Assembly considers buying more properties for vagrant, drug services in Midtown - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, November 25, 2020
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Assembly considers buying more properties for vagrant, drug services in Midtown

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday will continue to advance the Berkowitz Administration’s efforts to support the city’s vagrant population.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz plans to buy the Best Western Golden Lion Hotel on 36th and New Seward Highway, the former Alaska Club on Tudor Blvd., and America’s Best hotel in Spenard, as well as Bean’s Cafe, a soup kitchen run by a nonprofit on Third Ave.

Maps of the properties being considered are found here.

All of the facilities would be used for day or night services for vagrant drug and alcohol abusers in the Anchorage bowl, under programs yet to be revealed to the public, and by using moneys yet to be secured.

The Berkowitz vagrant housing program is also being done without the usual public process, because the mayor has been granted emergency powers by the Assembly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The current plan involves a “lease to own” scheme, so the municipality would use federal funds from the CARES Act — funds meant to help businesses, workers, homeowners, and renters during the economic downturn.

After the sale of Municipal Light and Power to Chugach Electric is completed later this winter, the CARES Act loan would then be paid back and redistributed in some way yet to be explained by the Berkowitz Administration. That could be months away, as the ML&P sale isn’t expected to close this year. Also, there is no plan for what services would be offered or how they would be incorporated into the municipal budget.

The CARES Act specifically states any money used for sheltering is to be used only for temporary, emergency shelter related to COVID-19.

Right now, vagrants are being housed at the Sullivan Arena and Boeke Arena, but the mayor said that the arenas would only be temporarily used. He has had possession of them since March.

Under the plan now being considered, the Assembly would rezone major portions of the city from Spenard to East Tudor, turning three of the four facilities into rehabilitation centers without having to go through the Planning and Zoning Commission, and therefore avoiding additional public input.

At present, the Alaska Club on Tudor Blvd. cannot house homeless people because is lacks sprinklers and other required systems.

The idea is to move vagrants into the America’s Best in Spenard, since it’s “move-in ready.” But America’s Best can only hold about 150 people, so the spillover would be the Golden Lion Hotel, which is also move-in ready and has nearly 100 hotel rooms.

For now, it appears the Alaska Club on Tudor would be a day center for vagrants, who would be released into the neighborhoods at night. Those plans remain unclear.

Members of the Assembly are also indicating that the Golden Lion will become the “new Clitheroe,” which is a 42-bed substance use disorder and dual diagnosis residential treatment center in Anchorage.

The Assembly work session about the Berkowitz plan on Friday went on for two hours. Some Assembly members were surprised when the administration recommended to table AO2020-58, which was the original ordinance that would have bypassed the Planning and Zoning Commission. The mayor ditched the ordinance after the public pressure he received, sources told Must Read Alaska.

But there’s a backup plan. It’s called AO 2020-66, and it just purchases the buildings, but does not address the planning and zoning issues with what to do with the buildings. There are two new versions of AO2020-66 — one uses CARES Act money and the other uses Municipal Light and Power sale money.

Neighborhood groups have been gathering information and plan to be at the Tuesday meeting of the Anchorage Assembly to weigh in with their concerns about the associated ordinances, which have been swapped out with substitution ordinances over the past week. The meeting starts at 5 pm at the Loussac Library on 36th Avenue. Seating is limited.

Link to AO2020-66S is found here.

Link to AO2020-66S1 is found here.

On Friday, it was clear the Berkowitz Administration intends to go forward with the acquisitions, but the neighborhoods are now activated. Groups have been meeting almost daily from Rogers Park to Heather Meadows near Tudor, and now Fred Meyer and Walmart corporate offices have gotten engaged to stop the plan. The neighborhoods have hired an attorney to help and have raised over $20,000 in donations for legal fees.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • This man was voted in by the people. You get what you vote for. Change!

    • Sadly, because of our April mail-in voting, the man was voted in by special interest groups because a vast majority of voters in Anchorage couldn’t be bothered to mark a ballot and mail it in. Until the population as a whole realizes that every vote is important, Anchorage will continue to elect the vote-pandering Berkowitz’s of this world.

  • It’d be interesting to see a COVID-19 breakdown of those infected, one by ethnicity and living circumstance.

