Assembly’s homelessness task force pulls switcheroo on Midtown Anchorage, wants Golden Lion Hotel for homeless shelter

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The old Golden Lion Hotel, at the corner of 36th Avenue and New Seward Highway, was originally purchased by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s administration for use as a drug and alcohol treatment center, over the objection of the neighborhoods in the area — College Village and Geneva Woods.

The purchase was put together during the summer of 2020 when the Assembly banned the public from the Assembly Chambers and made many decisions in secret under the banner of “it’s an emergency.”

Berkowitz used the proceeds from the sale of Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric to purchase the hotel for $9.3 million, with the promise to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska that it would be used for a drug treatment center. The Golden Lion was to fulfill the requirements of the ML&P sale, as approved by the RCA.

Now, after two years of the hotel sitting fallow and the neighbors objecting to having a drug magnet near the children in their area, there’s another new use in mind. The Anchorage Assembly’s hastily thrown-together task force wants to use the vacant hotel instead as a homeless shelter.

The Golden Lion’s 85 rooms could be filled immediately with between 85 and 170 homeless people, at a cost to taxpayers of $371,000 for October, November, and December.

That factors out to $1,455 in rent for a one or two-person unit per month, only in this case it would be a hotel room.

The sudden “emergency” repurposing of the hotel is an example of how local government makes promises to adjacent neighborhoods about uses for property it buys, but can change its mind and use the property for an entirely different purpose. And it can do so within months of having made a promise. All it needs to do is to say there is an emergency.

The task force was created by the Assembly majority in August in response to the leftist majority’s discontent with the progress Mayor Dave Bronson has made for the winter housing of homeless in Anchorage — progress the Assembly has blocked by preventing the mayor from being able to move ahead with the plans of his administration.

The task force is led by Meg Zaletel, the Anchorage Assembly member who also is the executive director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness. Also on the task force are Assemblyman Felix Rivera, City Ombudsman Darrel Hess, and representatives from various social service agencies, such as United Way and Bean’s Cafe.

The task force also suggests using the Dempsy Ice Area for congregate (mass) sheltering.

“The Task Force recommends that these recommended options be exercised as quickly as possible and simultaneously and that the MOA work expeditiously to provide funding to support expanded capacity by existing shelter operators with proven positive performance,” the task force said.

The task force’s recommendation, thrown together in just three weeks, supplants the Mayor-Assembly year-long negotiated plan that the Assembly had already approved.

The Anchorage Assembly task force is yet another effort to have the legislating branch of local government take over the job of the executive branch, as it has attempted to do repeatedly since Mayor Dave Bronson was sworn in in 2021. Last week, the Assembly put a long delay on the mayor’s cornerstone homelessness project — a navigation center to help indigents, vagrants, substance abusers, and those with sudden housing needs sort out their issues and get pointed in the right direction, whether it be shelter for domestic violence victims, drug treatment for meth addicts, or a cot in a congregate shelter.

Although the Assembly had, after a year-long negotiation with the Mayor’s Office, approved the navigation center, last week Assemblyman Rivera said the long-term solution project that he negotiated with the mayor needs to be delayed indefinitely and the city needs to focus on housing people immediately.

If the hotel is used for a homeless shelter rather than a treatment center, it’s likely the city will have to pay the Regulatory Commission of Alaska back for the amount the city spent to buy a property with the proceeds of the ML&P sale.

42 COMMENTS

  1. NO. Make the bums accountable for SOMETHING. We do need a greatly expanded facility to house the chronically mentally ill. Though that doesn’t need to be built in the most expensive real estate market in AK. The mentally ill should be housed gently and firmly. The public inebriates deserve NOTHING.

  2. “…….That factors out to $1,455 in rent for a one or two-person unit per month, only in this case it would be a hotel room…….”
    My grandson is paying $1100 per month for a 2 bedroom apartment in the Jewell Lake area. But it’s a looooong walk to the nearest liquor store.

  3. Here’s an idea. How about sending them back where they came from? Past time to stop letting the bush villages send their refuge to Anchorage.

    If they have family elsewhere, send them there.

    Once that’s done, THEN talk about the actual locals who got into trouble.

    How about housing them in an unused prison?

    It’s clear if Bronson cures cancer, the Politburo will block distribution of the cure.

    • You know, the assembly was voted in just like the mayor was voted in.

      Stop with the extremely divisive rhetoric.

      Clearly, you like the mayor and do not like the assembly.

      • It’s comments from people like the Avenger that are an impetus for change. Go along to get along pap will never be known for having accomplished anything, Suttman.

      • Maureen: The assembly wasn’t voted in just like the mayor. Voter participation is extremely low for the assembly members and many run unopposed or virtually unopposed because too little attention is given to the assembly when they wield their power like they do. Not only that, I have talked to some people that have thought about running for the assembly but decided not to because they are level headed and have better judgement and don’t want to put their family through the abuse the assembly and their followers put out there. So the selection is limited and only the angry spiteful leftist activists are the ones that end up voting in people like this to the assembly. And they have ADN and Alaska Public Media supporting them and running deceptively biased and flattering political propaganda for them. When people are asked how they like Bronson’s work lately, and they have no clue how the Assembly has been behaving because they only get information from KTUU, ADN, and Alaska Public Media, or nothing at all, they say they don’t like HIS performance. Little do they know that the assembly has been using their override powers every step of the way to strip as much power from the duly elected mayor as possible. And they have been successful. He can’t do anything. Everything done or not done should fall at the feet of this assembly. And opposing the assembly and being unhappy with them isn’t “extremely divisive rhetoric” in any circumstance, no more so than being critical of the mayor. Saying otherwise is “divisive rhetoric”, especially now.

