Midtown up in arms over homeless shelter proposal - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, October 1, 2020
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Midtown up in arms over homeless shelter proposal

Homeowners from Rogers Park to Geneva Woods in midtown Anchorage are worrying about an ordinance in front of the Anchorage Assembly that would allow Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to purchase the Best Western Golden Lion Hotel and turn it into a homeless shelter.

AO 2020-58 was introduced this month, but with no mention about the plans afoot for the actual shelter location. Those plans to change zoning are now being discussed in the neighborhoods, where concerns are coming forward. The ordinance bypasses the Planning and Zoning Commission so that a large portion of midtown can be rezoned to include any number of homeless shelters.

Mayor Berkowitz earlier this year turned the Sullivan and Boeke Arenas in midtown into homeless shelters to help with the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Few homeless people have contracted the illness, but the arenas are still being used as shelters three months later.

Meanwhile, drug-and-alcohol encampments had overwhelmed the downtown area near 3rd and Ingra on and off for several years before being cleared out last month. Many of the inebriate homeless who lived along that ridge have moved to the Walmart area on A Street, where they’ve set up tents on the sidewalks and in the rights of way. They are the people who are difficult to house because they do not want to follow “house rules” of supervised shelters.

The Best Western Golden Lion Hotel on 36th Street an Anchorage classic, near the University of Alaska, University Mall, and the desirable neighborhoods of Rogers Park, College Village and Geneva Woods, where home values are strong and the neighborhoods are filled with property taxpayers.

Some of those residents are saying that the ordinance circumvents the most important part of the public process for approving rezoning by skipping the Planning and Zoning Commission, a usual requirement. The ordinance would allow the change to B3 districts to be permanent, allowing transient shelters in major portions of the city, including next to schools and day care centers.

36th and Seward is a one of the busiest intersections in Anchorage, with more than 75,000 cars driving through at average speeds of 45 mph or higher. The intersection is considered a hazard for pedestrians and is extremely congested during rush hour, often backed up for a mile, critics of the zoning change say.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

WEDNESDAY, June 17 at 11 am – Assembly Committee on Homelessness Meeting – Agenda: https://www.muni.org/Departments/Assembly/Pages/Committee%20on%20Homelessness.aspx

Public Participation is limited to 10 minutes. The Muni’s website states: If you wish to provide comments at the beginning of the meeting, email Assembly Member Zaletel at [email protected] by 10 am Wednesday, June 17. The committee will only accommodate the first 3-4 people who sign up.

Call in: 907-519-0237 Conference ID Number: 616 527 933#

THURSDAY at 9:30 am – Assembly Community and Economic Development Meeting – Agenda: https://www.muni.org/Departments/Assembly/Pages/Community%20and%20Economic%20Development%20Committee.aspx

Call in: (907) 519-0237, Conference ID Number: 635 736 473#

THURSDAY at 12:20 PM – 1:35 PM – Assembly Budget/Finance Committee-of-the-Whole Meeting– CARES Act funding, which may be used by Berkowitz to purchase the Golden Lion Inn, at top of Agenda: https://www.muni.org/Departments/Assembly/Pages/BudgetandFinanceCommittee-of-the-Whole.aspx

Call in: (907) 519-0237, Conference ID Number: 796 072 329#

TUESDAY, June 23 Regular Assembly Meeting – Item NOT on the Agenda yet –  http://publicdocs.muni.org/sirepub/pubmtgframe.aspx?meetid=1582&doctype=agenda

JULY 14: Public Hearing, not yet calendared.

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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

  • Time to “recall” Berkowitz.. You never know what junk the jerk will create next…

  • How about putting the homeless shelter at 1957 Wildwood Ln in
    Anchorage. That looks like a great place to me.

    • Yes that’s a great place. I will help with that.

    • Agreed, let’s send a couple bus loads of junkies over!!

    • Right on!

  • Just ship the inebriates to Adak or one of the other uninhabited islands and let them figure it out from there. Or, as many have suggested, one-way tickets to Seattle or to Pelosi’s little slice of heaven should be just right for them.

