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Candidate, Santa Fe City Council District 1

Alma Castro 
https://www.almagcastro.com/

The current development process for residential, commercial or public projects is heavily weighted towards the developer, with official public input requirements limited to the Early Neighborhood Notification (ENN) stage and without explicit accountability measures for how ENN input ultimately gets integrated into planning decisions. Further, despite the name, Early Neighborhood Notification meetings aren’t held until after the developer has invested lots of time and resources, and city staff have also invested time and resources to guide the development toward the approval process. There is no comparable support from the city for impacted communities that may have concerns about a project. Rather than engaging communities as creative problem-solvers and collaborative partners in development opportunities and challenges, this limits community participation to supporting or opposing. When concerns exist, community members have no option but to oppose the development at the ENN, at the Planning Commission and at City Council.​

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1) What changes will you propose so that community driven development has equitable support from city staff, and is valued as much if not more than private profit driven development?​

​Technology can improve communication and engagement with residents, and ensure that impacted communities are alerted, consulted and engaged in a meaningful way. We must streamline and create a more user-friendly interface for our application and information systems. We must centralize data related to development opportunities and proposals in one place. We need real-time alerts and notifications that can be sent to residents when a new development opportunity is announced or when a proposed plan is submitted. We can also streamline our platform so residents can submit feedback and comments on proposed projects to make it easier to gather input from residents and for residents to get involved in the development process.We must also create penalties for developers that do not take community input into account.

​2) What changes will you propose so that impacted communities are immediately alerted to development opportunities and consulted and engaged meaningfully when a developer steps forward with a proposed plans?​

Technology can improve communication and engagement with residents, and ensure that impacted communities are alerted, consulted and engaged in a meaningful way. We must streamline and create a more user-friendly interface for our application and information systems. We must centralize data related to development opportunities and proposals in one place. 

We need real-time alerts and notifications that can be sent to residents when a new development opportunity is announced or when a proposed plan is submitted. We can also streamline our platform so residents can submit feedback and comments on proposed projects to make it easier to gather input from residents and for residents to get involved in the development process. We must also create desensitizes for developers that do not take community input into account.

3) What do you believe the role of the community is in community development?​

Community is essential to any development project; They know their neighborhoods best and are most impacted. Therefore, it is crucial to give the community a voice in the development process and to hold government and contractors accountable. Residents can use public hearings as opportunities to ask questions, raise concerns, and share their ideas. Community members are also able to monitor the progress of development projects and report any problems or irregularities to the authorities. It is crucial for the community to be vigilant of exploitative efforts. Some contractors may try to cut corners or use substandard materials to save money. This can lead to problems with quality and put the community at risk. Community members can help to prevent this by reporting any suspicious activity to city authorities.

4) What do you believe the role of the City is in community development?

Local government plays a vital role in providing essential services to all residents, such as public safety, infrastructure, and healthcare. They also play a role in promoting economic development, and creating jobs. One of the most important roles of city government is to provide dependable services to all residents equally. This includes ensuring that all residents have access to safe and clean drinking water, reliable transportation, and well-maintained parks and recreation facilities. City government should also be responsible in identifying and addressing food deserts and providing affordable and accessible healthcare and housing.

 

5) What values, besides monetary, should be considered in approving or denying a development​?

When I think of development, I am often guided by a series of questions: Does this provide resources or extract resources from the community? Does this development create positive economic impacts for community members or just one group of people? Is this development sustainable long term? When we democratize the budgeting and planning process, we can better understand the full impact of projects. We should be inquisitive about the long term effects of any project in our community, yet not so hesitant that we delay progress. It is a balance between working with the community to address issues and incentivize developers to take our residents into account.

A disparity exists between services, infrastructure improvements, and quality of life amenities in the different parts of the City. Despite commitments to address inequities in investment and improve services, infrastructure, and amenities  in the area annexed by the City in the area north of Airport Rd, development has been limited to new housing developments. This area of town is already the most densely populated area of the city with the greatest number of households with children and yet there remains no library, no parks, no teen center, no senior center, no community center, no grocery stores, no commercial areas, no public spaces, no centers for arts and culture, no recreation centers. It also has the highest number of immigrants, Hispanics, Indigenous, African Americans and people living in poverty. It was also the most impacted community during the pandemic, having more infections and deaths than any other in Santa Fe. The lack of services and amenities contributed directly to those outcomes.

​6) What are your plans for bringing these needed services and amenities to the area?​​

Santa Feans are passionate about making our city a better place to live. We are ready for change and want to be purposeful about ensuring we and our neighbors have access to services and amenities. One way to ensure that our city government is responsive to our needs is to adopt participatory and performance-based budgeting. We need to make the conscious choice to get investment on the ground immediately. I will work to ensure that through democratic models, we expand services and ensure we are investing in programs that work, while still working to make the area enticing for private partners to ensure we drive commercial businesses into the area to fill the gaps.
 

7) How can we ensure greater equity in development moving forward?