        And anybody that supports this assembly shouldn’t be telling us about “extremely divisive rhetoric” when the assembly’s response to the public voting in a mayor that campaigned on no more mandates was to propose a mask mandate that was the most extreme mask mandate proposal any of us have ever seen, including in China, allowing neighbors to turn in neighbors for what people do in the privacy of their homes. And we remember how that went. Caused us to make national news, as it should have.

        That’s only one example of their divisive behavior. The list of despotic divisive behavior from this assembly is extensive.

        If you have any honesty with yourself, you know what I say has merit. I know from your comment that you aren’t that honest with yourself. I really recommend you try harder. This isn’t an attack. This is sincere advice.

    • I agree there, masked man. I also think there’s a somewhat elegant serendipity lurking in this mess. Consider the following…

      – The DOT has already identified that intersection as being among the worst in the Anchorage bowl

      – Town drunks already get bounced off of cars at a significant rate in that same Anchorage bowl

      – The ANC Assembly wants to make that intersection a haven for drunks

      – The ANC Assembly will cry havoc when their semi-retarded logic results in a ton more drunks being bounced off of car and truck hoods.

      I’d be the first to say that I think making the GLH a drunk housing unit is a fiendishly stupid idea however, so is almost everything else that’s come out of Constant and Zalatel’s self serving pie holes. Given the dangers inherent to that intersection I think you could call this progress of a sort.

      • A hallmark of adulthood is thinking ahead.
        Something this Assembly seems incapable of doing. Which just reinforces my assertion that leftists are really toddlers.

  4. well since the assembly just does whatever they want whenever they want with no consequences for their terrible decisions, mismanagement and overall authoritarian mind set looks like one of the nicer parts of central mid town will be destroyed.

  5. Do these leftists on the assembly ever follow the law, unless it’s one they make up along the way? Maybe I won’t make my 2nd tax payment in protest to lawlessness of the Muni’s actions. My taxes went up $1000 for this craziness. CARES federal $ was also used illegally. Only ones getting rich are the NGO’s and the lawyers.

    • Like turning off the floride when the law says it has been voted for? Oh, that was the mayor.

      Did you know about Joe Gerace from the mayor’s office?

      • Maureen: You are being very petty and if you want to start “whataboutisms”, you will lose. The list of times the assembly has failed to follow open meeting requirements and city charter is extensive and much more impactful than turning off the flouride for 4 hours due to work environment concerns brought up by treatment plant workers. By the way, that has no impact on anything whatsoever. The only impact it had was it gave people like you an opportunity to shed some crocodile tears.

    • I pray that while we are fighting about this issue we will be mindful of that flow of people that are coming in from the lower states. I fear that Alaska will loose it’s value because we don’t have a broader to protect us or laws in place that will protect the citizens from all of that… what’s going on down there 👇

  6. The residents of the Golden Lion will have to cross several busy streets to get to the closest liquor stores. AFD & APD should stage units nearby as they will be constantly busy.

  7. Everyone keeps calling it the “Golden Lion”. I think you mean the “New Black Angus at 36th”. If you’ve driven by the area surrounding Brother Francis/Beans Cafe or the woods near Merril Field or Scooter ave lately then you’ve seen a pretty good representation of what’s coming to this neighborhood. Good job.

    • If you read, the first line of text clearly says “old Golden Lion”. Not current Golden Lion or the new and improved Golden Lion.

      In most places it’s common to refer to a landmark by its most commonly known name.

  8. Hey, let’s put a bunch of addicts and sexual predators within easy walking distance of neighborhoods where children play.
    What could go wrong?

  9. How can this difference of homeless directives be used so the assembly 10 agrees to let mayor do what he want in other areas like appoint whomever he wants w/o the 10 scuttle-butting his appointments as well as get off the mayor’s back in any other way how the 10 annoy the mayor, and the jobless bums can stay at hotel.

    • ……..politicians make backroom deals thats the only way this high and mighty crowd gets work done. Trump had to work with the pelosi House and schumer Senate, he got work done with them. How did he do it.

    • Amen to that Chuck. These leftest nine couldn’t come with any plan let alone solve Homelessness. We will be Los Anchorage soon. Or are we not there now? We are paying Zalatel a quarter of a million to do what? Nothing.

  10. When the purchase of the Golden Lion went through there was an amendment made that the hotel could never be used as a shelter. It had to have a treatment program, transitional housing or other type of program similar to those.
    The Navigation Center will be the only solution that makes a long term impact. That was proven at Centennial Campground. Over 100 people were placed or returned home after being assessed. Shame on the Assembly for making this political. Work together to get the job done!!

