On August 2, the Albuquerque Journal reported on its front page that just 2 days after the city began accepting applications for “safe outdoor spaces”, a newly formed corporation identified as Dawn Legacy Pointe has submitted an application. It was reported that Dawn Legacy Pointe intends to create a safe outdoor space at 1250 Menaul NE, a parcel of open space just west of Interstate 25. It proposes accommodating up to 50 residents, the maximum number allowed under current law. All the encampment residents will not be confined to the area and will be able to go and come as they please without restrictions.
There is a vacant building and at least 3 large vacant lots located at 1250 Menaul, NE. Although the Journal reported the address of the property as 1250 Menaul, it did not report the surrounding businesses nor even the school in the area. Less than a half mile and within walking distance from the property is Menaul School, which is a private boarding school for 6th to 12th graders. Directly across the street from the property is the T-Mobile Call Center and a Quality Inn & Suites. Going West on Menaul and one block from the property is Carington College and two apartment complexes. Directly West and bordering the property is Sunset Memorial Park and Cemetery. Immediately East of the Freeway is a truck stop and the Crown Plaza Hotel. It is likely only those in the vicinity who will not object to the Safe Outdoor Spaces homeless encampment are those at Sunset Memorial Park and Cemetary
According to the Journal story, Dawn Legacy Pointe is still in its infancy. Kylea Good is the board chairwoman. She said that Dawn Legacy Pointe submitted corporation formation paperwork to the New Mexico Secretary of State and that it will eventually seek 501c3 status from the IRS. Until then the local nonprofit “Street Safe New Mexico” is overseeing its finances. Good said it will cost an estimated $120,000 to $180,000 to operate the cite its first year. Family and Community Services Director Carol Pierce said that although the project’s budget is not final, the City of Albuquerque intends to help cover the operating costs.
Kylea Good said it would likely be easy to find people and most likely women, though it will not exclude men, willing to stay at the camp. She said she hoped to have the encampment up and running by October and she told the Journal:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we maxxed out. The truth of the matter is it’s not like we’re looking at just one area. There’s a lot of [human] trafficking and exploitation that goes on around that area of Menaul, but you have a whole city that is dealing with it.”
Brad Day, a local businessman and advocate for safe outdoor spaces, is advising Dawn Legacy Pointe. He told the Journal:
“We did all the documents, and now what we’re going to do is basically work on the logistics of getting all the stuff we need, the tents, the sleeping bags, the air mattresses, get the fence built.”
The link to the full unedited Journal news article is here:
OTHER APPLICATIONS EXPECTED DESPITE MORITORIUM REQUEST AND POTENTIAL REPEAL OF SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES
On July 19, the on line news agency 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.
It was 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.
Safe outdoor spaces are allowed in some non-residential and mixed-use zones and must be at least 330 feet from zones with low-density residential development. The restrictions do not apply to campsites operated by religious institutions. Under the IDO amendments, Safe Outdoor Spaces are allowed for up to two years with a possible two-year extension.
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. 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.
During the August 1 City Council meeting, Republican City Councilor Brook Basaan successfully pushed for an expedited vote on the moratorium bill. With support from Republican City Councilors Renee Grout, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis and Democrats Klarissa Peña and Louie Sanchez, Bassan was able pull the bill out of the Council’s standard committee process. Voting against the measure were Democrats Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn. The vote on the moratorium is now scheduled for an August 15 vote.
MAYOR KELLER ANNOUNCES ADMINISTRATION IS “REVISITING” HOMELESS POLICIES
It was Mayor Tim Keller who initially proposed the idea of “Safe Outdoor Spaces” in his 2022-2023 city budget. The 2022-2023 proposed budget released on April 1 provides major funding to deal with the homeless. The budget approved includes the following line-item funding:
“$750,000 for proposed “safe outdoor spaces”. … If approved by Council, will enable ultra-low barrier encampments to set up in vacant dirt lots across the City. There is an additional $200,000 for developing other sanctioned encampment programs.”
On Saturday, June 25, Mayor Tim Keller gave his “State of The City” address. Keller bought up the city’s homeless crisis. Keller noted that homelessness is “on display in so many areas in our city”. Keller had this to say:
“We have to open new ways, new pathways, to longstanding problems and try new approaches. We’ve got to be agile, we’ve got to learn, and we’ve got to keep creating pathways to stability. That is why we are revisiting our approach to homelessness and encampments.”
On July 6, after intense public outcry and objections over “safe outdoor spaces” Mayor Tim Keller again announced that his administration is “revisiting” its policies on how it addresses homeless encampments that are increasing in number throughout the city. Keller expressed the intent to initiate major changes on how to deal legally with homeless encampments.
