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Candidate, Santa Fe City Council District 4 (INCUMBENT)

Jamie Cassutt 
https://jamie4santafe.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?​

Councilor Romero-Wirth and I are currently exploring changes to the ENN process so community engagement occurs earlier and can therefore have a greater impact on development plan proposals. We will be exploring models that are used by different cities and analyzing the pros and cons of each and how they might be applied in Santa Fe. The City is also in the process of updating our General Plan, which is the policy document that guides development in our community, and the code we must follow when making land use decisions. There will be opportunities for community feedback during this process, and it will be very important that the values and goals that the community prioritizes are reflected in the final General Plan and Land Use Code.

​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?​

As we look to change our ENN process, one of the primary goals is to engage the community earlier in the development design process. We currently mail postcards to residents and associations within a 300 ft radius and post signs, but there are other strategies we can use to alert the community. We can explore contacting neighborhood schools and organizations we know are active in the community. In addition, we know language accessibility can be lacking in communications from the City and this needs to be improved to ensure all members of the community can understand any notifications they receive or alerts they see.

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


The community's role is to provide the stated values and goals we strive to achieve through our decisions and driving policies. The community's feedback is also vitally important as we implement policies to let policymakers know where we successfully are meeting those values and goals and where we need to make adjustments.

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

The City's role is to create policies and initiatives that reflect the stated vision, values, and goals of the community and that can be implemented consistently, fairly, and equitably throughout the entire city. The City is also responsible for allocating the necessary resources to implement those policies. In addition, the City needs to be ready to adjust policies and initiatives if they are not achieving what was intended.

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

It is important that we are not just developing units, but we are focused on creating affordable, sustainable, walkable neighborhoods that allow for a high quality of life for all residents. Developments throughout the city should help maintain the diversity and character of Santa Fe, both through architectural design and who is able to afford to live in them. Developments should also consider what commercial, transportation, open space, and other amenities may be lacking in a community and how they can be a partner with the city and other businesses or organizations in fulfilling those needs.

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?​​

I have been actively working with staff to bring a grocery store to this part of the city as part of the El Lucero Crossing Project. This project will provide a unique opportunity to bring additional amenities to the community, including commercial establishments, open space, and job opportunities. In addition to finding opportunities to build new amenities, we need to make sure the amenities on the Southside are accessible to residents living north of Airport Rd. The newly opened teen center and the Southside library are roughly within a couple miles. Ensuring we have reliable public transit and connectivity through our trail system will make these resources more readily available for all members of our community.

 

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

The General Plan and Land Use code update that the City is undertaking is a very unique and important opportunity to address equity in development. The General Plan will provide a roadmap for what type of developments are occurring where. The code update will dictate where density can be added as well as what types of amenities should be included in different parts of the city. It is vital for community members to be active participants in the development of these important documents.

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

During the development review process, there are assessments that address whether an area can handle various impacts of development - traffic analyses, school district zoning, identifying parks and open space, and public safety coverage, among others. I would be interested in exploring whether similar assessments have been created in other cities for other amenities, such as grocery stores, commercial opportunities, community centers, etc., and how we could adapt those to Santa Fe as a whole, and in particular the area encompassed in the Southwest Community Area Master Plan.

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?

I recently have started exploring the concept of a right of first refusal that has been implemented in other municipalities and states, where resident of mobile home parks are given the opportunity to purchase their mobile home park before the owner is allowed to sell it to another owner. My understanding is there are resources for financing the purchase and helping residents establish an association to manage the needs of the community.

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

Yes, I support exploring the idea of Land Trusts and if they could be used to protect these communities.

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

The Midtown Community Development Plan calls for the creation of an anti-displacement plan that will be based on the neighborhoods surrounding Midtown, but will be adaptable for other parts of the city. The Office of Affordable Housing is currently applying for a grant to fund this work. In addition, addressing affordable housing is key to prevent displacement. I, along with Councilwoman Villarreal, sponsored the ballot measure that if approved by the voters will creating a permanent dedicated funding stream for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund by imposing a one time 3% excise transfer tax on home sales over $1 million, only on the amount over $1 million, to be paid by the buyer and not the seller. In addition to funding, we need to make changes to our land use code to incentivize the building of affordable units. The City also has to make investments in land and infrastructure to support the creation of affordable and workforce housing.

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?

We need to explore the use of environmental and health impact assessments when new proposals are made in this area. Given the location, we will need to partner and coordinate with the County as their development decisions can also have an impact on City 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?

I am very open to learning more about Cumulative Impacts rules and how they could be effectively utilized in our community

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, I am always eager to partner with the schools to address community issues. This might include partnering with schools to bring more amenities to neighborhoods, expanding the student internship program, and working with the schools and community groups to ensure youth have access to organized activities outside of school hours, including weekends and summer break. The schools can also be key partners in the ongoing Mainstreet projects along Airport Rd and in the Siler-Rufina Nexus.

 

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

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