Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and two Assembly members are pushing a proposed ordinance that would allow the city to put homeless shelters pretty much wherever it wants – while stifling the public process.
The ordinance, AO No. 2020-58, would amend the municipal code to allow such things as homeless and transient shelters outside the Public Lands and Institution zoning district, placing them in B3 zoning areas intended primarily for general commercial uses in commercial centers. The ordinance also allows all that without Planning and Zoning Commission review.
It was offered by Berkowitz, and Assembly members John Weddleton and Meg Zaletel.
“Anchorage is in its capability to provide mass shelter and has permanently altered the landscape for homeless sheltering,” the memorandum accompanying the ordinance says. “Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we Anchorage provide more options for locating these critical social services, which can only happen by allowing Homeless and Transient Shelters in more than one zoning district.”
The move is being driven by the limited, and shrinking, availability of suitable parcels within the Public Lands and Institution district, ordinance sponsors say.
“Additionally, as most PLI zoned properties are undeveloped or developed with public institutions, there is virtually no opportunity to take advantage of existing infrastructure that could be renovated to accommodate homeless or transient facilities,” the memo says.
The memo also suggests the “ordinance has no private sector economic effects.”
We are not impressed. Good, bad or indifferent, when government eschews established public process to hastily achieve an aim it deserves more than a hard look from the public. Allowing the spread of homeless and transient facilities all over Anchorage will have serious and lasting private sector economic effects on businesses and neighborhoods.