    • RC Hayes: Amen. The assembly wants to postpone any consideration of the Navigation Center until March of 2023. Seems very spiteful, possessive, immature, and petty.

      Pushing politics and blame aside, I drive west Northern Lights everyday and it is truly hard for me to look at people at the intersections living their destroyed life, whether it be self destruction or not. If the city keeps stalling on the navigation center, I think we (all of us) should start funding one on our own. The navigation center is the single best solution I have ever heard and I believe both sides agree with it to some extent. (I think the biggest debate is who gets to run it and take credit and ownership of it. Politics)

      I personally don’t like the current shelters’ philosophies because they believe in giving “a hand up instead of a handout” which just sounds like a rationalization to still give pity instead of tough love and compassion (pity is not compassion) and a kick in the pants that many, not all, need. Nobody has the same story, but the vast majority of these people have addiction problems and family. And I’m willing to bet that their family has only given up on them because of their addiction. I have witnessed addiction in my own family and nobody quits when people give them sympathy. I just isn’t the way addiction works. So I get why people’s families have decided to let go. The addict has to feel responsible for himself and know he is the only person that has chosen to continue his addiction and the only person that can decide to get out of it. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. And motivation will never come if people provide sympathy and support for your addiction. I honestly don’t think the current shelters get that or else I would be pouring as much money as I can into them. And I’m not alone. We need an option for donations from people that understand addiction like I do and don’t want to coddle people and enable their destructive lifestyle.

      And I would be happy to donate to treatment centers and help pay for these people to go to one when they finally choose to, but I think it should be one out of town. Treatment centers work best when people can be isolated from everything and everyone in their day to day life. Withdrawals are intense and easy escapes and pathways and reminders of their routines need to be removed. And it would be awesome if my donation would give me the ability to handout a ticket that I can hand to someone when I feel inspired.

  11. Stolen from a column by John Hawkins.
    .
    “The entire structure of modern liberalism is built on a framework of liberals trying to make themselves look kind, compassionate, and giving at other’s people expense. They want to give away other people’s money and get credit for being generous.”
    .
    Tell me if the Assembly does not fit that to a T.

  12. Not an option! Just like Bronson’s brilliant idea to put a homeless shelter out on Tudor right across the street from a liquor store and a bar as well as three restaurants. Which indeed will all close and my neighborhood will be destroyed! Why not build a shelter on the huge vacant lot on third street by brother Francis. Also stop the villages from sending their troublemakers on a one way ticket to Anchorage

  13. Another emergency coming your way! You are putting them right next to the busiest intersection of Alaska! Seeing lawsuits coming! Brilliant thinking!

  14. Both seem like dumb solutions. Dempsy is right adjacent to West High and used a lot. Has anybody tried to get ice time? It’s very limited. Bad idea. It was ok when schools were shut down and nobody could play hockey. But even then, I guess the place got pretty trashed and hockey facilities are super expensive and precious. The golden lion would be ok as a temporary spot, but it’s right next to the worst intersection. I’m actually more open to moving them all back into the Sullivan. I don’t like that venue anyway. They should have made Alaska Airlines center capable of having ice hockey. I heard the only reason they didn’t was because Title IX regulations require equal spending on female sports. I don’t understand why UAA didn’t just start a women’s hockey team then. So dumb. City really failed there.

    They could build a few large $50,000 tents with showers and bathrooms and inefficiently heat all of them and it would have more capacity and be significantly cheaper than all of these solutions, and provide much more flexibility in locations, like southeast of Tudor and Elmore by the police station. Isn’t that what Bronson originally proposed? I can’t keep up. Nobody can.

    What is going on with the police building that is on Tudor? My wife has the impression it isn’t used for anything.

  15. This is how Alaska Public Media starts their article:

    “Last month, the Anchorage Assembly set up the emergency winter shelter task force due to frustration over the lack of a plan from Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration. ”

    Due to a lack of a plan the assembly can take credit for. I know the “public” financing for Alaska Public Media is fairly small, but it should be stripped completely and they should be forced to quit calling it “Public” media. What a crock.

  16. Homelessness is big business, everyone. If I remember right Anchorage spent $55,000 per homeless person in 2021 (please correct me MRAK if incorrect). If the funds go away I believe that the homeless problem will be handled in a better more efficient way. At this rate of inflation and unlimited property tax funds for Meg and the assembly it will be $100,000 per homeless person soon. We need to stop this madness!

  17. Don’t feed the wildlife; it makes them dependent on handouts..
    Iv worked with some homeless.. many WANT to be homeless.
    I once favored helping out the homeless, long as it didn’t go to vices many of them have.
    Now I work for the City of Anchorage.. and a significant part of our jobs.. is cleaning up and repairing what they maliciously destroy everywhere they go.. from trail lighting and facilities… to torching porta-potties that burn the side of Kincaid Chalet and Kosinski Field… to tearing up Sullivan Arena, Centennial park and the restrooms there.. The list is nearly endless. If you pay property taxes in Anchorage.. this is where hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars are going.
    I now find it hard to “support the homeless”.
    You can go to many of these places and observe the damages yourself.

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