Council approves Zia Station development in early-morning vote

Sean Thomas, The Santa Fe New Mexican
·3 min read

Apr. 9—The Santa Fe City Council gave the green light early Friday morning for a combined housing and commercial development near the Zia Road train station in the midtown area.

The council approved the 21-acre, three-story Zia Station project — with 400 apartment units and townhomes, as well as commercial space and green space — with a list of conditions, including one proposed by City Councilor Renee Villarreal that prohibits the developers from allowing short-term rentals at the site.

Other conditions included a request for the developer to work with the city and utility companies to tamper down land erosion at the site and to prep a nearby arroyo for a 500-year storm event.

The seven-hour meeting, which began Thursday evening and stretched into the early hours of Friday morning, was the second part of a two-day public hearing on the project. The first session, on Tuesday, consisted primarily of a lengthy public comment period, preceded by a presentation from the project's developer, SF Brown Inc./Zia Station LLC.

The project would be located near the Rail Runner Express commuter train station at the intersection of St. Francis Drive and Zia Road. Some residents of the area voiced concerns about the project's proposed height, a potential increase in traffic and the impact on a nearby arroyo, while others supported the project as a needed addition to Santa Fe's housing stock.

To approve the project, the council had to OK its preliminary design and a slate of zoning changes excluding the development from a height cap and other restrictions in what is known as the South Central Highway Corridor.

Councilors voted unanimously for most of the zoning changes.

City Councilor Carol Romero-Worth was the only holdout on a vote to exclude the property from the highway overlay and cast the only vote against the overall design.

City Councilors Signe Lindell and Chris Rivers were absent from the vote.

Much of the council's debate Thursday centered on how the project would help address the city's affordable housing needs and whether that could be achieved without the third story.

SF Brown Inc./Zia Station is proposing 39 affordably priced units at the site, as well as a fee of about $150,000 to the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The affordable units would be offered at below the market rate for a period of 10 years.

Romero-Wirth questioned whether the number of units could be achieved without the third story.

Jennifer Jenkins, whose firm JenkinsGavins Inc. is handling planning on the project, said the developer had determined this would result in much smaller units. In previous meetings on the project, she said the third story would allow enough market-rate rentals to subsidize the cost of the affordable units.

"I don't feel that expanding horizontally is the most sustainable way to develop this property, the most aesthetic way to develop this property," Jenkins said Thursday. "And there really isn't that many opportunities."

The council also discussed traffic conditions around the site, which some community members have characterized as among the worst in the city.

Part of the project includes rerouting Galisteo Street, adding new traffic lights and adding new left-turn lanes.

The developers said it would take at least six years to complete the Zia Station project.