Participatory budgeting is a way for residents to decide how to spend part of the city budget. It is a democratic process that gives residents a say in how their tax dollars are spent. A more democratic budgeting process can help Santa Fe to create a more responsive, equitable, efficient, and transparent city government. In addition, performance based assessments can help us use our city dollars in the most effective ways. This model has been used successfully in many major cities to improve the quality and efficiency of city services. If we are intentional with our metrics, this type of budgeting process can aid in making sure that the city government invests in the needs of their residents, regardless of income level or race.

8) What level of services and amenities should be present before more housing is built, and how do you determine that?​

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The city of Santa Fe will need to carefully consider the specific needs of its community and develop a policy that is appropriate for its unique circumstances. That being said, some of the services and amenities that may be important to consider before building more housing would be Schools and school density, parks and recreation capacity, transportation access, utilities and food access, among others. The city could require that new housing developments be located in areas with good access to public transportation, public safety services, and healthcare. To determine the thresholds for each of these, the city would need to conduct a community needs assessment or use data from existing sources as many needs assessments have been conducted in the past.

The majority of mobile home parks in Santa Fe are on the Airport Road Corridor. Mobile homes and parks are an important affordable housing stock/source. Mobile homes parks house essential workers who are the foundation and driver of Santa Fe’s economy. There are fears that these mobile home communities will be sold to developers to build market rate housing and other commercial developments, displacing entire communities and their residents.
 

9) What do you propose to avoid this potential crisis?​​

The city could create a zoning district specifically for workforce housing, including language around preservation of the “character of the neighborhood”. These would make it more difficult for large developers to buy parks and convert them to other uses, and would give preference to resident organizations in the sale of the park. Though rent control is out of reach at the moment, city agencies can help landlords navigate the voucher process and make rent subsidies a viable option. The city of Santa Fe should also work with local organizations and mobile home park residents to develop associations that can advocate for their interests. These organizations could create comprehensive plans to address the needs of their communities. In the event of a sale or eviction, the city could provide legal assistance to mobile home park residents who are facing eviction or other challenges.

10) Do you support the idea of a Land Trust that could protect these communities?

Yes, definitely! City land trusts are a powerful tool for creating more affordable, equitable, and sustainable communities. By acquiring and managing land for the benefit of the community, Community Land Trusts can help to ensure that everyone has access to the resources they need to thrive. They can also help to create more sustainable communities by promoting affordable housing, mixed-use development, and environmental protection. CLTs can help to reduce racial and economic inequality by providing opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents to own homes and businesses.

​11) What other ideas do you have to protect working-class Santa Feans and generational residents from displacement?​

Along with a $20 minimum wage for all workers, I believe the city and city council should strive to make most city services, facilities and positions publicly funded and operated. Sometimes councils will privatize departments or services hoping to cut spending or get a quick revenue boost, not realizing it will eventually cost more in the long run. Privatization hurts our workforce by paying less and providing less benefits.

District 3 borders the industrial zone adjacent to Airport Road and 599, and as such is the most impacted by potential emissions and other toxic pollutants. The area north of Airport Rd, the most densely populated, most diverse and poorest, is the most directly impacted. As it is home to the majority of Santa Fe’s children and youth, as well as an area that is extremely underserved and consequently has higher pre-existing health conditions, the additional risks posed by the industrial zone and proposed expansion is of great concern. This is an Environmental Justice crisis.​

12) How do you propose to mitigate or eliminate these extra risks to our community?

Santa Fe can make District 3 safer by creating buffer zones that include green spaces between the industrial zone and residential areas to reduce residents' exposure to pollution. The city needs to conduct a health impact assessing the health risks of the proposed expansion of the industrial zone and developing strategies to mitigate those risks. Santa Fe should also address the underlying issues that contribute to the environmental justice crisis in District 3, such as poverty, lack of access to healthcare, and discrimination. By addressing these underlying issues, Santa Fe can create a healthier and more equitable community for all residents.

13) Will you support a Cumulative Impacts rule so that proposed new or expanded operations must be reviewed taking into consideration the existing environmental, health and socioeconomic conditions of the impacted communities?

Yes

14) Will you support public investments in the area that help mitigate impacts, such as increasing the tree canopy, eliminating pavement and concrete, increasing open space and green areas?

Yes

15) The state has invested in a Community Schools (CS) strategy which provides funding for a Community Schools Coordinator at high need schools. This person helps to coordinate services and support for low income students and their families, in partnership with a council that is family and community driven. This is a proven strategy for supporting student learning and wellbeing. SFPS has several schools with a Community Schools Coordinator, mostly on the Southside. Another organization, Communities In Schools (CIS), is already coordinating services and support at these schools. This presents an opportunity for the CS strategy to have an impact beyond the schools, and change the community conditions in which the children and their families live. This is also a proven strategy that supports student learning and wellbeing, but also creates opportunities for the families and neighborhoods that the schools serve. Would you support a city-school-community partnership that would focus on transforming adverse community experiences and conditions? What might that look like?

Yes. Just based on the information provided, I would be interested in expanding programs and partnerships to ensure resources are available to all community members. If possible, the city should provide funding in conjunction with the school districts to make sure schools and alternative programs have enough staff to run effectively.

16. Would you support targeted public investments in the neighborhoods, like job training, adult education, increasing home ownership, bringing city services and amenities, increasing out of school recreational opportunities, etc?

Yes, definitely!

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