Council approves moratorium on safe outdoor spaces

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Two months after approving safe outdoor spaces, the Albuquerque City Council voted to stop them.

Council passed a moratorium on Monday that prohibits the city from accepting or approving any pending applications for safe outdoor spaces. This would last until August 1, 2023, unless Council acts sooner on a separate, but related, bill removing them from the zoning code.

Safe Outdoor Spaces are managed encampments where homeless people can sleep in tents or cars and access basic amenities. They have become a contentious issue in Albuquerque. While City Council originally approved them in June after months of debate, Councilor Brook Bassan’s subsequent about-face has thrown the deal into question.

She sponsored the moratorium bill, which passed by a 6-3 vote on Monday.

Bassan said she had doubts after her initial vote, believing both the city wasn’t ready to implement them and that they wouldn’t bring the kind of relief she originally hoped. Combined with what she called an “overwhelming” public outcry, she said she was compelled to call for their repeal. She proposed the moratorium as a stopgap while another bill – which would remove safe outdoor spaces from the zoning code – follows Council’s process.

“Even though many (Albuquerque residents) are in favor of safe outdoor spaces, many more say they don’t want it,” Bassan said, adding that moving forward with them “isn’t right.” don’t feel well”.

Bassan’s bill passed with the support of Renee Grout, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis, Klarissa Peña and Louie Sanchez.

The moratorium will not take effect immediately; Council must forward it to Mayor Tim Keller, who has 10 days to sign it, veto it, or let it proceed without his input. Keller’s administration has shown support for safe outdoor spaces as part of what it calls an “all of the above” approach to homelessness, but he won’t say whether he intends to do so. veto. If he vetoes it, the Council could replace him with six votes, but that means the moratorium could come into force on September 8 at the earliest.

It’s not immediately clear how this will affect apps already in the works.

Council amended Bassan’s bill before it was passed to ensure the moratorium prevented the city from approving even “pending” applications and to add language preventing the city from allowing any safe outdoor space on the city ​​property.

The city has received five applications so far.

The planning department approved one last week, although planning director Alan Varela said someone appealed the decision on Monday.

This request involves a newly formed organization, Dawn Legacy Pointe, which intends to operate a safe outdoor space for up to 50 people in up to 40 tents on city property on Menaul near the Interstate. 25.

The planning department has already refused two other requests, but two remain “under study”, according to the city’s website. The two offer to use their properties for people to sleep in their cars.

One is from nonprofit Heading Home, which is looking to open up a safe outdoor space for up to 12 vehicles and occupants outside its existing shelter at 715 Candelaria NE. The other is from Bethlehem Baptist Church, which requested that its parking lot at 512 Wheeler SE be opened for a maximum of 40 vehicles and 50 total occupants.

Although Keller won’t confirm how he plans to act on the moratorium, his office criticized the council for its recklessness.

“We are reviewing the legislation, but we have clearly indicated that the City must have access to all the tools in order to combat the increase in homelessness with an effective comprehensive approach. It is incredibly unnecessary for the city council to pass safe outdoor space legislation and then dither months later when the community is already working to establish them,” spokeswoman Ava Montoya said in a statement.

Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn, who joined Isaac Benton and Pat Davis in opposing the moratorium, said she was tired of Council’s recent trend to review votes.

“Now is not the time to go back on something that we literally adopted two months ago,” she said.

Also: Council decided on another contentious issue Monday, voting to keep a $250,000 allocation for family planning previously approved in the city budget.

While much of the discussion focused on abortions and whether public money should help pay for them, officials said the city’s contract with the organization would only cover services. healthcare services such as breast exams, cancer screening and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.