On July 26, the online news agency the New Mexico Sun published the guest column “Mayor Tim Keller should suspend the permitting process for ‘safe outdoor spaces’ until the City Council has time to act”. Below is the guest column followed by the link:
By Pete Dinelli
“On July 19, the New Mexico Sun broke the story that applications for “safe outdoor spaces” have been filed with the city Planning Department and that private funding is being sought for at least 6 encampments. An application for safe outdoor space zoning will lock into the existing zoning laws when the zoning application is completed. In the interim between when the Integrated Development Ordinance amendment goes into effect and when the provision is repealed, the application can be processed and approved by the city.
If Mayor Tim Keller is truly committed to “revisiting” his policies on the homeless, then he can issue an executive order suspending or placing a “moratorium” on the application process for “safe outdoor spaces”. He has the authority to give such an order to the Planning and Zoning Department.
The moratorium should be in place until the City Council has that opportunity to vote one way or the other on August 15 to repeal the legislation authorizing Safe Outdoor Spaces and enact rules and regulations on managing safe outdoor spaces if there is a failure to repeal. Mayor Keller has until July 28 when the amendments to Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) will become law.
On June 6, the City Council enacted an amendment to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) to allow for city sanctioned “safe outdoor spaces. “Safe outdoor spaces” are city sanctioned homeless encampments located in open space areas that will allow upwards of 50 homeless people to camp, require hand washing stations, toilets and showers, require a management plan, 6 foot fencing and provide for social services.
The application for a safe outdoor space “permissive use” or “conditional use” is the first step in the process. A Zoning Hearing Examiner must review and decide if the special safe outdoor space use will be allowed. Public notice must be given to surrounding property owners and the general public. A notice of zone change must be posted on the property and adjoining landowners and neighborhood must be given the opportunity to attend and be heard.
On June 22, after tremendous public outcry and objections, two bills were introduced that would repeal safe outdoor spaces. One bill introduced would stop the city from accepting or approving safe outdoor space applications and the other will eliminate “safe outdoor spaces” from the zoning code altogether. During the June 22 meeting the council did not act on the two bills and failed to enact the legislation that was to provide for rules and regulations promulgated by the Keller Administration for “safe outdoor spaces”.
June 22 was the last meeting of the City Council before it went on “summer break” until August 1 with the next city council meeting scheduled for August 15. The city council’s failure to take action on either the bills stopping the application process or repealing the land use resolution resulted in “safe outdoor spaces” becoming a permissible land use on July 28 and people can apply for the land use.
On July 6, after intense public outcry and objections over “safe outdoor spaces” Mayor Tim Keller announced that his administration is “revisiting” its policies on how it addresses homeless encampments. Keller wants to initiate major changes by the end of July on how to deal legally with homeless encampments.
The city has adopted what is called a “housing first” policy to deal with the homeless crisis. The 2022-2023 adopted city contains $4 million in recurring funding and $2 million in one-time funding for supportive housing programs in the City’s Housing First model and $24 million in Emergency Rental Assistance from the federal government.
“Safe outdoor spaces” will be a disaster for the city as a whole. They will destroy neighborhoods, make the city a magnet for the homeless and destroy the city’s efforts to manage the homeless through housing. If the City allows the 6 applications for “safe outdoor spaces” to proceed and approves them all, it will be a major setback for the city and its current policy of seeking permanent shelter and housing as the solution to the homeless crisis.”
The link to the New Mexico Sun article is here:
CONTACT THE MAYOR AND CITTY COUNCIL
The public is strongly encouraged to contact Mayor Keller and City Council and ask for a moratorium on the city processing applications for “Safe Outdoor Spaces” until the city Council has time to vote on August 15 to repeal.
The email addresses and phone numbers to contact Mayor Keller and Interim Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael and each City Councilor and the Director of Counsel services are as follows:
MAYOR’S OFFICE PHONE: (505) 768-3000
CITY COUNCIL PHONE: (505) 768-3100
ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO SUN
The New Mexico Sun is part of the Sun Publishing group which is a nonprofit. The New Mexico Sun “mission statement” states in part:
“The New Mexico Sun was established to bring fresh light to issues that matter most to New Mexicans. It will cover the people, events, and wonders of our state. … The New Mexico Sun is non-partisan and fact-based, and we don’t maintain paywalls that lead to uneven information sharing. We don’t publish quotes from anonymous sources that lead to skepticism about our intentions, and we don’t bother our readers with annoying ads about products and services from non-locals that they will never buy. … Many New Mexico media outlets minimize or justify problematic issues based on the individuals involved or the power of their positions. Often reporters fail to ask hard questions, avoid making public officials uncomfortable, and then include only one side of a story. This approach doesn’t provide everything readers need to fully understand what is happening, why it matters, and how it will impact them or their families.”
The home page link to the New Mexico Sun is here: