As a part of his "People to the Plaza" initiative, Mayor Javier Gonzales and the city held a hearing Monday night to hear ideas for the making Santa Fe's Plaza more vibrant.
Roughly two dozen people got up to spoke, including appointed members of Gonzales' mayoral transition team.
"We don't want to have all or nothing," Paul Margetson, chair of the Convention and Visitor's Bureau task force in the transition team, said at the hearing. "Perhaps we close Plaza from Memorial Day to Balloon Fiesta."
That's pretty close to the mayor's plan. Gonzales supports closing all four streets of the Plaza to cars and opening up more foot traffic from Memorial Day to the Monday following Fiesta de Santa Fe week, which occurs around Labor Day (the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta happens in October). Gonzales' resolution is currently stalled in the city's public works committee.
At the hearing Monday night, city staffers encouraged residents to write down ideas for upgrading the Plaza on pieces of paper and attach them to a board. Attendees were then given stickers to put on to the ideas they liked (see picture above). The city, according to Kate Noble, who works in the city's Economic Development Division, will then collect the ideas and present them to the governing body. Noble says the city is also seeking public ideas for the Plaza online.
Popular thoughts posted Monday night on the board included hosting "international food markets," free WiFi and "cruise nights."
Many at the hearing urged the city to move cautiously. Cyndi Conn, executive director of Creative Santa Fe (and another member of Gonzales' transition team) said the city should make changes to the Plaza that are temporary and can later be evaluated to see if they're working.
Some asked for more leniency. Ed Baca, president of Santa Fe Vintage Car Club, which hosts hot rod showcases on the Plaza multiple times a year, asked whether the city could simplify the permitting process for holding events on the Plaza. Others, including a member of a marimba group that plays on the Plaza, criticized the city for its new busker ordinance that limits sound from traveling more than 50 feet.
And of course, what would a Santa Fe public hearing be without some old fashioned NIMBYism? Greig Porter, a former Plaza area vendor, told the audience at the hearing that the real problem wasn't not enough people on the Plaza, it's too many people on the Plaza.
"If you're going to turn it into a Coney Island, you're going to kill the goose," he said.
Porter added that he thought it was "an outrage" that newspapers don't pay the city to rent out sidewalk land for their boxes on the Plaza.
Gonzales has stated that he hopes to get a new Plaza plan passed this month.