Over the past two days, Anchorage residents have packed the Anchorage Assembly Chambers to protest a plan by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to set up homeless shelters in local neighborhoods not zoned for this purpose.
Day three of public testimony will resume tonight (July 16) at 6 p.m.
Berkowitz’s plan is to use $22.5 million in CARES Act funding as well as funds from the pending sale of Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric to buy four properties for homeless sheltering and treatment. These include the Bean’s Café building in downtown (1101 E. 3rd Ave.), the former Alaska Club site (630 E. Tudor Road), the Golden Lion Hotel (1000 E. 36th Ave.) and America’s Best Value facility (4360 Spenard Rd.).
In order for this to happen the municipality would typically need to rezone sections of Anchorage which are not designated for homeless shelters.
Anchorage code only allows for homeless shelters in the limited PLI zoning district. In order to expand areas where homeless shelters are permitted, the municipality normally starts the process at the Planning and Zoning Commission and then it goes before the Assembly for approval. Berkowitz wants to fast-track this and bypass the usual steps in order to buys the properties quickly.
The plan has stirred tremendous public outcry especially since there are very few details on how the municipality plans to run the facilities or how it will ensure the safety of neighborhoods, businesses, religious and cultural facilities and others while addressing the needs of the homeless.
The public can testify in-person or by phone. Those who wish to testify by phone must send an email to Testimony@anchorageak.gov by 2 p.m. today. Emails should include your name, phone number, agenda item (AO 2020-66) for which you wish to provide testimony. The clerk will phone the number you provide, and each person will have three minutes to testify.
Written testimony can be sent to Testimony@anchorageak.gov by 2 p.m. today. This should include the agenda item number. These comments will become part of the meeting record.
Click here for more information about Assembly meetings.