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Bad Infill

A long-standing theme here at The Santa Fe Review is how the city’s developer-friendly land-use laws have been slowly eroding the character of the older neighborhoods. It’s far too easy, even in the historic districts, to split off part of an already occupied lot and build another house to sell. (Please see Sorrows of San Acacio for an account of what has happened on my own street.) After the division, the owner of each lot, the old one and the new, has the right to build not one but two houses — a main house and an “accessory dwelling,” or guest house, which can be converted into a commercial vacation rental.

It was only after reading an eye-opening piece in Sunday’s Journal by Karen Peterson that I realized the situation is even worse. The “accessory dwelling” can be as large as 1,500 square feet, which in some cases is as big or bigger than the “main house.” And without any say from local officials it can be turned into a condominium and sold separately. Where once there was one residence, now there are four. Condominiums, it turns out, are regulated not by the city but by the state.

Former city councilor Karen Heldmeyer led the Journal on a tour of what one resident, Pete Garcia, called “infill gone wild.” The result is must reading for anybody who cares about what the real estate speculators are doing to this town.

George Johnson
The Santa Fe Review