    Homeless population alone would be informative. How many have been afflicted with COVID-19?

    If their numbers are statistically low, well, could speak to how the rest of us should adapt going forward, herd immunity etc. Running antibody tests on the homeless population could be interesting, if anyone were interested in proper science.

    All easily achieved before housing *potentially* contagious folk in a public funded space.

    • “If their numbers are statistically low, well, could speak to how the rest of us should adapt going forward, ”

      Interesting thought – we all go live on the streets!
      Fun to contemplate

      • Maybe try leaving your safe space, remove that HEPA mask, breathe the fresh Alaska air and soak up some good old UV light.
        .
        The homeless *maybe* doing something correct…….

        • Until November. Then that air is cold, and Mayor San Francisco will want the homeless to move into your spare bedroom.

          • According to the assembly, ZERO homeless have tested positive for COVID-19 to date. It’ll be interesting to see how many test positive over the winter when they’re gentrified around midtown.

  • I’m sorry to see this latest development. But it’s simply, and sadly, the will of the voters. A majority of residents elected this Mayor and this assembly and they are now getting what they voted for. As President Obama famously said………..elections have consequences.

    • You are absolutely correct. In addition to objecting to the current issues, we need to make sure that we have solid options to vote for in the upcoming election cycles. Let’s face it, the liberal element did a much better job at getting voters out in recent years, and we can gnash our teeth and grumble about how and why all day long but it won’t change much. The Mayor has a like minded supporting assembly in place and is fairly free to run wild. It is clear he simply doesn’t care what the general public thinks at this point. I doubt a majority agrees with him, but so what, he has control at this point. Get out and vote next time, and take a friend or neighbor along.

    • That’s not true; maybe a majority of those who voted but certainly not a majority of residents

  • Seems that “Bullhorn Berkowitz and his three “Musketeers” are having a happy little love-fest at the expense of the borough and the tax-payers. The lawsuit will help stop to a point but needs to travel to the US Supreme Court. Also, the taxes from other sources, not just real estate that pays for the “Pandora” of problems. “Berky” and his crew are a bunch of sick puppies.

  • Come on Anchorage, wake and protest Berkotwit’s power grab. He’s going raise everybody’s taxes even more than the 15% he already has since he took office. Time to revolt and get him removed from office for malfeasance.

  • To quote Gandhi, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

    • Right! Treat ’em with respect; give them constructive work to do.

    • True, but enabling self destructive behavior does not help the homeless. It compounds the issues and ultimately hurts them. If the administration truly wanted to help they would look at mental health support and a path back to self sufficiency, not simply warehousing humans. The Sullivan/ Ben Boeke experience is a failure and now we are to make it permanent? God help those neighborhoods and businesses adjacent to these centers. Whatever happened to the center at Pt. Woronzof?

      • How much has the Boeke/Sullivan experiment cost the taxpayer ?
        Did the mayor hand out no bid contracts for the Boeke/Sullivan experiment? Who received the contracts?

        • I do not have the answers to your questions, which are good. I would like to add that they didn’t ask the families of the children counting on these two rinks who use them for hockey. Totally dumbfounds me.

      • Where is the support from the Dunleavy administration to help the homeless? Where is the support in the Muni? There is money for a road to non-existent mines, but money to aid the disadvantaged is shorter than ever.
        True, warehousing these individuals is not a long term solution, but this has been a slow developing problem from the time when Ronald Reagan basically threw the mentally ill out onto the street and said it wasn’t the federal government’s duty any to take care of them anymore.
        So, how are we doing at the way we treat the most vulnerable?

    • Is warehousing them in buildings abandoned by a collapsing economy a moral victory? Or might it be a focus that will create a sea of homeless bums?

  • Money to purchase is only tip of ice berg. What about maintenance, let his favorite nonprofits buy them. This is also what he plans on doing with the MLP facilities when chugach takes over

  • Money to purchase is only tip of ice berg. What about maintenance, let his favorite nonprofits buy them. This is also what he plans on doing with the MLP facilities when chugach takes over. Also doing this so close to e end of his term commits the ext mayor to his pet project

  • They want to use Co Vid relief funds right?

