Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Blame city shortcuts, not neighbors, for Gateway delays

Questions from the press about the June 12 Coronado Park homicide seemed to rattle the typically “One Albuquerque” brand-conscious Tim Keller. The mayor laments that the federal courts “will not allow us to just walk in and arrest someone because they’re homeless.” He blames neighborhood opposition to the city’s proposed Gateway Center, and a “never-ending purgatory of policy” for slowing the Gateway’s opening.

They are the mayor’s boogeymen.

Who’s talking about arresting people because they’re homeless? The mayor would do well to step outside his echo chamber and ask the city attorney to review for him NMSA 1978 Secs. 30-14-1 or 30-14-4, the very state statutes that criminalize trespassing and the wrongful use of public property. Surely the federal court system has not carved out immunity provisions for the homeless, or for anyone, found to be trespassing in parks and on sidewalks. Or maybe Keller could review the city’s own ordinances that deny establishing domiciles within our public spaces.

No. The reason the city’s muddled Gateway Center plans are on hold have little to do with “neighborhood opposition,” but everything to do with the city’s inability to follow its own ordinances and procedures that require due process, albeit minimal, for those who will be injured by the city plopping down a massive homeless shelter among homes, schools and businesses.

What Keller is truly lamenting is the rule of law. He would prefer to sidestep the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance, which is intended to promote development that ensures strong neighborhoods, economic vitality, equity and sustainability.

This is why the city is having to re-do the Gateway permit on June 21 – because the city violated its own due-process provisions when it granted the permit the first time around.

The process of obtaining a conditional use permit under the IDO is supposed to be formidable; it was never supposed to be easy to ruin a neighborhood.

The neighborhoods surrounding the proposed Gateway have volunteered hours of our time and resources to attend input meetings and educate ourselves on best practices for operating a homeless facility. In this process we’ve encountered several instances of recklessness by the city as it attempts to end-run its own ordinances by proceeding with no impact studies, no binding agreements with neighborhoods and a blurry transparency at best.

This process has been unpleasant for the city, and is one it would rather avoid the next time it wants to wager that sanctioned encampments or sprawling homeless shelters won’t cost our communities their consonance. The easiest way to do that is to ignore the rigors of its own development rules. Hence, the proposed amendment B14 to the IDO which would have allowed overnight shelters under “permissive” use rather than “conditional.” That amendment was struck from proposed changes to the IDO approved June 6, and rightly so.

If the administration wants to bemoan this “purgatory of policy,” it should look no further than One Civic Plaza to find its boogeymen.

C’mon, One Albuquerque: follow the rules and approach this problem with the care, finesse and responsibility it demands.

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