Letter to the Editor: UNM-LA Rezoning Request

UNM-LA Advisory Board
and long-time Los Alamos resident

I would like to thank George and Chris Chandler for their letter to the editor. It’s vitally important in this community to ensure open and honest communications, to get facts and issues in front of citizens, and to work towards a shared vision and future for a better Los Alamos.

It’s a small town and we’re all in this together. Many facts regarding the UNM-LA re-zoning request are accurate: the current zone allows only 41 units however there are currently 64 units on the 1.88 acre site. 

The site is owned by the UNM Regents and managed by UNM-LA. The re-zoning request, if approved, would allow up to 82 units. Without the request, redevelopment would be limited to
41 units. 

Prior to the decision to pursue re-zoning and the redevelopment of the site, UNM-LA conducted a thorough evaluation of the current facility. The evaluation concluded that the existing 60+ year old buildings could not be renovated and brought up to current code requirements in a cost effective manner.

I applaud nearby building owners and residents for their commitment in maintaining their properties. Unfortunately, UNM-LA cannot reverse the clock and renovate these structures. UNM-LA must look forward to providing modern student and workforce housing opportunities through the redevelopment of the 9th Street property.

After engaging with a developer with substantial experience in student and workforce housing projects, UNM-LA held three public meetings in advance of the re-zoning request to gather substantial and meaningful resident and community input. These meetings resulted in several
major changes to accommodate setback and height, parking, landscaping and density concerns expressed by the residents and property owners.

UNM-LA is in the education business and its first goal is to provide quality, cost-effective, college-level education to our community. Both official results and anecdotal evidence tell us that the UNM-LA faculty and staff perform this function quite well.

I believe the UNM-LA student population will grow if we provide a higher-quality housing option than the current facilities allow. I believe that both Los Alamos and UNM-LA will benefit from
having more college students in the downtown district of Los Alamos on a year round basis.

It is my hope that a redeveloped property will help UNM-LA meet that goal and provide new, quality housing for Los Alamos residents along the way.

To be clear, there’s no “throat cramming” going on here – maybe just a difference of vision and opinion on the best future for the redevelopment of the UNM-LA student housing property.

I, for one, would like to see new, modern student and workforce housing located across from the Municipal Building that can help ensure a fulfilling college life experience in Los Alamos for our students. I believe that will make for a better neighborhood and a better Los Alamos.