It was on June 22 that legislation was introduced by city Councilor Brook Bassan at city council to repeal and to eliminate Safe Outdoor Spaces from the city’s Indegrated Development Ordinance. The repeal legislation was referred to the Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) for review and hearing and to make recommendations to the City Council. On Thursday, September 15, the City’s Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) held a hearing and voted to Eliminate “Safe Outdoor Spaces”.
OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION OF DECISION WITH FINDINGS
The city of Albuquerque has sent to all parties participating in the September 15 hearing the EPS’s official notification of its decision and the specific findings. Following is an edited version of the decision and the findings deleting legal jargon and highlighting in bold findings in order to assist the reader in understanding the decision and in particular the findings:
“PLANNING DEPARTMENT URBAN DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT DIVISION
OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION OF DECISION
The City of Albuquerque City Council requests various text amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) to remove all references to Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOSs) … .
On September 15, 2022, the Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) voted to forward a recommendation of APPROVAL to the City Council [for the removal of all references to Safe Outdoor Spaces in the Integrated Development Ordinance.]”
[FINDINGS OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING COMMISSION]
1. The request is for a recommendation to City Council would amend the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) to eliminate all references to Safe Outdoor Spaces, or SOSs.
2. The IDO was recently updated via the 2021 Annual Update amendment process. Language addressing Safe Outdoor Spaces was included in the amendments, which were adopted via Council Bill . … The 2021 amendments became effective on July 28, 2022 and are part of the IDO currently in effect. The amendments included a definition of Safe Outdoor Spaces, Use-Specific Standards, and some references to them.
3. Bill No. O-22-33 was drafted in June 2022 and referred to the Planning Department for EPC review and recommendation. Like other IDO text amendments regarding uses and standards, the proposed text amendments to the IDO … would apply generally throughout the City (City-wide) and fall under Amendment to IDO Text-Citywide. … Therefore, the request is a legislative matter.
4. On August 15, 2022, City Council adopted Resolution 22-56, which placed a moratorium on review and decision for all SOS applications. The Mayor vetoed the Resolution … on September 7, 2022.
5. The Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Comprehensive Plan and the Revised Ordinances of Albuquerque (ROA) 1994 are incorporated herein by reference and made part of the record for all purposes.
6. The request is generally consistent with the following, applicable articles of the City Charter:
A. Article I, Incorporation and Powers: Enacting a bill to revise and supersede the text of the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) … .
B. Article IX, Environmental Protection: Removing references to Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOS) in the IDO generally expresses the Council’s desire to ensure the proper use and development of land and maintain an aesthetic and humane urban environment City-wide.
C. Article XVII, Planning– Section 1: Amending the IDO is an instance of the Council exercising its role as the City’s ultimate planning and zoning authority. The IDO will help implement the Comprehensive Plan and ensure that development in the City is consistent with the intent of any other plans and ordinances that the Council adopts.
7. The request is generally consistent with the following, applicable Comprehensive Plan Goals and Policies from Chapter 4: [dealing with] Community Identity:
A. Character: Enhance, protect, and preserve distinct communities.
The request to remove Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOS) from the IDO would generally help to enhance, protect, and preserve distinct communities because it would ensure that SOS are no longer allowed City-wide. However, SOS are only allowed permissively in non-residential zones.
B. Identity and Design: Protect the identity and cohesiveness of neighborhoods by ensuring the appropriate scale and location of development, mix of uses, and character of building design.
The request to remove SOS from the IDO would generally help to protect the identity and cohesiveness of neighborhoods because it would ensure that the use is not allowed to be near neighborhoods. There are no use-specific standards or design standards for SOS that would ensure the appropriate scale and location of the use.
C. Neighborhoods: Enhance, protect, and preserve neighborhoods and traditional communities as key to our long-term health and vitality [by]
… Respecting existing neighborhood values and social, cultural, recreational resources.
… Support improvements that protect stable, thriving residential neighborhoods and enhance their attractiveness.
The request to remove SOS would be consistent in enhancing, protect, and preserving the long-tern health and vitality of neighborhoods because it would remove a use that is temporary, in some instances. A temporary use would not respect neighborhood values because the use is allowable in both Areas of Change and Areas of Consistency. Though only allowable in non-residential zone districts, the use would not stabilize neighborhoods or enhance their attractiveness.
8. The request is generally consistent with the following, applicable Comprehensive Plan Goals and Policies from Chapter 5 [dealing with] Land Use:
A. Land Uses: Create healthy, sustainable, and distinct communities with a mix of uses that are conveniently accessible from surrounding neighborhoods.
… Encourage development and redevelopment that brings goods, services, and amenities within walking and biking distance of neighborhoods and promotes good access for all residents.
… Maintain the characteristics of distinct communities through zoning and design standards that are consistent with long-established residential development patterns.
