News, Aug. 24: “Housing in the Balance”
I applaud SFR for taking seriously the concerns of some residents at Siler Yard. It requires bravery to speak out and our community relies on SFR to shed light upon credible issues. Unfortunately, I feel this reporting has only cast shadows. Not only are several allegations allowed a presumption of truth without substantiation, but the article conflates the complaints of two individuals with the sentiment of “the residents” of 65 units.
I count on SFR for diligent reporting and judicious editing. Even more, I expect greater community context and deeper comprehension than the dailies. Yet coverage of Siler Yard has countenanced continued misperceptions about how nonprofit development and affordable housing actually works and failed to enumerate the significant challenges in its creation. When the nonprofit housing developer explains how lessons from Siler Yard can be carried to Midtown, it’s not taken as an opportunity for context, but to tee up a pointlessly snide and wildly false final comment that serves no journalistic purpose. I look forward to more well-considered and deliberative coverage in the future. And maybe a feature on our cringey local cultural predilection for belittling people who actually put themselves on the line to get stuff done.
Editor’s note: Fischer is a former SFR staffer. The referenced story quoted three Siler Yard residents, not two.
Packing my boxes
Earlier this week, the Reporter printed an article about various issues at Siler Yard, the affordable housing complex for artists; the main issue being the extreme noise that first floor tenants experience from the floors above.
I am in awe of my fellow first floor tenants for their articulate advocacy, as this noise is truly outrageous and it is virtually impossible to live with it. Many tenants have disabilities, as well. Unfortunately, tenants and management have not been able to work together to solve this problem.
Tenants feel unheard and management seems to feel blamed. When people feel unheard, they have to get louder; when blamed, people start to scapegoat. It is very sad. Siler Yard’s vision is a wonderful one. When I moved in here, as a poet and a writer, I was so excited and grateful. I was fully behind this. Now, six months later, I am packing boxes because I need to move out.
I have a neurological disability, and in the six months that I have lived here, my recovery has reversed tremendously. I spent the past weekend in the ER with an IV in my arm, trying to reduce the pain and pressure in my head. The weekend before I spent in urgent care. The noise in my apartment from above is like nothing I have ever experienced before. And I have lived in multistory apartments in inner city Philadelphia. There is crashing and running and banging and screaming for hours and hours at a time. I am certain the ceiling is going to fall in. It is like a herd of bison live above me. My head feels like it is going to explode. My 76-pound German shepherd (a service dog) hides under the bed. My doctor has said I must move out, if nothing is going to change.
Management keeps saying the buildings “meet code.” And well they might; and it is not enough. People are suffering here. We need to stop speaking in “code” and speak in solutions. We need to come together as Siler Yard community—management and tenants—and fix this. There are many bright, creative people here. We have to stop blaming and scapegoating and create our home so we can all live here. The vision is a wonderful one. A lot of hard, hard work went into building it. Let’s make it finally happen.
Marie Turco, Santa Fe
Alarm bell moment
We are currently facing the most acute housing crisis in our community’s modern history. In the last two years, 6% of Santa Fe’s population, mostly lower income families, left or were displaced. This is an alarm bell moment.
Since the ‘90s, our community has deployed some of the most innovative housing interventions anywhere, but we now find ourselves fighting against exponential challenges with outmatched tools.
In the last decade, we also seem to have lost the appetite to do “big things,” and Siler Yard is a product of that bygone era when we dreamed big and backed it up with action. Perhaps last week’s article, “Housing in the Balance,” is on some level a reaction to that unique vestigial status.
But incomplete journalistic treatments of aspirational community projects only reinforce the perceived intractability of our affordability problems and serves to make future projects harder. It tacitly emboldens the NIMBYs’ and naysayers’ counterfactual claims and the political apathy that accepts the inevitability of gentrification.
Unrelenting, ungrounded, and perfectionist criticism of community development work is one of Santa Fe’s ugliest pastimes, and it’s not unique to housing. We don’t seem to know the difference between good growth or bad, altruistic developers or the dubious, it’s all change, and the people that bring it should be suspect. But the only solutions to our converging climate and housing crisis will be proactive, so we badly need to become more articulate in the housing space.
Done right, journalism should create a platform to objectively assess what did and didn’t work in a project with so many firsts (city-donated land, community-designed, net-zero energy, affordable live-work) and we encourage that. It could also inform what redevelopment at Midtown might look like and lead to more constructive housing discussions. But that can’t happen if we don’t move beyond anecdote, outrage and outdated tropes.
Daniel Werwath, Executive Director of Santa Fe Inter-faith Housing
The story “Housing in the Balance” quoted Daniel Werwath as saying the situation was “actually very deeply disappointing.” He requested SFR clarify that his disappointment stems from residents’ complaints about living conditions, not the project as a whole.
It’s been 25 years since my brother Carlos Romero was killed on the Plaza in 1997. Twenty-five years since I remember walking past thousands of faces on that Plaza trying to find out if what I heard was true, that my brother had just been shot. Too many people to find him. I’ll regret that for the rest of my life.
I stare at a picture of him dressed up as Zozobra. It’s ironic. I think how our traditions changed after his shooting. Zozobra was moved to Thursdays and now it’s back to Friday—but on Labor Day weekend instead of Fiesta weekend. Makes it so hard to go home for both. After that year I could not attend Zozobra or Fiestas after that fateful weekend. I hated Fiestas, hated the word Fiestas, hated Santa Fe, hated the shouts of “¡Que viva!” How could I? My brother lay dead on San Francisco Street, tape around him, while the party continued. The music never stopped, the drinking never stopped, the dancing never stopped! Four people shot and that Plaza was never cleared out. Still don’t understand that to this day. But I couldn’t go back.
My girls missed out on our traditions for a decade. No Zozobra, no pet parade, no Fiesta parade, no Masses, no nothing. I tried to change that for his 10-year. We had a memorial on San Francisco Street in front of “his” tree. We will do that again this year and I will do what I’ve tried to do since the 10-year anniversary: Try to love the echoes of “¡Que viva la Fiesta!” throughout the city; try not to cry every time I hear the Fiesta song; try to celebrate him by decorating his tree and try to attend every Zozobra to “burn my gloom away.”
This year we celebrate his 25th with our cousin Doug Nava as Don Diego De Vargas. He ran prior to this year and never won. But he won this year! A time it’s truly meant to be and it’s emotional! So many years I’ve hated this tradition of ours and so many years I’ve heard the same from others. They say “I hate Fiestas, I don’t go to Zozobra.” That also breaks my heart. My family has been involved in the Fiesta for years and I know that it’s about peace and all the people coming together. I know bad things have happened, not just to my brother, but in Santa Fe history—but this 25th year I hope that we all can remember what the Fiestas was meant to represent: peace. I want my Santa Fe gente to also try and love our Fiestas and remember the true meaning of it all. ¡Que viva!
Felicia Romero, Phoenix