Letter To The Editor: P&Z Meeting Is Crucial June 15

Los Alamos

At the P&Z meeting last night they discussed the Round 2 meetings for the comp plan. Meeting # 1 is scheduled for Wednesday June 15, 6-8 p.m., at UNM-LA Room 230. The topic is “Neighborhoods, Density and Growth.”

This meeting will address the issues our downtown residential neighborhood faces. These came to a head when UNM-LA, with the complicity of the Community Development Department, attempted to convert the student housing on 9th Street to a super-dense 50-foot luxury highrise that would have offered only a token dozen or so student apartments. By the way, if you haven’t noticed, a private party has since bought those apartments and is renovating them, and have students living there already. Contrary to the insistence of UNM-LA and the county that it couldn’t be done.

The other issue that has faced our neighborhood recently is the attempt by the county to allow an applicant to convert a backyard workshop shed into living quarters. The neighbors protested and were able to get P&Z and then the council to reject the application. The “accessory apartment” would have been three feet from the rear property line (required setback: 20 feet) and would have been a second dwelling unit on a lot only large enough for one dwelling unit.  The Community Development Department (CDD), which represented the applicant, argued that the accessory apartment was not a dwelling unit and therefore did not have to meet the setback, parking, and lot density requirements.

The neighbors demonstrated that this was pure fiction and won the case, but the CD continues to push for permitting the proliferation of these contraptions by slipping them into the comp plan discussions, and will seek approval of the concept at this meeting so that they can modify the development code to relax the requirements. Please note that communities all over the country, including our neighbor Santa Fe, are trying to control the spread of this plague that is destroying the character of some single-family neighborhoods and turning them into short-term rental apartment complexes.

A “Framing Paper” for this meeting has been prepared by CDD which, with less than a week to go, will be published probably too late for you to actually read it. It presumes an increase in population of 2000 persons over the next 10 to 20 years and analyses the availability of housing. 

After determining that there is no shortage of housing or land on which to build housing, the paper goes on to promote the increase of density anyway including “Accessory Dwelling Units, (“Casitas,” “mother-in-law houses,” etc.). It is critical that as many of us as possible attend this meeting to express our views on this topic.

The other topic that is critical to our neighborhood, because of our proximity to the high-density downtown, is transitions and buffers between high-density and single-family residential. The student housing issue was an example of a project that would have eliminated a medium density transition zone and set very high density right next to single-family residential. The examples of “transition” in the paper are laughable:  one picture shows what seems to be a 40-50 foot building with a 15 feet wide buffer between the building and the back fence of a single family residence.  Your CDD at work again.

Website for Comp Plan:  http://www.losalamoscountycompplan2016.com/.

This meeting is crucial. Please attend if you can, and if you can’t you can send written input to sburstein@arcplanning.com.