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As Californians Move In, Sante Fe Fears for Its Identity

August 5, 1991

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) _ New bumper stickers appearing around town say it all: ″Welcome to Santa Fe, but please don’t stay.″

They’re aimed mainly at Californians who leave their high-stress, high-cost lifestyles to relocate in this enchanting, laid-back state capital of cultural riches, clean air and golden sunsets - a city that calls itself the ″City Different.″

″You’re really somewhere else when you’re here,″ says Shane Cronenweth, a former Los Angeles resident. ″There’s something here ... that’s magical. At certain times of the day, I go outside and I just go ’Aaaaah.‴

For many of longtime residents, the enchantment is not mutual.

Demand for property in this city of about 56,000 has pushed housing costs beyond many people’s reach and some fear the locale is losing its distinctive Hispanic-Indian identity.

It’s not the first time Californians have met resentment for taking the proceeds from their inflated real estate and buying homes and businesses elsewhere.

Twenty years ago, then-Oregon Gov. Tom McCall said in a nationally televised interview that Oregon wanted people to ″come visit again and again. Please don’t come here to live.″

And in Seattle two years ago, fast-living, big-spending Californians prompted a local newspaper columnist to propose excluding them by importing and erecting the Berlin Wall around the city.

More people move to New Mexico from California than from any other state, according to reports from real estate brokers, the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce and a national rental truck company.

Many former Californians in Santa Fe work in the film and television industry. Mrs. Cronenweth and her husband, Jordan, a film and commercial photography director, spend long periods in Los Angeles or on location.

″We’d be here all the time, but we have to pay the bills,″ said Mrs. Cronenweth.

But some have found both homes and jobs in New Mexico.

Ron and Karen McConnell traded the crime, traffic and pollution of their Los Angeles suburb last year for a rural neighborhood near Santa Fe.

″Specifically, we were looking for a favorable environment to raise our children,″ Mrs. McConnell said.

The McConnells traded a $180,000, three-bedroom house for one 2 times bigger and $50,000 cheaper.

The lower cost of living allows Mrs. McConnell, 30, to stay home with their three children while she gets a photography business in gear.

The 1990 census pegged the median price of a home in California at $195,000, compared with $70,100 in New Mexico. It’s $103,300 in Santa Fe - up from $62,100 in 1980.

Some longtime residents welcome the newcomers’ economic contributions. Others lament the loss of the old Spanish colonial capital’s character and the transformation of its historic center from clothing and dry goods to galleries and boutiques.

″It’s so obvious,″ said Santa Fe County Commissioner Richard Anaya. ″The local color has been moved out and been overwhelmed by the influence of outside cultures moving in.″

By local color, Anaya said, he means predominantly Hispanic natives.

Debbie Jaramillo, an outspoken City Council member, said inflation has forced locals into trailer parks and tract homes on the city’s outskirts while charming older neighborhoods are gobbled up by the rich.

″What we’ve done is set a market that caters to the wealthy and has made citizens of Santa Fe second-class citizens,″ she said.

But Mayor Sam Pick, a tireless promoter, said nothing is happening in Santa Fe that isn’t happening in other desirable cities.

Mrs. Cronenweth fears the ethnic and aesthetic flavor of Santa Fe will wither if the city’s uniqueness is neglected.

″I think they’re going to kill the golden goose,″ said the 45-year-old Mrs. Cronenweth. ″When you start making it more like anywhere else in the country, it’s going to lose its appeal to a lot of people. It won’t be the ’City Different.‴

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