ANCHORAGE DAILY PLANET
After again hearing hours of mostly negative testimony on the city’s plan to use $22.5 million in CARES Act funding to purchase two hotels, an Alaska Club building, and the Bean’s Cafe campus for homeless services, Assembly members again extended the comment period.
A flood of people testified about the proposed purchases at meetings Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The panel again will hear testimony Tuesday at a meeting that begins at 5 p.m.
The votes on the ordinances are set for Thursday, July 23, at 6 pm.
Much of the testimony centered on the transparency and speed of the effort, with many saying they lived near the proposed facilities, but were not told of the plan. There also were questions about the wisdom of placing the facilities near residential neighborhoods and busy intersections, and the anticipated costs associated with rehabilitating the aging structures.
The city is seeking Assembly approval to begin a complex process to buy the four properties to care for and house the city’s roughly 1,100 homeless. The action would remove $300K from the tax rolls annually and cost taxpayers about $7 million a year in operating expenses.
The city would divert the federal CARES Act funding from people, businesses and nonprofits crushed by COVID-19 and use a “lease with potential purchase” dodge to get around the act’s language limiting use of the act’s funding to temporary, emergency shelter. The city wants to uses the CARES money until revenue is received from the sale of ML&P to Chugach Electric and the new 5 percent retail alcohol tax.
The city’s share of the $1.5 billion Alaska received in federal CARES Act funding is $116 million, says Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s communications director, Carolyn Hall. Once the city spends 80 percent of that amount, or $92 million, it will ask for the next $19.9 million, she says. After the city spends 80 percent of that, it would receive the last $19.9 million of its share.
The Assembly members also are mulling a change to the zoning ordinance to allow all that, while opening up much of Anchorage to such facilities, but that effort appears to be fizzling. It 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 – and do it without Planning and Zoning Commission review.
You can watch the action Tuesday afternoon at www.muni.org/watchnow, or perhaps Channel 9. Or you can testify. Click here for more information.