    • Sounds about right to me, as many have arrived in Anchorage from villages that were unable to deal with them.

    • Yes!!! Put them on an island somewhere.

      • Wtf?

    • I vote for shipping them to Seattle or San Francisco. Both of those communities seem to love claiming that they are there for the homeless drug and alcohol individuals. Of course that is until those same inebriates, druggies and homeless people end up on some politicians front lawn.

    • When will Americans wake up and realize this country has been turned into a chess board. Nobodies protecting the queen – the people- the body. We’ve turned on our King-God, and tried replaced home with man.
      “What’s wrong? Are your kings dead? Have they not taken care of you? Those you appoint are not looking out for your interests?
      God bless all
      And take back our country from these politicians that are literally just people. They are no more protected than you or I.
      Why give anyone such power?
      Blind leading the blind.
      In all aspects lately.
      Also, another good one to think about….”They will turn their eyes from the truth and set them upon fables.”
      Have a good day my brethren.

    • Actually Adak has 350 fairly new homes abandoned by the Navy. The fishing industry could provide the jobs and the schools are still there empty. It would not be a penal colony but could control drugs-alcohol coming in. Could be an option!

  • Delay this until he is out of office or Anchorage will turn into another San Francisco, where he is from. I hear Cuddy and a Begich are trying to make other plans. This comes from a former MOA employee who has seen Berkowitz allow the homeless to run amok for 8 years. I am so glad I no longer live in Anchorage.

  • The fact that the ordinance bypasses the Planning and Zoning Commission so a large portion of midtown can be rezoned to include any number of homeless shelters tells productive residents what the Peoples Assembly thinks of them and their “worries”
    .
    …and what they can do about it, which is nothing.
    .
    Unless of course one is a slumlord whose “contributions” to the Peoples Assembly have not gone unnoticed, in which case… Jackpot!
    .
    More to the point, it might be fun after the sale goes through to see how often “1000 East 36th Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99508” turns up in Anchorage’s voter registrations…

  • Folks are making this too complicated: Sullivan Arena has already been turned into a large homeless housing facility. The building has few other uses. The place is large enough to permit some social distancing. Spend a bit more money to add necessary amenities for permanent occupation and call it good.

    • They won’t stay there though. Would rather be outside. You’re talking about mentally ill people here.

    • 👍

  • #RecallBerkowitz

  • I love this! Free housing for the bums…. finally. Somewhere for them to drink and do drugs inside, out of the elements. It’ll be fun watching them play Frogger across the New Seward.

    “They are the people who are difficult to house because they do not want to follow “house rules” of supervised shelters.”

    This is so true. Many of the homeless population don’t want to live indoors where there are walls and rules. They like to camp and do exactly what they want…. just like the CHAZ in Seattle.

  • One thing about the democrat socialists. They sure like to spend other peoples’ money. Whatever inane, idiotic reason they come up with is ok too, just not in their backyard. Anything liberal/socialist/democrat, goes. All others, take a number. They will get back to you, with an invoice for “services rendered”. Power and control over others is right up there with spending opm (other peoples’ money), maybe most important to the democrat socialists. Then there is the “socially” correct segment of the cellar dwellers. Good example of all the above is what’s happening in Seattle, this very minute. Democrats would have America follow the Seattle example. Seattle, complete with Dubai backed and paid “war lord” (read that today). That’s right. Dubai grubstakes several worldwide ‘less than friendly’ groups that some call terrorists. Downright unsociable when it comes to Americans, Christians and Jews. Plus any others that do not see their “vision”. That one that has 437 1/2 ‘vurgins” waiting for all those abiding and martyred, especially. All that oil money we gave them did wonders for their “outreach” programs. Wonderful neighbors.
    November is coming. Don’t touch that dial. Leave it on this station for frequent updates to the scheme for “new Amerika”.

    • So your not getting a dividend then? Funny, is it the DSA who just handed out money to virtually everyone in the US? Or blew up our national deficit?