The links to quoted news sources are here:
CLOSURE OF CORONADO PARK
On July 25, Mayor Tim Keller announced closure of the unsanctioned homeless encampment at Coronado Park. Over the last 10 years, Coronado Park became the “de facto” city sanctioned homeless encampment with the city repeatedly cleaning it up only for the homeless to return the next day. City officials have said it is costing the city $27,154 every two weeks or $54,308 a month to clean up the park only to allow the homeless encampment to return. The major factor in closing the park is crime.
Criminal activity has spiked at the park over the past three years. The city park has an extensive history lawlessness including drug use, violence, murder, rape and mental health issues. City officials said that upwards 120 people camp nightly at the park. Homeless occupants will be told of other housing options offered by the city. The city will continue to offer services and housing options to those using Coronado Park, including making limited property storage available to those who are interested or in need of it.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is pretty damn amazing when Kylea Good proclaims that the Safe Outdoor Space encampment she is advocating for will likely be occupied by woman first saying “I wouldn’t be surprised if we maxxed out. The truth of the matter is it’s not like we’re looking at just one area. There’s a lot of [human] trafficking and exploitation that goes on around that area of Menaul.” When she uses the words “trafficking and exploitation”, she is talking about woman who are victims of crime such as kidnapping or forced prostitution. She is saying that she wants to provide tents in city sanction encampments to woman who have already been victimized believing she is somehow being compassionate when such woman need actual, permanent housing that is safe and secured and not living in a tent city.
Both Kylea Good and Brad Day are being way too presumptuous, if not downright sneaky, with the application and their plans to establish a safe outdoor space and their attempts to give the perception or ostensibly believing that it’s a done deal. They both know the council could very easily repeal the IDO amendments on August 15, but they refuse to take no for an answer and persist with the applications. This is what you call just ignoring public opposition to a zoning policy. This is what you call cramming you own political agenda down the public’s throats.
The truth is, and despite what Kylea Good and Brad Day may believe, the application for a safe outdoor space as a “permissive use” or “conditional use” is only 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 by the zoning hearing officer. Whatever the zoning hearing officer decides can be appealed to the Albuquerque City Council who has ultimate and final authority to grant or deny the award of the permissive use or conditional use zone change.
This is what you call an arrogant Mayor Tim Keller and an equally arrogant Family and Community Services Director Carol Pierce thumbing their noses at the Albuquerque City Council and the public. When Pierce announces that the City intends to help cover the operating costs of the Dawn Legacy Pointe “Safe Oudoor Space” encampment even before it has been approved, she no doubt had the blessing of Keller. The funding no doubt will come from the $750,000 approved by the City Council in the 2022-2023 budget for “Safe Outdoor Spaces.” If she did not have Keller’s blessing, he owes the public an explanation and she needs to be disciplined or perhaps removed as Director of the Family and Community Services Department.
If Mayor Tim Keller was truly committed to “revisiting” his policies on the homeless as he has said, then he should have issued an executive order suspending or placing a “moratorium” on the application process for “safe outdoor spaces”. He has such executive authority to give such an order to the Planning and Zoning Department and Planning Department Director Alan Varela, but he did not.
What Mayor Keller should have learned from Coronado Park, and all the violent crime that has occurred there, is that government sanctioned homeless encampments that “Safe Outdoor Spaces” embody simply do not work. They are magnets for crime and will likely become a public nuisance that is injurious to public health, safety and welfare and will interfere with the exercise and enjoyment of public rights, including the right to use public property. The practical effect of the Safe Outdoor Spaces will be to create “mini” Coronado Parks.
The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city, but it can and must be managed. Providing a very temporary place to pitch a tent, relieve themselves, bathe and sleep at night with rules they do not want nor will likely follow is not the answer to the homeless crisis and is what safe outdoor spaces represent. 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, become productive self-sufficient citizens, no longer dependent on relatives or others.
Mayor Tim Keller should issue and executive ordered moratorium to be in place until the City Council has the 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. Should the City Council repeal the Safe Outdoor Space amendment, they need to take it a step further and defund the $750,000 for operation of Safe Outdoor Spaces and the $200,000 for developing other sanctioned encampment programs.
Mayor Keller’s failure to act amounts nothing more than refusing to respect the Albuquerque City Council as a policy body and the public who opposes the government sanction encampments know as Safe Outdoor spaces.
The Keller Administration has adopted a housing first policy when it comes to dealing with the homeless crisis. Safe Outdoor spaces encampments violates the city’s “housing first” policy by not providing a form of permanent housing.
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 applications for “safe outdoor spaces” to proceed and approves them, 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 public needs to make their opinions known and tell Mayor Tim Keller to issue an executive order suspending or placing a moratorium on the application process and tell city councilors to demand that he issue such an order so that they can vote on the 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