Chandler: It’s About Neighborhoods

Los Alamos County Council

At the League of Women Voters Forum recently I expressed my commitment to improving Los Alamos while preserving its essential character. 

In particular, I believe the health and personality of the community are rooted in its neighborhoods. Robust neighborhoods and strong relationships among neighbors make for a vibrant and healthy community.

The Comprehensive Plan should express the aspirations of the community as a whole and should be designed to foster the strong neighborhood concept. The current update of our Comprehensive Plan has now entered Phase 2 of developing public input on various aspects of the plan.  In this phase a community survey seeks responses to 41 questions from a large sample – 3,000 – of homes, and then a series of three public meetings will be held June 15, June 22, and June 29.

The first June meeting is particularly important to neighborhoods. The topic is Neighborhoods, Density and Growth: 6-9 p.m., June 15 at UNMLA. To see why this is important, if you received a copy of the survey you may have noticed that there are three questions that introduce and seemingly promote the concept of increasing the availability of housing by increasing the density of existing residential neighborhoods. The strategy seems to encourage the development of casitas, guesthouses, granny houses, mother-in-law flats, or accessory apartments on existing residential lots.

Some in county government have suggested the concept of increasing residential density by these methods as a solution to what they perceive is a shortage of housing. I am skeptical about the underlying premise that there is a significant housing shortage. I also question the merit of increasing the housing stock by putting two dwelling units on existing lots meant for one.  Doubling housing density within existing neighborhoods could significantly change their character. For this reason it is very important for Los Alamos residents to actively voice their views.

I encourage you to respond to the survey if you are among those who received one; it can be completed by mail or online. I urge you to pay particular attention to the questions (3-7 and 18-23) related to neighborhoods, growth and density. And I encourage you to attend all three of the meetings, especially the first one where the topic will be neighborhoods, density and growth, and make your views on these vital topics known to the Planning and Zoning Commission and County Council.