      • I take it the “DSA” you are referring to is the democrat socialists of America. If so, they are the ones trying to destroy America. I get my “dividend” alright. You get yours?
        Don’t bring a stick to a knife fight, a knife to a gunfight, or empty words to a debate. You will lose every time. Left field can be a hazardous place for those without common sense or the words to back up their statements..

        • Nicely said, Ben. Nicely said.

          • We have our problems out here and don’t want Anchorage’s.
            Send these people back to the villages they come from and let thier families deal with them.
            That will thin the homeless out and make the situation easier to deal with.

  • This guy is as nutty as the lady in Seattle.

  • That’s next to a fairly nice neighborhood. I don’t think this will fly.

  • Have any of you “humans” that want to ship our homeless people out to Seattle and Adak or wherever else ever actually bothered to volunteer to help them in any way shape or form? Or would that just be too much work for you to move yourself from your thrones?

    • I did. I had one come live with me, drove him to work, drove him to school, fed and clothed and mentored him. How did that work out? After two months he stole all my family heirloom jewelry and disappeared.

      Adak would be too kind for the guy.

    • Where do you live? We can relocate them in your neighborhood and you can care for them. Remember to leave the door unlocked so they can use the bathroom.

    • IKNOWMYWORTH too, Mr/Ms/Mrs he/she, IKNOWMYWORTH. I have been volunteering across this state for 40 years. I’ve given time, money, blood, sweat and tears. I am not on a throne. I don’t have black, white, native or any other kind of privilege. I have compassion ~ but not cruel compassion. Sure, we all have a little NIMBY in us, as I would venture to bet you do too, and rightfully so, unless you plan on having the “chosen” ones camp in your yard? How long are we supposed to be the only ones with skin in the game? How long are we suppose to step over literal sh*t on our sidewalks, have our property stolen from us, our salmon streams and parks contaminated, our bus stops taken over with bodies and garbage, needles everywhere that people recreate and children play. It is horribly sad to see person after person passed out on the sidewalks of our city. There is nowhere for the people that work hard and pay thousands upon thousands in property taxes each year, to go and enjoy our city without some form of pile of sh*t staring back us. I hope you looked in the mirror when you made that comment and asked yourself what you have done lately? To me, it seems the people packing all of the privilege these days are leftists. Everyone else has lost their free speech and rights to exist peacefully. Everyone else is shamed to no end if they simply don’t agree with the socialist/communists.

      • Well said. Thank you.

  • Im a little confused here, anyone been to midtown lately? It’s already full of homeless people leaving litter, panhandling and having sex in plain sight. So why the opposition since they are already there? What’s more, why should downtown be left to deal with the whole city’s problem? So it’s ok to pick up homless people and take them downtown but not the other way around? Grow up NIMBYs.

  • I think it’s a brilliant idea!! Just think how close to Providence Medical Center they will be when they overdose on drugs and alcohol. And it’s only a block away to Fred Meyer where they can simply stuff a few bottles of booze in their shirts and walk out without paying, or even being stopped. And if they get killed stepping out in traffic in a drunken stupor or having a drug induced psychotic episode while ignoring the traffic lights at one of the busiest intersections in the city, that’s just one less Alaskan the Legislature will have to pay a permanent fund dividend to!! And to think I once questioned whether these liberal “city planning” politicians were dumb or just plain stupid!

  • From following all the relevant links and getting nowhere, I can only assume this is at the level of speculation by neighbors and not close to anything official. If it were to come to fruition, I see two problems. One, bus service was slated to return to 36th Avenue this summer but not this part of 36th. I agree with the issue of pedestrian risks, a problem that’s already existed in eastern Downtown and northern Fairview, especially on East Third. Two, the proposal to extend the Seward Highway freeway segment through northern Midtown is still on the table. With buildings at that intersection already demolished in anticipation of an interchange, wouldn’t this also be a candidate for demolition? If so, we’re showing our lack of long-term vision once again.
    .
    Have folks seen the website of an entity calling itself Anchorage Intervention 2020? There’s no indication whatsoever of who or what is behind it, which left me skeptical. They appear to feel that Anchorage should not spend any alcohol tax monies on the homeless, instead turning the Palmer Correctional Center into a massive treatment center directed by the court system and funded by the likes of Native corporations and the Rasmuson Foundation. Haven’t I seen various discussion on this site of how feckless some of those entities are? I’m personally in favor of greater support for the many smaller programs throughout Anchorage which have produced results largely unseen through the Homeless Industrial Complex. Some that I’m personally acquainted with: Acts 247 Discipleship Program, AK Generation Rehabilitation, Haven Alaska and the House of Transformation.

