July 24, 2018

A divided City Council committee on Monday night narrowly endorsed a resolution authorizing the next phase of efforts to redevelop the former College of Santa Fe campus after debating one councilor’s proposals aimed at including more community input regarding what happens to the St. Michael’s Drive property.

City Councilor Renee Villarreal called for augmented outreach to “underrepresented” and “marginalized” Santa Feans who will be affected by new activity on the city-owned site.

She introduced legislative amendments seeking an engagement study specifically tailored to such groups; an emphasis on the “historical trauma” of “displacement and gentrification” in Santa Fe; and the inclusion of a “resident’s bill of rights,” a framework through which city staff would be directed to work with renters, low-income homeowners and the homeless as housing elements are planned.

Villarreal said her amendments were meant to redress what she sees as “some inequity” in the recently concluded “concept” phase of the city’s redevelopment process.

For instance, Villarreal pointed out, an online survey conducted by the city to ascertain residents’ priorities for the 64-acre campus showed 65 percent of the 2,230 respondents were non-Hispanic white. A Spanish-language survey returned only six results total.

“Our population is over 60 percent people of color,” she said. “That, to me, right there, is a problem. There’s another level of awareness we need to have.”

The resolution would direct the city manager to begin the process of procuring a consultant to create a land development plan with economic feasibility analyses.

Committee Chairman Peter Ives advanced the resolution, with Villarreal’s amendments, out of the five-member Public Works Committee and on to the full City Council by casting a crucial third vote in favor of the proposal. Villarreal and Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta also voted in favor.

Abeyta said he had concerns about a few of Villarreal’s amendments but would work with her and Councilor Mike Harris, who said he disagreed with the spirit of the amendments as a critique of the city’s work to date and voted against it.

“It goes beyond a suggestion of insensitivity,” said Harris. “It almost suggests a failure that I don’t accept.”

Ives said, “As good a job as we may have done, we can always do better.”

Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, who abstained, urged her colleagues to keep the big picture in view.

“I don’t want to take too long to start seeing some projects” on the campus, she said. “If we start to take too long with this, we’re gonna start seeing weeds creep up over the buildings. It’s gonna be like a big Jumanji.

“Let’s not drag our feet,” Vigil Coppler added. “I’d like to see progress.”

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