Santa Fe’s Midtown Local Innovation Corridor (Midtown LINC) draws on the city’s land use authority through City of Santa Fe, New Mexico Ordinance 2016-39 and City of Santa Fe, New Mexico Ordinance 2019-19. These ordinances specify permitted and prohibited uses, project types, fee incentives, additional requirements, design standards, and landscaping, among other aspects of Midtown LINC. Through Midtown LINC, Santa Fe aims to revitalize a central portion of the city by repurposing and refurbishing currently existing structures, as opposed to building further outward into Greater Santa Fe. Moreover, these policies meet the key elements of Climate Resilient Development (CRD) through the effects of Midtown LINC.

The project clearly demonstrates adaptation. As climate change increases, the need to reduce urban sprawl, which is geographic expansion outward of a densely populated area, is paramount to preserve the surrounding area’s ecology. Santa Fe also needs to reduce heat-islands, which are zones in urban areas where heat is exacerbated by urban infrastructure by absorbing more sunlight. Therefore, utilizing existing infrastructure as opposed to building outward into Greater Santa Fe is crucial as the population continues to increase. To maximize existing infrastructure, qualifying residential projects within Midtown LINC are designated as developments comprised of multi-family dwellings or are developments that are a combination of mostly new multiple-family dwellings and any lesser amount and combination of eligible non-residential uses. This promotes the city’s aim of “‘3-over-1’s,’” which are three floors of residential space over a commercial ground floor. This exemplifies how the City is using its land use authority, which, in turn, encourages maximized use of buildings.

The element of mitigation is also met through the City of Santa Fe’s efforts. A more centralized, multi-purpose area will reduce carbon emissions for travel from residential, commercial, and employment areas when these areas are combined or much closer together, as they will be in walking or biking distance with easy access via bike paths or sidewalks. Additionally, the reduction in construction will decrease CO2 emissions from these projects, as the machinery and carbon footprint associated with these projects will be considerably less present. The plan also provides for bike lanes and enhancement of landscaping, providing for environmentally friendly transportation and carbon sinks, respectively. This aspect of the project reduces CO2 in the environment through carbon sinks. Therefore, these elements of Midtown LINC greatly reduce Santa Fe’s CO2 emissions.

Through Midtown LINC, equity is well-established by Santa Fe’s government. According to the project’s fee incentives for qualifying multi-family dwellings, it is estimated, based on a project that costs $8.12 million, there are over $476,000 in fee incentives. Regarding the commercial side of Midtown LINC, for a qualifying restaurant remodel that would cost $855,000, there are over $45,000 in total fee incentives. Qualifying projects also have additional requirements, such as an active water harvesting system, dual-flush and high-efficiency toilets, and EPA Watersense-certified showerheads. While the city is using its land use authority and thereby implementing environmentally conscious decisions that benefit businesses economically, this initiative can help lower costs for projects and ultimately result in lower rent for both business owners and residents, which can benefit low- and moderate-income tenants.

Resiliency is a key element in CRD. Without resiliency, an effort in sustainability may be effective but short-lived. Fortunately, Midtown LINC addresses and exemplifies resiliency. Being centralized, the city will be better protected from the increased wildfire risk and the disturbances they can cause. If the city sprawls less into what is currently wilderness, it will be less susceptible to wildfires that begin in the ecological environs outside of Santa Fe. Additionally, Santa Fe needs to be more resilient to drought, especially as climate change has put the area at an increased risk of drought. Midtown LINC calls for on-site water detention or retention apparati, which will be beneficial in collecting rainwater more efficiently, which is needed in Santa Fe’s desert environment.

The feasibility of this project is ultimately bolstered by the city’s initiative and land development planning. The city prioritizes the provisions of this overlay district over other overlay districts, demonstrating that the city adamantly wants to promote the project by stating that if its zoning comes in conflict with other overlay projects, it will favor the specifications of Midtown LINC over others. Therefore, Santa Fe’s utilization of its land use authority and its benefits show how it supports the community through its satisfaction of each CRD element. Through numerous goals and initiatives, such as maximizing space of the built environment, mandating requirements for green spaces, and implementing water-saving appliances, the City of Santa Fe shows how its ability to mandate certain land use initiatives can influence the private sector and benefit the residents of Santa Fe.

This article is part of a series from the Land Use Law Center that explores how local governments can implement Climate Resilient Development (CRD) as defined in the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC. CRD requires innovative reform of land use planning and regulation by local governments. The series presents and analyzes numerous local laws and policies capable of adapting to and mitigating climate change to create equitable and sustainable neighborhoods, achieving “sustainable development for all.” 

Author: Sebastian Boivan, 1L Land Use Scholar