Pop Quiz: District 1

SFR quizzes City Council candidates about the communities they hope to represent

This election season SFR reprises the tradition of administering pop quizzes to City Council candidates about the communities they hope to represent. For the last installment in contested City Council races, it’s time for District 1. In addition to the downtown area and historic neighborhoods, the district includes all the territory north of the Santa Fe River and east of Cerrillos, plus neighborhoods along the west side of the city off West Alameda and Agua Fría streets down to Siler Road.

Incumbent Councilor Renee Villarreal is not running for reelection and four people seek to replace her: restaurant owner Alma Castro, former Planning Commissioner Brian Gutierrez, retired administrator Katherine Rivera and lawyer Geno Zamora. Per ground rules, the candidates agreed to not use any sources aside from their own knowledge to answer the questions asked. Early voting began Oct. 10 at the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office; Election Day is Nov. 7. Read previous quizzes at (Evan Chandler, with additional reporting by Julia Goldberg and Julie Ann Grimm.)


  1. What’s the highest median house price reported in your district according to the most recent statistics from the Santa Fe Association of Realtors?
  2. How many residential short-term rental permits are allowed citywide and how often may each unit be rented?
  3. Name five permitted events held annually on the Plaza.
  4. Roughly how many tourists visit Santa Fe every year including day visits?
  5. What are the minimum parking space requirements in Chapter 14 for new retail establishments such as food stores, florists, gift shops and drug stores?


  1. District 1 falls within the “northeast” region of the city, as defined by the Santa Fe Association of Realtors. The highest median home price in the third quarter of 2023 there was $1.19 million.
  2. The city capped the number of short-term rentals for residential areas at 1,000 in a 2021 ordinance revision. Each unit may be rented out once in a seven-day period.
  3. City code stipulates no more than eight permits shall be issued by the city per calendar year for major commercial events held on the Plaza, and three one-day event permits. The permitted events are: the Challenge New Mexico Arts and Crafts Show; the Fourth of July Pancake Breakfast; Spanish Market; the Contemporary Hispanic Market; the Santa Fe Girls’ Inc. Arts and Crafts Show; Santa Fe Indian Market; the Santa Fe Fiesta Labor Day Arts and Crafts Market; the Santa Fe Fiesta; Pride Santa Fe; Juneteenth; and Indigenous Peoples Day. Dia de los Muertos is planned for the second time this year.
  4. Tourism Director Randy Randall tells SFR the city estimates close to 3 million people visit Santa Fe every year.
  5. The Land Use Development code calls for one space per every 200 feet of net leasable space in these specific retail uses. In an Oct. 4 talk as part of Homewise’s Livability Speaker series, journalist Henry Grabar, author of Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World, cited Santa Fe’s parking statistics in his lecture focused on how changing parking strategy could help address the national (and local) housing crisis. “In a lot of places when you think about what parking has done to the built environment, it’s hard for people to compare what’s been lost with what has happened,” he tells SFR. “In Santa Fe, it’s interesting because it has an intact downtown that provides an example of what a new strategy could look like.…people wonder what would happen to development without parking minimums and what does that look like; conveniently in Santa Fe, you have an example of that right downtown and it happens to be everyone’s favorite part of the city.”

Alma Castro

SCORE: 1/5

Prior to taking over as owner of Café Castro from her parents, Alma Castro worked in Chicago as a labor organizer and an instructor of mariachi music. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College. She previously served on the Santa Fe Arts Commission and currently is a member of the Southside Mainstreet Advisory Board.

  1. $800,000 is the median in the city, so I’m trying to go a bit over that. So let’s say, well I would say $1.5 million.
  2. Citywide, you said. So short term is going to have to be less than 30 days because otherwise that would be long term, and I’m going to say 5,000.
  3. I will go ahead and say Spanish Market; Indian Market—specifically on the Plaza, right? Santa Fe Fiestas will be another. I’m going to say Dia de los Muertos even though that’s a new one, and Juneteenth as well.
  4. I’m going to say yearly we probably get 300,000 visitors.
  5. Oh, this one I should know. So ours are based on seating, so I’m going to say you would need a minimum of 15 spaces.

Italic Text: Incorrect

Brian Gutierrez

SCORE: 1/5

A father of four, Brian Gutierrez currently runs a scrap metal recycling buy-back center on the city’s Southside. He served on the 2013 Charter Review Commission, as well as on the Planning Commission for eight years, during the last of which he served as chairman.

  1. The highest median home price in my district: $850,000.
  2. Let me see. Hold on, I know this. Give me one second: 1,200.
  3. Fiestas; Spanish Market; Indian Market…I hope I don’t get dinged, but we’re going to go with Indigenous Peoples Day and Pride.
  4. [20 seconds pass] Including day trips…[Another 20 seconds pass] I’m not cheating, I’m just thinking. I’m just thinking what might make sense [Another 10 seconds pass]. Let’s go with 1.2 million.
  5. 20 per X feet, let me think. No, it’s not 20 per 1,000 feet, that’s too many. Three per 1,000 feet.

Italic Text: Incorrect

Katherine Rivera

SCORE: 1.5/5

After retiring from a corporate career where she spent more than 30 years as an operations specialist, Katherine Rivera is running for elected office for the first time. In addition to her business background, Rivera is an arroyo and roadside cleanup volunteer.

  1. Gosh, I am going to say $1.2 million.
  2. I think at present there’s like, believe it or not, 1,550. I thought the city had a limit of like 1,000, and I believe they need to be renewed every three years, if that was the question. [SFR repeats the question.] Oh, rented out? Let’s see, I’m pausing on this for a second. It’s a short term rental, and I’m thinking at least once a month.
  3. OK, so there is the annual Fiesta, there is the Fourth of July Pancakes on the Plaza, there is Indigenous Peoples Day, there is Pride day, and I’m missing the fifth one, but I’m guessing the lighting of the tree the day after Thanksgiving. (*Partial credit)
  4. Oh my goodness, you said every year? I am going to guess that it’s tens of thousands every year. I will probably even put it at 100,000 people.
  5. You know, I don’t know. I don’t know that answer, but I am going to guess there’s probably got to be a minimum of five parking spaces.

Italic Text: Incorrect

Geno Zamora

SCORE: 1/5

Geno Zamora served as the city attorney for Santa Fe for almost four years under former Mayor David Coss and was formerly chief counsel for Gov. Bill Richardson and as assistant attorney general under Tom Udall. He serves on the city’s Community Health and Safety Task Force.

  1. Okay, the highest median home price in this district has to be $950,000.
  2. Oh, I’m going based on memory from my days as the city attorney. At that time, I believe it was 300 short-term rental licenses. And at that time, this sounds strange, but it would have been about 17 rentals per year. I’m assuming that’s been expanded and updated, so a guess would be 500 permits and 25 rentals per year.
  3. Indian Market; Spanish Market; Arts and Crafts Market; I believe there is something Girls Club or Girls Inc. related; and of course, there’s Fiestas. Is that five?
  4. I would say 1.2 million.
  5. So I would say the minimum would be three spots per 1000 square foot of commercial space.

Italic Text: Incorrect

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