… Encourage higher density housing as an appropriate use in the [listed] situations.
The request to remove SOS from the IDO would generally continue to create and support healthy, sustainable and distinct communities because SOS would no longer be allowed Citywide, which in turn would protect the characteristics of distinct communities. SOS are allowed in a variety of non-residential or MX uses, as well as residential zones when associated with religious institutions, where higher density housing is allowed. By removing SOS as a use, higher density housing will continue to be encouraged on those sites.
B. Locally Unwanted Land Uses: Ensure that land uses that are objectionable to immediate neighbors but may be useful to society are located carefully and equitably to ensure that social assets are distributed evenly and social responsibilities are borne fairly across the Albuquerque area.
SOS are currently allowed in all MX zone districts as conditional temporary uses and in NR-C, NR-BP, NR-LM and NR-GM as temporary uses, as well as residential zone districts when associated with a religious institution. The request to remove SOS form the IDO would ensure that SOS as a locally unwanted land use are eliminated, since they are allowed in a variety of zone districts in both Areas of change and Areas of Consistency City-wide.
C. … City Development Areas: Encourage and direct growth to Areas of Change where it is expected and desired and ensure that development in and near Areas of Consistency reinforces the character and intensity of the surrounding area.
The request would generally ensure that the character and intensity of development in Areas of Consistency is reinforced by removing SOS from the IDO because the use is currently allowed in areas of consistency with minimal design standards. Furthermore, growth that is desired in areas of change would be generally encouraged in zone districts that SOS are currently allowed on.
9. The request is generally consistent with the following, applicable Comprehensive Plan Goal and policy pair from Chapter 8 [dealing with] Economic Development:
Placemaking: Create places where business and talent will stay and thrive.
Available Land: Maintain sufficient land that is appropriately zoned to accommodate projected employment growth in targeted areas.
The request would raise the sufficient land available to accommodate projected employment growth City-side by eliminating Safe Outdoor Spaces. SOS are currently allowed in a variety of non-residential zone districts that could otherwise be developed as businesses.
10. The request is generally consistent with the following, applicable Comprehensive Plan Goal from Chapter 9: Housing.
Goal – Homelessness: Make homelessness rare, short-term, and non-recurring.
The request would reduce options to serve people experiencing temporary homelessness by eliminating Safe Outdoor Spaces, places where this population can camp safely, though other options such as shelters and religious institutions, would remain available and would not be affected.
- The applicant’s policy analysis shows that the request is generally consistent with applicable Goals and policies in the Comprehensive Plan … .
… Therefore, the request is generally consistent with the spirit and intent of the Comprehensive Plan.
12. The affected neighborhood organizations include all registered Neighborhood Associations and organizations city-wide, which were notified as required.
13. The applicant has stated that they are submitting this request, in part, due to an abundance of opposition from constituents about the SOS use.
14. On September 13, 2022 Staff was contacted by the Westside Coalition of Neighborhood Associations which expressed concerns about keeping SOSs in the IDO and stated that there are many community members in support of the proposed bill.
- There are many community members who have come forward with concerns about Safe Outdoor Spaces who are in support of the bill [which will elinate SOS from the IDO].
CONDITION FOR RECOMMENDATION OF APPROVAL
… The definition of SOS shall remain in the IDO as a term.
[The Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) voted to forward a recommendation of APPROVAL to the City Council for the removal of all references to Safe Outdoor Spaces in the Integrated Development Ordinance.]
for Alan M. Varela, Planning Director
The link to the unedited EPC decision and findings is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
What is clear from the EPC ruling is that what is now occurring within the city is a prolonged political battle to prohibit Safe Outdoor Spaces from being allowed throughout the city, a battle that is being lost by the public with the Mayor and City Council. This is not just an issue of “not in my back yard” syndrome, but one of hostility and mistrusts of elected officials, especially Mayor Tim Keller, who are viewed as mishandling the city’s homeless crisis despite millions and millions being spent each year to help the homeless with little or no progress being made by Keller and with the homeless crisis becoming even worse under his 5 years in office.
It is an epic political battle being waged between the city’s elected officials and the general public. On one side of the battle are elected the city’s elected officials of Democrat Mayor Tim Keller and Democrats City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis and Tammy Fiebelcorn and Republican Trudy Jones and City Departments who feel they know best for the city and public. All 5 are hell bent on creating “Safe Outdoor Spaces” and cramming them down the public and their constituents’ throats ignoring city ordinances and the city’s housing first policy and without public input and contrary to public opinion.
On the other side of the issue is the general voting public who by all accounts are extremely hostile and who are opposed to temporary homeless tent encampments known as “Safe Outdoor Spaces.” Notwithstanding the objections of property owners and voters, Keller and the 4 city councilors believe they know best and intend to go forward with Safe Outdoor Spaces.