  • Thank you for bringing this to the attention of the residents and homeowners in the area. We are incredulous, disappointed and upset that the Mayor and Assembly are trying to circumvent procedure and “sneak” this through. It’s a horrible idea in such a residential neighborhood and bad traffic. Get real people. Come up with something better than this.

  • The continual expenditures of property tax money, and other money injected into the community, on buying buildings and supporting programs that have only proven to exacerbate the vagrancy problem in Anchorage is criminal. It is theft from working people, and destruction of their quality of life, in exchange for the continued support of those that choose to not participate in civilized society. The very inference that the city should put another homeless shelter on one of the busiest intersections in Anchorage is complete idiocy. The Mush Inn Motel is already down in the sewer created by the city, put them up there. And make sure those that are shareholders have their dividend checks from the native corps. redirected to the city.

  • I’ll bet most of you whiners voted for these scum bags, so one could say you got what you voted for. If you’re not happy, then vote them out. Simple.

    • Jerry,
      You’re on the wrong site to make that statement.

    • Never in a million years would I vote for Berkowitz. EVER. I live in one of the most liberal sections of this city. My assembly reps are flaming libs. I have never, and will never vote for any of them. If disagreeing with the plan to turn this hotel into a homeless shelter is considered whining, then call me a whiner. But please, don’t assume we voted for these libs. It isn’t that simple ~ if you aren’t happy, vote them out. Doesn’t quite work that way. Been voting against them since Christ left Chicago and yet they remain. Give us permanent state-wide mail in ballots and we will NEVER get rid of another one.

  • Very concerned about this underhanded scheme. Trying to move the problem, doesn’t solve the problem. And doing it almost behind the voters backs is reprehensible.

  • This smacks of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The Muni is already billing many budgeted services to the FEMA COVID fund (which should be illegal) so why not emergency funds for a stupid idea?

    Tough love is what many of these drug addicts and inebriates need. Dry-out, mental health assistance, structure, and learn a trade. All things the Cuddy-Begich plan includes. There is just no leadership willing either on the Muni level or the State level…sad.

    We also need to make the native corporations accountable for dumping them here from the villages. They are keeping a lot of money derived from modern society gains, this is something they should be made to deal with as well.

    • I normally try to metaphorically bite my lip through scores of ill-informed comments whenever homeless issues are discussed and not bother to reply. However, “native corporations (…) dumping them here from the villages” triggered a need to respond. It’s far more likely that a rural resident becomes stranded in the city due to a brush with the criminal justice system. Tribal organizations may be engaged in attempting to expel people from communities, but I seriously doubt the corporations have anything to do with it.

  • But be thoughtful and strategic. Your Mayor and the Anchorage Daily News are very able and entirely likely to play the racism BLM card to roll right over the top of you.

  • I just called and talked to Felix Rivera and he told me that the proposal is for a treatment facility, but let’s face it. It will be for homeless and you know that they will be let out for fresh air and roaming the neighborhoods.

    Personally, treatment should be done as far away from your bad influences as possible. Why right in the middle of Anchorage within walking distance to any number of bad choices.

    He tried to make a comparison to the Ernie Turner Alcohol treatment center. Not even a good comparison.

    That is right on Tudor road, not butted up to neighborhoods. We have a huge correction facility that, as far as I know, is sitting almost empty. How about us it for a treatment facility. lots of room and fresh air and a long way from bad influences. My 2 Cents!

  • What about the Red Nose Inn up by Merrill Field? We’re housing homeless folks in there, how’s that working out? Is anything improving? Are there fewer homeless on the streets? Or are there more?

    If you can’t demonstrate that an existing experiment is working, don’t repeat it elsewhere.

