Editorial: Santa Fe’s Tale of Two Cities

The Chainbreaker Collective, the Santa Fe organization that has morphed from bicycle advocacy into a social justice group, and other members of Human Impact Partners have performed an important community service with their recent report that contrasts four Santa Fe neighborhoods based on income, demographics, public investment and history of, or potential for, gentrification.

In one way, the report states what every Santa Fean already knows – we have affluent neighborhoods and poor ones, like most American cities, and people downtown and in the Canyon Road neighborhood are a lot older, richer and more likely to be Anglo than in mid-town or on the south side.

But the report – called “Equitable Development and Risk of Displacement: Profiles of Four Santa Fe Neighborhoods” – shows just how significant the splits can be.

About 72 percent of the mid-town Hopewell-Mann area – which does have a smattering of gentrification already happening around it – is Hispanic, while only 17 percent are Latino in the surveyed Canyon Road neighborhood. The median age around Airport Road is less than 30; it’s close to 70 on Canyon Road. Median household income nears $60,000 downtown and is less than $20,000 in Hopewell-Mann, where there’s public housing.

The younger side of town, the south side, has fewer parks, possibly the most glaring example of unbalanced public investment. (It should be noted that the big, new Swan Park has just come to the area).

The report’s findings can be seen as more than a gentle poke at Santa Fe’s progressive self-image – the living wage, affordable housing programs and tolerance for the different haven’t made our neighborhoods as demographically varied as our stated civic values might suggest, and there is still plenty of income inequality.

“Santa Fe is very proud of being progressive, but I wonder sometimes if we are progressive because it makes us feel better or because we really are interested in equity,” City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez told Journal North reporter T.S. Last for last week’s article on report.

There are no easy policy measures or programs that can fully address the issues raised by Chainbreaker and its colleagues. Sometimes, the kind of public investment the report supports for lower-income neighborhoods attracts the private investment that eventually leads to that pejorative noun, gentrification.

But as Chainbreaker’s Tomás Rivera says, it can be small public decisions about a sidewalk or a trail or some other small amenity that unnecessarily and cumulatively aggravate the divisions among neighborhoods.

We don’t agree with everything the report puts forth. Rivera believes a bike-share program downtown would have used public resources unfairly for tourists at the expense of locals programs like bus service. Yes, tourists – pretty much Santa Fe’s economic lifeblood – would use the bikes, but so would a lot of residents who work downtown, maybe even many who now, or would, ride the bus to the city center. But he’s right that such a program shouldn’t be implemented in just one part of town.

Still, the report – you can check it out at humanimpact.org – provides important information that should be part of the backdrop as Santa Fe’s policy-makers are deciding how to serve, improve and support all neighborhoods around town.

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