On Wednesday, April 13, the City Council’s Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee (LUPZ) met to consider two separate amendments updating the city’s 2017 enacted Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) that regulates residential zoning development throughout the city. Two amendments were approved by the committee and 2 public hearings have been scheduled for both on April 26 by ZOOM.
The amendments are:
SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES (A12)
This amendment is for zoning changes that will allow city sanctioned “safe outdoor spaces”, also called “government sanctioned homeless campsites” where the homeless will be able to sleep and tend to personal hygiene. Not more than 5 sanctioned campsites will be allowed in any one of the city’s 9 city council districts, or 45 total campsites, and the campsites would be limited to 40 tents, cars or recreational vehicles. Ostensibly, a minimum 1,800 homeless city wide will be allowed to select the camp they want to use. The math is as follows: 5 sanctioned campsites times 9 council districts equals 45 times 40 tents, cars or recreational vehicles equals 1,800.
CONVERSIONS FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING (A2)
This amendment would relax the rules when converting nonresidential properties, such as hotels or offices, to residential use. This amendment proposes to eliminates a requirement that each unit must have a full kitchen, namely an oven or cooking stove. It would permit a microwave or hot plate as an alternative, but only if the city is involved in the conversion project by providing affordable housing money.
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARINGS BY ZOOM
On April 20, the Albuquerque City Council published and emailed to interested parties the following notice for 2 separate ZOOM hearings with links to attend:
“City Council staff is offering two opportunities to provide a review of amendments already passed by the Land Use, Planning and Zoning committee in addition to any new amendments the City Council may consider at their May 2nd meeting, pertaining to the Integrated Development Ordinance (I.D.O.)
Both meetings are on Tuesday, April 26th at 12pm and 5:30pm via ZOOM.
We need to help people who are experiencing homelessness. These amendments are critical.
Safe Outdoor Spaces (A12) and Conversions for Affordable Housing (A2) provide ways to provide safe areas and increase the availability for much needed housing and services.
ZOOM Links for April 26
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 892 6958 2954
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+12532158782,,89269582954# US (Tacoma)
5:30 P.M. SESSION:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 853 5652 4809
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+16699006833,,85356524809# US (San Jose)
+12532158782,,85356524809# US (Tacoma)
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The city council’s notice of both hearings that says “These amendments are critical” interjects and element of biasness that the council has essentially decided what to do and now is soliciting supporters to advocate for the amendments. Simply put, this is wrong!
Any interested party who opposes the amendments are encouraged to attend the ZOOM hearings and voice their concerns. If you can not attend either of the two hearings, please email you concerns to your city councilor and ask that it be made part of the record that could aide in future litigation. The email address to contact each city councilor are as follows:
SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES (HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS)
The proposed zoning changes to allow for homeless campsites can be summarized as follows:
1. Not more than 5 sanctioned campsites will be allowed in any one of the city’s 9 city council districts, or 40 total campsites, and the campsites would be limited to 40 tents, cars or recreational vehicles. Ostensibly, a minimum 1,800 homeless city wide will be allowed to select the camp they want to use. The math is as follows: 5 sanctioned campsites times 9 council districts equals 45 times 40 tents, cars or recreational vehicles equals 1,800.
2. Each campsite will be required to have a certain number of water-flush or composting toilets, or portable facilities, hand-washing stations and showers based on occupancy.
3. It would require a surrounding wall or screen at least 6 feet high for those using tents.
4. Operators of the campsites, which could include churches and nonprofit organizations, would have to provide the city with a management plan or security agreement proving the site has 24/7 on-site support and security.
5. Operators would offer occupants some form of social services and support facilities.
6. The homeless campsites would be prohibited from being allowed within 330 feet of low-density residential areas. Religious institutions would have more flexibility for locating them.
7. The campsites would be permitted in certain commercial, business park and manufacturing zones and in some mixed-use zones after a public hearing.
According to City Officials, in most instances, the encampments would be set up and managed by churches or nonprofits.