  • As a long time resident in Geneva Woods I am utterly opposed to the sale and proposed use of the Best Western Hotel (Golden Lion) as a homeless facility. DO NOT DO IT.

    • Roger, it is people like you – those that live right there – to make sure you step off this platform and make your voice heard directly to the assembly and Mayor. Make it loud and clear along with everyone in your area. Get the big numbers…the loud voices…and let them know exactly how you feel. Former Mayor Weurch has a home in Geneva Woods. I hope he is letting Berkowitz have it!

  • Forget about a decent shopping experience at the University Center, New Sagaya and any other businesses in the area. And the Loussac will be invaded by these vagrants. Not to mention the pedestrian/vehicle accidents from these people crossing the New Seward against the light or a little further up the road where is is no crosswalk. The Law of Unintended Consequences will be in full force should this happen. I’m so glad I moved out of the cesspool Anchorage has become.

  • Buy the now empty Sears bldg in Wasilla, cut some windows in the place and help make it a utopia for bums, drug addicts, public inebriates, looters in mourning, and any other kind of social misfit, then fund a program that would keep beans on the table and cots on the floor well out of sight of the good people of Anchorage.

    Wasilla is a bedroom community of Anchorage and that bedroom should be all inclusive; bums too. This a humanitarian effort that all should support.

    • No, you keep your homeless in Anchorage. After all, the citizens of Anchorage don’t mind throwing money down a rat hole. You created the problem and now want to put them out here? NO, We already have enough problems.

      • That’s exclusionary, Walt. You need to be accepting, understanding, and less racist. Maybe consider befriending a drug addled alcoholic thief.

      • We have our problems out here and don’t want Anchorage’s.
        Send these people back to the villages they come from and let thier families deal with them.
        That will thin the homeless out and make the situation easier to deal with.

  • This is poorly considered and would be a great injustice to the neighboring communities. As Covid relief funding, CARES money should support local businesses, entrepreneurs, and industry that have been affected by the pandemic, NOT wasted on transient inebriates using Anchorage to get free everything. Midtown has already been overrun with public lawlessness, I encourage the Assembly to have enough moral conscience to not cheat established planning & zoning and have this carelessly pushed through via “emergency” declaration.

  • Have you done a retraction of this story yet? This is not accurate. It is a substance misuse treatment center being considered not a homeless shelter. Since this article has caused a lot of confusion and fear, you have a duty to correct the information you put out to the public.

      • Thank you Ms. Downing for not only reporting an accurate story, but for correcting those commenters who are trying to put lipstick on a pig…

  • My 9:00 meeting on Wednesday ran late, so I was not able to participate in the Homelessness Committee meeting. I was told they discussed AO 2020-58 somewhat at length. From what I read previously, the ordinance is to allow shelters as conditional uses in B-3.
    Feel free to correct me, but conditional use suggests a separate public process for any proposal to come along. Certain people have pushed hard for a day shelter in Midtown over the past year. I figure this would allow it in an existing building in a more ideal location rather than having to construct a new building in a certain location in order to comply with existing zoning. That tract at 40th and Denali where the National Archives branch and later the Midtown Transit Center never materialized? Actually an ideal location for such a shelter, but perhaps there are people eyeing that land for expansion of Cuddy Park or other public purposes.

  • Maybe they can use the police department on Bragaw to house the homeless. I heard the APD had acquired a new bldg downtown, so why not remodel the old one. Its close to the Native Hospital and Providence. Or is the old APD bldg still needed by the police? I am sure the mayor, some council members and some of their friends will be making a lot of money off of any homeless shelter or shelters that are bought or built. Its a waste of time for most of them. And no free needles anymore, those are being left all over town.

  • Breaking NEWS… Berkowitz just required everyone in Anchorage to wear a mask again… But he didn’t say whether it needs to be worn only on the mouth and not the nose, only on the chin, only on the top of the head, only on the neck, or only on the ear…. I’ve seen ALL of these… And not by just the public, but by workers in the businesses… It’s a total joke… Ethan is protected… but that’s just because he puts his head where the sun don’t shine…

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