House People, Not ‘Toys’: Let’s Move Forward, Together

Los Alamos

In response to this letter to the editor on why we need to mandate more parking in Los Alamos, a few points:

• “You [the NNSA] have the ability to make land available…” The NNSA is not going to make more land for housing available. I asked them, and this is what they said.

• “Restore the limit in the old development code…” The old development code is a big reason why our downtown generally, and Mari-Mac specifically, has been dilapidated for a decade. What is on the table is how much flexibility to allow builders. The less flexibility, the less housing, and the more expensive it is. A project like the Mari-Mac redevelopment would be dead in the water under the old development code.

• “If you walk around Los Alamos knocking on doors…” If you knock on doors the only people answering are people who already have housing. Scientists and engineers are turning down jobs in Los Alamos not because of toy-storage shortages, but because what few houses we have cost $500k on average and that’s for a house that probably needs $100k in updating and repairs. On rentals, the astronomically-tight market means students and post-docs face the choice of turning down a job or living in a tent. This is not a “toys and stuff” problem, it’s a housing problem, and putting “housing crisis” in scare quotes is insulting to those who are struggling with this extremely serious problem. 

• “Lab scientists and engineers are not that kind of people, and nobody comes to Los alamos to live because they want to live in an apartment or ADU with no toys.” The claim here is that Los Alamos (town and Lab) only needs ‘that kind of people,’ the kind who would never deign to live in an apartment. In reality, many of us need apartments: when my spouse and I first moved in together, a Gold Street apartment was our home—and he walked to work. We need many kinds of people: bus drivers, teachers, firefighters, small-business owners, and all the myriad types of people on which the vitality of this community rests. We are not a town of one kind of person, and we have more than one kind of housing need.

• “Students, short-term contractors, yes, post-docs maybe, but the intellectual and skilled human capital the lab needs…” Students and post-docs are, in fact, critical to LANL’s future; but it’s not just them. Mechanics, nurses, machinists, and plumbers also offer skilled human capital that make the town work, and there should be housing for them. Many of them want to stay, but we sure don’t make it easy.

• “…the intellectual and skilled human capital the lab needs don’t get by with one car, and they have a lot of toys and stuff.” I don’t see the connection between intellectualism and cars, but storage for “toys and stuff” isn’t a thing our government needs to be subsidizing. If someone can afford a variety of toys (and stuff), they can find a storage solution without the government forcing taxpayers and tenants to pay for it

• “Neighborhood character…” Character doesn’t come from putting a thing under glass or freezing it in amber. It isn’t something only “scientists and engineers” offer. It certainly doesn’t come from mandating toy storage. Character comes from dynamism, diversity, time, and change. Neighborhoods are not museums. Many of us welcome new neighbors, new businesses, and new life. If nothing changes, our town is dead.

How about we work together to move forward, instead of always pushing back?