It has been reported that the Albuquerque City Council has deferred adopting the two-year rewrite of the City’s comprehensive plan known as the ABC-Z project. (See Albuquerque, Metro & New Mexico, Section C, “Council defers decision on comprehensive plan” page C-1).
Adoption of the plan is beginning to generate heated debate now that affected neighborhoods are realizing just how dramatic of a change it will mean on their neighborhoods.
Some critics go as far as to say the new plan is “racist”. (See ABQ Free Press article “New ABQ Urban Plan Racist”, March 3, 2017)
Many who oppose the plan are urging postponing and adoption of the plan for 12 to 18 months to allow for more public input, particularly from communities of color, which makes sense.
The Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the construction and development community are pulling all stops to get the plan adopted before the October 3, 2017 municipal election, no doubt with the support of Mayor Berry.
The Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Berry probably fear the prospect that a new Mayor and a new City Council just may not like the new plan.
It is no secret that Mayor Berry is the darling of the construction and development community, the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and organizations such as NAIOP.
Adoption of the plan before Berry leaves office on December 1, 2017 will be one of Berry’s last gifts to the development community.
Mayor Richard Berry, a contractor himself, says the adoption of comprehensive plan is a much-needed rewrite of a patchwork of decades-old development guidelines that has held the city back.
Critics of the new plan say that during drafting of ABC-Z comprehensive plan, public discussion lacked a representative of a number of minority voices and minority communities, and argue the document will allow the continued location of polluting industries in predominantly minority neighborhoods. (See Albuquerque Free Press article “New ABQ Urban Plan Racist”, March 3, 2017).
GENTRIFICATION MEANS DISPLACEMENT
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “gentrification” as “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”
The City web site on the plan says the rewrite of the comprehensive plan is an attempt to bring “clarity and predictability” to the development regulations and to attract more “private sector investment”. (See Albuquerque Journal “City trying to weed out redundant regulations”, page A-1, February 20, 2017)
Currently, there are sixty (60) sector development plans which governs new development in specific neighborhoods.
Forty (40) of the development plans have their own “distinct zoning guidelines” that are designed to protect many historical areas of the city.
Examples of areas of the city governed by long standing sector development plans include Barelas, San Jose, Hunning Highland, Silver Hills, Nob Hill and Old Town.
There are also historical overlay zones that will be affected.
It is being proposed that the number of zones go from 250 to fewer than 20, which by any terms is dramatic.
The city’s web site on the plan rewrite claims key goals include “improve protection for the city’s established neighborhoods and respond to longstanding water and traffic challenges by promoting more sustainable development”.
Using the words “promoting more sustainable development” means developers want to get their hands on older neighborhoods and develop them as they see fit with little or no regulation at the best possible cost to make a profit.
There is merit to what many critics say that the ABC-Z project rewrite is nothing more than making “gentrification” an official city policy and the “gutting” of long standing sector development plans by the development community to repeal those sector development plans designed to protect neighborhoods and their character for the sake of development.
POSPONE ADOPTION UNTIL AFTER THE ELECTION
The final version and adoption of the ABC-Z comprehensive plan will have long term impact on our neighborhoods and the development community for years to come.
The City Council should do what is right and conduct a series of City Council special meetings to get input directly from affected minority communities.
The Albuquerque City Council needs to show a little common sense and defer its adoption of the ABC-Z comprehensive plan until after the October 3, 2017 municipal election.
Voters need to demand that all candidates for Mayor and City Council take a position on the issue.