CORRECTION: Santa Fe seeks to donate Alto Street property for housing

·3 min read

Sep. 22—Correction appended

The city of Santa Fe is looking for a partner to help develop affordably priced homes on a vacant downtown lot.

The quarter-acre lot at 635 Alto St., which the city has owned since 1981, has been considered for an affordable housing project for more than a decade. Now the city hopes to donate the site to a developer who agrees to build at least five low-priced homes on the property.

According to a city memo, the homes will be priced between $270,000 and $300,000.

The process of seeking a developer began Friday and will close Oct. 13. A Zoom informational session on the proposal is scheduled Monday.

In 2009, the city sponsored the Greenworks Design Competition, which drew more than 20 architecture and design firms that submitted proposals for a multiunit, multi-income development at the Alto Street site.

A local consortium led by Vahid Morjarrab and Jonah Stanford were co-winners of the contest with California-based Opticos Design. The local proposal received preliminary approval from the City Council in 2010 and the Historic Districts Review Board in 2011, but it later stalled, and a measure supporting the development has since expired.

The council in June approved a resolution authorizing the donation of the property to a developer.

During the meeting, which included calls to halt the project over concerns about exorbitant construction costs, a debate erupted between two of the measure's co-sponsors, Mayor Alan Webber and City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler — both candidates for mayor in the Nov. 2 election — over the difference between a rental property and a home.

Vigil Coppler questioned whether the quality of the low-priced homes would be "dumbed down" due to a national surge in construction material costs. She also said her preference was not to build rental properties.

"I think my goal would be to put people in real homes," she said.

The comment drew a rebuke from Webber, who mentioned his upbringing in a rental property.

"The notion that there is difference between a renter and a homeowner strikes me as a very unsustainable argument," Webber said. "For most of my life, my father and my mother rented, and nobody could tell me they weren't making a 'real home' for my brother and me."

The following day, the topic became a point of discussion for Webber's mayoral campaign.

Vigil Coppler addressed her comment in an interview Friday.

"What I did say was that homeownership is the American dream," Vigil Coppler said. "I still feel the city should focus on the goal of homeownership. I like rentals. We do need rentals. But when you own a home, you are not moving your family and you have a solid base."

At the June meeting, Alexandra Ladd, director of the city's Office of Affordable Housing, said the type of development built at the Alto Street site will be determined by the proposals the city receives. Construction costs will not affect the quality of the homes, she added.

According to a city news release, the development proposals will be evaluated based on the mix of housing units and affordability, whether the concept and design conforms with the Westside-Guadalupe Historic District and the project's fiscal feasibility, as well as the developer's experience.

The city's Community Development Commission will review the submissions and recommend a developer for consideration to the City Council.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the winners of a design contest sponsored by the city. The contest had co-winners, a partnership between WAMO Studio, Needbased Inc. and Homewise, and California-based Opticos Design.

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