CITY COUNCILOR JONES LOSES CREDIBILITY WITH CONSTITUENTS
On September 7 when Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones voted not to override Mayor Tim Keller’s veto it was a “flip flop” of epic proportions, and she was downright sneaky in the way she did it by not taking calls from constituents the days leading up to the vote. During city council discussion, the normally vocal Jones on all thing related to the Integrated Development Ordinance sat stoically and then she voted. Only after she voted no to override Keller did she speak to the media and then gave a very lame excuse for her changed vote when she said:
“It’s the right thing to do. … Sometimes, along the line, you have to stick your neck out and do what’s right, not what is politically expected.”
The links to quoted news sources are here
With her reversal of her position on the Safe Outdoor Space moratorium, Republican City Councilor lost a significant amount of her credibility and public trust with her constituents that she had built up over 20 years of service on the council because of her failure to represent her constituent’s best interests and demands. Rumors are swirling that she cut a deal with Keller, but no one knows for certain, and she has not said.
What is truly amazing is that Jones is a former and successful realtor and in all likely knows the detrimental effect Safe Outdoor Spaces will have on real estate values. This is the same Republican city councilor who sponsored legislation to stop the homeless from pan handling and who also lives in a gated community where tent encampments will not be tolerated. The problem is, Trudy Jones will likely have the opportunity to once again go against her own constituent’s demands and refuse to eliminate Safe Outdoor Spaces from the IDO when the new legislation is presented.
A FEW TOOLS NOT NEEDED
Repeatedly, Mayor Tim Keller and his administration have said that Safe Outdoor Spaces are a “tool in the tool box” that is needed in his “all above approach” to deal with the homeless. That is simply false, and tools such as Safe Outdoor Spaces need to be thrown out of the toolbox when it comes to the homeless crisis. The only “real tools” here are our government and elected officials who are promoting an unsustainable policy of Safe Outdoor Spaces. They ostensibly do not know that government sanctioned encampments are being abandoned by major cities and have been found to be a very bad substitute for permanent housing and services which have the most impact on reducing the homeless crisis.
Cities such as Honolulu, Salt Lake City and Seattle, have abandoned their support of government sanctioned encampment such as Safe Outdoor Spaces and have begun implementing ordinances to remove all encampments to move toward a transitional housing or campus model, programs that have been found to bring physical and fiscal safety to communities while reducing crime. Some 65 cities across the United States have implemented ordinances to remove all encampments.
Mayor Tim Keller created a nuisance with city property when he allowed and condoned the use of Coronado Park as a de facto city sanction homeless encampment. Coronado Park had an extensive history of criminal activity including 4 murders, violent crimes and drug trafficking. Keller himself was forced to announce the closure of Coronado Park on June 27 as a result of the extensive criminal activity and the contamination of the grounds of the park that made it a threat to public safety and use. Safe Outdoor Spaces will in essence become “miniature” Coronado Parks.
The millions being spent each year by the city to deal with the homeless with the “housing first” policy and new Gibson Gateway Homeless Shelter and the Westside Homeless Shelter should be more than enough to deal with housing the homeless, yet Mayor Keller and the 4 City Councilors demand and want more from the public in the form of Safe Outdoor Spaces. Then there is that matter that Safe Outdoor Space encampments violating the city’s and Keller’s own “housing first” policy by not providing a form of permanent housing and with reliance on tents as temporary housing.
Safe Outdoor Spaces are not the answer to the homeless crisis. “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. The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city, but it can and must be managed. Safe Outdoor Spaces represent a very temporary place to pitch a tent, relieve oneself, bathe and sleep at night with rules that will not likely be followed.
The answer is to the homeless crisis is to provide the homeless the support services, including food and permanent lodging, and mental health care needed to allow the homeless to turn their lives around and perhaps become productive self-sufficient citizens.
Given the City Council’s vote on the Safe Outdoor Space moratorium, it is more likely than not that the city council will vote down and NOT to support the EPC recommendation to eliminate all references to Safe Outdoor Spaces. The legislation eliminating from the IDO Safe Outdoor Spaces will likely pass on a 5 to 4 vote and Mayor Tim Keller is expected to veto the legislation. The council will need 6 votes to override the mayor’s veto. Unless City Councilor Trudy Jones comes to her senses or has some sort of divine epiphany and changes her mind once again and votes to override Keller’s veto, the override will fail on a 5 to 4 vote and Safe Outdoor Spaces will become law. This is the type of conduct that results in general public distrust of city government.
Voters and residents are urged to contact and voice their opinion and tell all city councilors to vote YES and support the EPC recommendation to eliminate all references to Safe Outdoor Spaces, or SOSs, in the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO). Their phone numbers and email address are:
CITY COUNCIL PHONE: (505) 768-3100
CITY COUNCIL EMAILS