ABQ Journal Dinelli Guest Column: “Casita zoning amendments favor developers over neighborhoods in city”

On Sunday, August 6, the Albuquerque Journal published the below 500 word Pete Dinelli guest column:

HEADLINE: Casita zoning amendments favor developers over neighborhoods in city


“On July 6, Mayor Tim Keller signed into law the zoning amendments that embody his Housing Forward ABQ plan. It will allow casita construction on 68% of all built-out residential lots in the city. Casita construction is now a “permissive use” on all single-family R–1 zones, giving the Planning Department exclusive authority to approve casitas over objections of adjoining property owners.

Mayor Keller announced his administration’s goal is to review and approve 1,000 new casitas all over the city by 2025. Keller announced the Planning Department will also “lower the bar” for property owners to build casitas and provide pre-approved casita designs. The city also wants to provide loans for building costs to homeowners who agree to rent their casitas to those who use Section 8 housing vouchers.

The city providing pre-approved casita designs gives preferential treatment over those that diligently followed the application process, incurring substantial expenses. Providing pre-approved casita designs steps over the line of being a code enforcement and the approval agency to one of providing architectural plan designs where the city taxpayer absorbs the architectural costs for the private property developer.

A program where the city loans building costs to property owners that agree to rent their casitas to Section 8 housing voucher users likely violates the state (Constitution’s) anti-donation clause that bars public government entities from donating to corporations and individuals. It presumes the city has the financial resources to offer low-interest loans to the private sector when the city’s responsibility is funding essential services.

The city is not a loan institution for collections on high-risk loan defaults for casita development. It amounts to the city going into home improvement loan business when it is responsible for construction code enforcement and permitting.

The reclassification zoning of all R-1 single-family lots to allow for casita development will not solve the city’s low-income housing shortage. It will result in large private investors and real estate developers buying up distressed properties to lease and convert whole blocks into casita rental areas. This has happened in the south area of the UNM, degrading the character of neighborhoods.

People buy their most important asset, their home, with the expectation they can trust the city not to change substantially the density, quality and appearance of their neighborhood. People buy single detached homes wanting to live in low-density neighborhoods, not high-density areas that will reduce their quality of life and the peaceful use and enjoyment of their homes and families.

What happened with the enactment of Keller’s Housing Forward ABQ plan was a breach of trust between homeowners, property owners and the city and its elected officials who put “profits over people” to benefit the development community. The short-term housing “crunch” was used to declare a “housing crisis” to shove Keller’s Housing Forward ABQ plan down the throats of city property owners.

Progressive Democrat Mayor Keller gave a wink and a nod to the business and development community with his Housing Forward ABQ plan that favors developers over neighborhoods.”

Pete Dinelli is a former Albuquerque city councilor and former chief public safety officer for the city. He writes a blog at: www.PeteDinelli.com

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.