    • JACK / JULY 12, 2020
      They want to use COVID-19 relief funds right?
      ……………………………
      Sure sounds like it. And by whatever means necessary. Tbey will “steal” the Corona money to get R done.

      • Using Covid funds is fraud they are only to be used for temporary not permanent.

  • When the government wants more of something they subsidies it. When they want less, they tax it.

  • This city is far in debt and they want to buy more useless property that the taxpayer will be on the hook for. No Thanks I already pay way to much in property tax EAGLEXT NOW.

  • The Department of the Treasury has an online site to report Fraud, Waste and Abuse of government program funds. I read the link to the CARES ACT spending requirements and the Mayor and Assembly appear to be in clear violation. I will be filing a complaint with Treasury and any watchdog program set up to stop fraudulent spending of CARES ACT funds program abuse.

    It won’t help with the power company slush fund you voted for but it may shutdown one abuse.

    The proposal needs far more study and public review before any funds are spent.

    • Exactly
      Go to the site and report. Action speaks louder than words.

  • They want to use Municipal Light and Power sale money? Why not property tax relief with the sale proceeds? That ain’t happening with this current assembly and Mayor.

  • Why is the city of Anchorage becoming the landlord/keeper for the inebriated of the city.

  • This is total BS. The Chugach/ML&P idiocy is its own barrel of crap. Now the mayor is trying to play tyrant and dictate that the taxpayers are going to be on the hook to maintain and heat 4 more buildings that have zero benefit to the taxpayer. It is insane.

  • Oh boy, the Mayor has gone a little of the tracks here. Perhaps I can suggest a better plan. Instead of buying more property for aid to the “unhomed” , the Mayor should realize that he already has the perfect edifice for servicing the poor. As I recall the former L.I.O. building on 4th Ave is now owned by the City and I believe is being used by the Police. This property has glass exterior walls which provides an openness through design, in other words one feels like one is outside despite being inside. Those of us who in times past have helped “homeless” people have found that they prefer to be in an open environment , and feel suffocated when trapped behind walls. An added benefit is the Buildings location, just west of Beans Cafe? So I propose that the Mayor relocate the Police and turn the L.I.O. into a Homeless Haven. This action works well in the current leftist mindset since it “defunds” Police and gives aid to the oppressed. Furthermore the name L.I.O. can be retained since it will describe the Buildings new mission, Lucky Indigent Oasis! Doing the above is a win win for the Mayor and for those residents of Mid Town!

  • I think I’ve seen this movie before in Portland, Seattle, San Fransisco, Los Angeles, NYC, Philadelphia, etc., etc., etc.

    But, hey. Maybe the ending will be different this time?

  • It seems to me that there is a huge ($1 billion) Native Hospital Campus that discriminates against entry to any race other than Natives. Since the majority of Homeless are Natives, why isn’t the same group in charge of their care and rehabilitation ??
    It seems logical that a major hotel facility be built adjacent or on the campus and it be operated in conjunction with the ANTHC consortium.

    Is that too logical ?????

    • Logical, but racist. Everything is racist. Homelessness is caused by racism. An aversion to pay taxes to shelter the alcoholics and provide them with alcohol is racist.

  • Kenneth Wells you are funny.
    The outcome will be the same, as we all know. The Mayor is supposed to work for the people so let’s vote of this acquisition.

  • The vagrants already own all the parks, playgrounds and trails. How much real estate do they need?

  • When you move to the valley to escape the insane taxation and violence of Los Anchorage (striving, though, to become San Francisco North), please leave your politics – the politics that brought on this travesty – behind. Please do not spoil life for others.

    • Too late. The Valley of 50 years ago has already turned into an annex of the Anchorage zoo. I’m ready to move into the Bush, because all the bums from there have moved in to Anchorage.

  • What do you suggest to do with all these folks? Where should they go and who should pay? If the mayor’s options aren’t to your liking?

    • We can allow the liberals in the city to accept fiduciary responsibility for the homeless. The liberals can pay a voluntary income tax to cover expenses of the homeless, any money shortfalls can be made up by Berky and the assembly. Liberals love income taxes, let them pay one.

