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.