Appeal seeks first approved safe outdoor space

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The Santa Barbara Martineztown Neighborhood Association is challenging Albuquerque’s first approved safe outdoor space application, alleging the city failed to follow due process and the project will negatively impact the surrounding community.

The pending appeal means the approval is no longer considered “final,” according to the planning department.

It further clouds the already murky future of safe outdoor spaces — managed camps where homeless people can sleep in tents or cars and access showers and toilets — in Albuquerque.

But that didn’t deter people working on the project. Their plan includes erecting 40 tents that can accommodate up to 50 people on city property on Menaul Boulevard near Interstate 25.

“I’m just gonna keep going until somebody says ‘you’re dead,'” said Brad Day, a local businessman consulting with safe outdoor space operator Dawn Legacy Pointe. .

Loretta Naranjo Lopez, president of the Santa Barbara Martineztown neighborhood association. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Santa Barbara Martineztown Neighborhood Association President Loretta Naranjo Lopez said residents care about the homeless, but the area already suffers from crime, “dirtiness” and other issues that she attributes to the number of homeless people on her streets. She said the city needed a better plan than a safe outdoor space, which she said would create more challenges in a neighborhood she said the city experiences racial discrimination.

“We’re inundated with issues with homelessness, and they just (exacerbated them) when they let people out of Coronado Park,” Naranjo Lopez said, referring to the city’s Wednesday closure of the park where a large unauthorized encampment had flourished in recent years.

Dawn Legacy Pointe President Kylea Good said she understands the neighborhood’s concerns, but argues that arguments against safe outdoor spaces are often based on unfair generalizations that all homeless people are destructive or, in this case, that it would introduce sex trafficking. Dawn Legacy Point aims to serve victims of sex trafficking and other vulnerable populations.

“I find it really ironic that people don’t realize this stuff is going on in their neighborhood anyway, and have a place where people can sleep, use the toilet and wash their hands, and getting their garbage out… from the neighborhood could be very beneficial,” she said.

The appeal is among the latest developments in what has become a messy and highly publicized tussle in city government.

After months of debate, a divided city council voted in June to legalize safe outdoor spaces.

The city’s planning department opened applications at the end of July. Dawn Legacy Pointe filed the first application and so far remains the only group to have obtained approval from the Planning Department. Two other applications are currently being considered and two more have been denied, according to the city’s website.

But on Monday – led by Councilor Brook Bassan’s change of heart – council passed a law barring the city from accepting or approving any applications for safe outdoor space until next August, unless the council acts before that on a bill that would remove safe outdoor spaces from the zoning code. While the board has, in previous moratoriums, added language to specifically exempt active applications, this moratorium specifically includes pending applications.

The moratorium has not yet entered into force. Mayor Tim Keller could still challenge it with a veto, potentially blocking it, or at least delaying implementation until September. Keller did not say how he plans to do this, though his administration has supported safe outdoor spaces. This includes signing a license agreement with Dawn Legacy Pointe to locate her project on municipal land.

“Until the law changes,” the planning department will continue to review and process applications for safe outdoor space, a spokesperson said.

This could turn out to be significant.

Even if the city ultimately bans safe outdoor spaces, those approved while they are a legal land use would be grandfathered.

Dawn Legacy Pointe’s appeal now goes to a Land Use Hearing Officer, who has 30 days after receipt of the brief to schedule a hearing on the matter. The LUHO makes recommendations to the council, which is the final decision maker in the city’s process. The mayor has no say in such appeals, although parties can appeal to the courts.

A city spokesperson said the pending appeal limits activity at the site.

“Mr. Day is aware that any purchases or physical improvements to the land cannot be made until the appeal is resolved,” city spokeswoman Katie Simon said in an email. the newspaper.

Day said he believes Dawn Legacy Pointe’s application meets all of the necessary criteria and that he will continue to work on the project, although he will not make any physical enhancements.

Dawn Legacy Pointe will also continue to accept applications from potential residents — Good said about 40 people have already applied — and is even looking to hire a staff member.

“We may as well have all our ducks in a row for the minute we can,” she said.