Candidate, Santa Fe City Council District 2 (INCUMBENT)
Michael J. Garcia
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.
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?
One change that I will propose is to restructure the Early Neighborhood Notification (ENN) process. I am in full support of requiring the city to conduct ENN meetings before any significant amount of staff time is invested. It is my priority that the community be given equitable opportunity to participate in the process of development. As a city councilor, I have submitted a request to draft legislation that provides for due process rights be afforded to the community during the land development process.
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?
I believe a more proactive approach needs to be taken to inform the community of any future development plans. I will introduce legislation that will make it a requirement that a developer be required to notify residents of any development within a radius of one mile of the proposed development site. This notification can be conducted though mail or door to door efforts. In addition, the development notification must be published in the local newspaper, and notifications be given during Governing Body meetings. This legislation will also require that notifications be conducted within 5 days of a development application being submitted to the land use office.
3) What do you believe the role of the community is in community development?
The community is the main ingredient in community development. Without community involvement and engagement, you cannot have community development. I must also stress there must be honest attempts and standards to engage the community.
4) What do you believe the role of the City is in community development?
The city has to be a driver in community development. It is a basic service that the city provides to its residents. But the city cannot conduct this work in a silo. To have the strongest impact, the city needs to have a solid collaborative relationship with the community. This requires that trust be built, relationships be developed, and opportunities be provided.
5) What values, besides monetary, should be considered in approving or denying a development
I believe that added community value or de-value be considered during the development decision process. What I mean by this is there may be instances where a proposed development might mean more monetary gain for the developer, but it does not add any community value. We must work together to ensure that as we develop and grow communities, we are moving forward with the goal of adding community value to communities.
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 am a firm believer that it is the city' responsibility to provide equitable service to all residents. I will propose that the city establish a plan to immediately begin bringing the much-needed services to the community. For major projects such as community centers, libraries, and parks, I will begin to prioritize the development of these services in the city budget and the legislative funding requests. To determine what amenities need to be created for the community, I will ensure that the community helps to lead in the planning and development process.
7) How can we ensure greater equity in development moving forward?
I will work to ensure that the community always has a seat at the table. This means that equity is established in the planning decision making process. This can be accomplished by requiring that there is equitable representation in the decision-making process. This will require that the city conduct meaningful outreach to communities not represented.
8) What level of services and amenities should be present before more housing is built, and how do you determine that?
There needs to an assurance that basic services and quality of life amenities such as schools, first responder access, recreation locations (parks, community centers, bike trails), are present. I would determine what amenities are provided in other areas of the city. There cannot be a saturation of such amenities in one side of the city with a lack of amenities in another part of the city. It all come back ensure that there is equitable development and services provided to all residents.
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 will work to enforce protections provided by the Mobile Home Park Act. I will also work with our state legislative delegation to introduce or support legislation that will cap rent increases and give the opportunity for mobile home residents to band together to purchase the mobile home park.
10) Do you support the idea of a Land Trust that could protect these communities?
Yes, I am in support of the idea of Land Trust being established to protect these communities.
11) What other ideas do you have to protect working-class Santa Feans and generational residents from displacement?
As a city councilor, it is a priority of mine for the city to establish an anti-displacement strategic plan. This plan would outline strategies that can be implemented such as rent control, resources for home improvement, establishing renter's rights and legal assistance resources, and neighborhood stabilization policies.
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?
I will work to establish protections that begin to prevent and take a proactive approach to ensure environment protections and establish community health standards. The city needs to begin to an evaluation to determine if future development or expansion should be allowed in the industrial zone. When the industrial zone was established, there was not a thriving community that was in immediate proximity. Because the area has drastically changed, I believe there needs to be appropriate protections established for residents and the environment.
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, I will support and Cumulative Impacts rule.
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. I will make it a priority to work collaboratively with the District 3 city councilors, and appropriate stakeholders to increase the amount of public investments being made in District 3. These types of investments are already being made in other parts of Santa Fe, and District 3 needs to be the recipient of these investments as well.
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?
I am in full support of a city-school-community partnership. To addresses some the challenges our communities face, it is best to approach these challenges with a community collaborative approach. This will allow for resources to be leveraged, duplication of services be appropriately addressed, and an implementation of stronger service systems.
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?
There is a not a one size fits all solution to the challenges our communities face. I believe that we need to take a community-based solution approach. In some communities, it is essential that there be strategic and targeted investments made. It is critical that we work with the community to determine what investments need to be made and when. We must also remember that the type of investments can change over time, so it is important to always engage with community ensure that investments are meeting the current needs of the community.