  • After mayoring Anchorage in the model of Seattle, Berkowitz would be the perfect replacement for Durkan. I bet he’d be overjoyed with an Autonomous Zone in Girdwood. It could be a Summer of Love, just like in his native San Francisco.

  • Why is the city of Anchorage in the business of providing hotel rooms for the inebriated of this city. They have chose their lifestyle. They have their SSDI checks and plenty of programs for everything they need and much of what they want—except drugs and alcohol.
    You cannot begin to fathom the can of worms you are about to open. There is utilities and maintenance of the building as well as housekeeping. Then will next need to feed them. And it goes on.
    No, I am not heartless. They already have programs as I have said. They just don’t want that kind of help. They want to keep their money so drinking and/or drugs.
    This is their choice.
    There are single parents and low income workers that are about to loose their housing and just need a hand up that we should be helping.
    $22.5 million is more than the $22 million coming to us from federal money. Surely we can spend this money more responsibly. And shouldn’t we vote on how this money is spent?

  • By the comments I still am not sure what solutions are being proposed to solve the problem? Other then saying liberals should pay? or blaming the mayor? What are your solutions? Really what are the solutions? What are you suggesting is a plan for homelessness and all the problems that come with it?

    • Read through all the comments again. I’m sure you can find solutions suggested within, I did. Maybe not all fit your narrative, as it perhaps you are in favor of what is coming down the pike. Victims of “homelessness” – sounds creditable? isn’t worth the lipstick painted on the pig when it comes to life choices. Accountability and responsibility. And try not to soften hearts by using the pebbles of examples you can find. Those with eyes wide opened are tired of jumping aside the boulders of deception crashing all around of us. It’s time for truth and action.

    • Clues are to be found in Ms. Orebaugh’s comment immediately above. If we are going to spend money, some of it, maybe a lot of it, should be used to prevent people from falling into homelessness.

      The other element is that “progressive” thinking has shifted in recent years to ALLOW continued use of illegal drugs and alcohol after a homeless person locates into free housing. While not the SOLE cause of homelessness, use and abuse of illegal drugs and alcohol is the biggie. Unless there is incentive to stop use of illegal drugs and alcohol, that conduct will continue and we will have done much to ENABLE that behavior. And homelessness will grow, particularly when the economy is close to collapse. The administration has chosen the wrong path. Things will only get worse.

    • “Solutions”? There are no “solutions” that will be acceptable for even a minority of people. THAT is the REAL problem. This garbage is our destiny. You may as well enjoy the jokes that go along with it, because this won’t be improving. It’s all downhill to Hell from here. It was identified as the Slippery Slope half a century ago, and we were told that slippery slopes don’t exist by the same professors who handed Mayor San Francisco his law degree.

  • The collapse of the private economy creates many opportunities to enable the growth of the homeless population. We can make the occupation of the Sullivan Arena by the homeless permanent. Abandonment of buildings by BP and Nordstrom’s opens up much more space. Soon we can add the JC Penny and Fifth Avenue Mall buildings to the available “assets.”

    Without much effort, we can increase our homeless population twenty-fold or more. What a beautiful progressive city we will have become! Traditional downtown can become a homeless “district” with just three activities: City Offices, including the new “Peace and Justice” Department, formerly known as APD, courts and homeless services and facilities. The downtown hotels will quickly shutter. And maybe Andrew Halcro can put up a bunch of marijuana-grow operations (essential services, you know).

    What a gloriously great future for us all! Great job Mr. Mayor: You will have “fundamentally transformed” Anchorage!

  • There seems to be a misunderstanding by Anchorage residents as to how the election works.
    It basically is up to the unions determination on how much money to spend and who to support. Then those candidates automatically win !

  • Homeless putrescence should be used for crab bait only

  • An ad in the San Francisco newspaper reads-
    “Homeless are welcome in Anchorage. The city gives any homeless, a condominium and meals all Free of charge. Come one, come all”

  • I was told at the meeting tonight that Chris Constant is the realtor who found these properties. He asked Rivera yesterday in a dog and pony show at the Assembly if it was. They said not at this point…….at .06% standard commission he would stand to make $1,050,000.00 on this deal! I would really like verification of this. We need to know if any of these assembly members or the Mayor will benefit financially! Transparency!!!!!!

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