In 'Glitter Town,' All is Not Gold
As jet set flocks to the adobe-walled city, locals find they are priced out of the market
SANTA FE, N. M. — WHEN Andrea Lopez was growing up, she played cowboys and Indians with other children on the sagebrush- and pinon-dotted hills behind her father's studio on Canyon Road.
Today, children are absent from Canyon Road, except for actor Robert Redford's grownup ones, shopping for a $2,000 native-American pot or lunching at the trendy Compound restaurant.
Santa Fe has become one of the West's glitter towns, invaded by Hollywood stars who like the blend of Spanish and native-American culture and the empty hills where they can build 10,000-square-foot stucco ranch houses. While the notoriety has helped make Canyon Road the third largest art market in the country, it has also driven up property values to the extent that Ms. Lopez can no longer to afford to live in her native city.
The influx of the glitterati and the wannabe glitterati into this adobe-crested city has set up an enduring tension between the natives and the jet set. And, as happened in the West's trendy ski mecca in Aspen, Colo., officials here are introducing plans to give Santa Fe back to the locals.
In Aspen, locals worked hard to keep their town from becoming a far-flung suburb of Hollywood, and their growth-control restrictions have cooled some of the most overheated plans for expansion.
Santa Fe locals, for their part, don't want to become overrestricted (a charge sometimes leveled at Aspen), but they apparently felt a need to do something. Two years ago they elected Mayor Debbie Jaramillo on an antigrowth platform, hoping to stem the tide of tourists and wealthy new homebuilders.
Like Santa Feans who make their living off tourism, Ms. Lopez is both philosophical and resentful about the hand that feeds her.
''A lot of people don't like the tourism, but at the same time, there's nothing else,'' says Lopez, who operates a fajita stand on Santa Fe's downtown plaza. ''Who wants big plants coming in and ruining our ecology?''
So far, residents don't have many options for earning a living. The two industries are tourism and government. As New Mexico's capital, Santa Fe is guaranteed a government base, but with a Republican governor promising cutbacks, locals are concerned the big-spending government population will become as scarce as the cowboys who once rode the hills.
The city, with a population of 62,000, doesn't have the labor force to attract big business, nor is the arid desert environment conducive to a large influx of residents. Santa Fe used 97 percent of its water supply last year, and two of its eight wells are now contaminated.
There are local businesses, like Santa Fe's artisans, and small high-tech companies. But Santa Fe is late to the high-tech world, and unlike Boulder, Colo., a high-tech capital, Santa Fe doesn't have a university or large computer firms nearby to draw support from.
That leaves tourism. But Santa Fe experienced a desolate summer last year, causing locals to wonder if the town has become passe.
So long as the economy depends on tourism, many locals believe Santa Fe will simply have to accept it and learn to manage growth. Indeed, the city is revising its comprehensive plan, which will help to define its approach to controlling growth. Outside of Santa Fe, ordinances have been passed to keep the area from becoming a suburban tract lot.
The measures are not as austere as in Aspen, where commercial and residential growth are limited to 2 percent a year. And, like Santa Fe, Aspen is defining and redefining its approach to growth control: A recall election is set for April 9 to oust two county commissioners who backed a controversial antigrowth ordinance.