The City Council amendment to the Integrated Development Ordinance will allow 5 sanctioned homeless campsites in each of the city’s 9 city council districts, or 45 total sanctioned campsites spread throughout the city, and allowing 40 tents, cars or recreational vehicles in each campsite, or ostensibly for a total of 1,800 homeless to camp. This is the best example of elected officials’ good intentions that will go awry making a crisis even worse. A total of 45 sanctioned campsites, coupled with $59,498,915 million in spending for the homeless, will likely have the unintended consequence of making Albuquerque an even bigger magnet for attracting the homeless to the city.
Any city councilor or any member of the general public that thinks 45 city sanctioned campsites with upwards of 40 occupants spread throughout the city is somehow “good idea” need to have their head examined. All they need to do to realize this is a very bad idea is to take a tour of the Coronado Park located near I-40 and 2nd street. As of April 17, the public park has upwards of 60 tents with the homeless wondering the park and the surrounding area.
Coronado Park is considered by many as the heart of Albuquerque’s homeless crisis. It comes with and extensive history lawlessness including drug use, violence, murder, rape and mental health issues. In 2020, there were 3 homicides at Coronado Park. In 2019, a disabled woman was raped, and in 2018 there was a murder. Police 911 logs reveal a variety of other issues. In February 2019, police investigated a stabbing after a fight broke out at the park. One month before the stabbing, police responded to a call after a woman said she was suicidal, telling police on lapel camera video that she had previously made attempts to overdose on meth. Officers then took her to get help.
On August 20, 2020, the City of Albuquerque paid more than a half-million dollars for a small piece of property with a two story office building at 2040 Fourth Street NW, right next to Coronado Park. For decades, the two story office building housed the law firm Dubois, Cooksey & Bischoff. Reports were that the homeless use of the park became so bad that the firm felt it had no choice but to sell to the city and threatened an inverse condemnation action against the city.
City officials have said Coronado Park is the subject of daily responses from the encampment team because of the number of tent’s set up there. They say the encampment team, along with Parks and Recreation Department , and Solid Waste go out every morning, during the week, to give campers notice and clean up the park. They also work on getting them connected to resources and services they may need.
The city does have a homeless crisis with around 1,500 homeless in any given night in the metro area. The city and the county for that reason are spending millions a year in addressing the homeless crisis. It is the actual services that are being provided to the homeless that are critical to solving the homeless crisis.
The Family and Community Services Department is being given $60 million dollars to deal with the homeless in the 2022-2023 budget. City sanctioned homeless camps will defeat any real progress being made. Government sanctioned homeless encampments will only encourage those who seek such encampments to continue with their lifestyle living on the streets. Providing a very temporary place to pitch a tent, relieve themselves, maybe bath and sleep at night with rules they do not want nor will likely follow is not the answer to the homeless crisis.
The answer is to provide the support services, including food and lodging, and mental health care needed to allow the homeless to turn their lives around and become productive citizens and self sufficient and no longer dependent on others.
CONVERTING TEMPORARY LODGING INTO PERMANENT HOUSING
The second amendment to update the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) is sponsored by Democrat City Councilor Isaac Benton. It would relax the rules when converting nonresidential properties used for temporary lodging, such as hotels or motels, to full time residential use. The proposal eliminates a requirement that each unit must have a full kitchen, namely an oven or cooking stove. It would permit a microwave or hot plate as an alternative, but only if the city is involved in the conversion project by providing affordable housing money.
During the LUPZ committee meeting, citizens testified that they worried the city was creating unsuitable housing options. Greg Weirs of the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association had this to say:
“This amendment [relaxing the rules to convert nonresidential properties] would create a new problem for those who cannot afford market-rate rent. … We’re concerned that if passed this amendment will incentivize substandard affordable housing, which will entrench the challenges faced by those it purports to serve.”
Republican City Councilor Brook Bassan took issue Weir’s the argument. The Councilor said she use to cook on a hot plate and did not consider it “substandard or a punishment.” She said the city must attempt new solutions. Bassan added and that her own Northeast Heights council district should be willing to shoulder some of the burden when it comes to the homeless because the status quo is problematic.
The link to quoted news sources is here: