Assembly member proposes dropping controversial properties as homeless shelter sites

Anchorage Assembly Member Felix Rivera proposes removing two controversial properties from the list of potential homeless shelter sites
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:23 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The head of the Anchorage Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Homelessness wants to remove two controversial sites from the list of locations being considered for a year-round low-barrier shelter.

Assembly member Felix Rivera said opposition from the community is getting in the way of making progress on finding a permanent homeless shelter location before next winter.

In response, he wants to remove both Mayor Dave Bronson’s proposed Navigation Center at Tudor and Elmore roads and the Arctic Rec Center in Midtown.

“From my perspective, as long as some of these proposals are on the table, that really have neighborhoods in a defensive posture, not really able to engage in the larger conversation, I don’t think we are going to be able to move forward as a community,” Rivera said.

People who live near the Rec Center, located on Arctic Boulevard between Tudor Road and International Airport Road, said they were taken by surprise to learn the building was for sale and the Assembly was considering purchasing it for use as a homeless shelter.

Bronson said their concerns were valid, pointing out the center is in the middle of a neighborhood, near churches and schools. He criticized the Assembly for not involving the community at an earlier date and has himself scheduled a listening session with neighbors for March 24.

But Rivera, who said he also got pushback from neighbors, thinks it is best to take the Rec Center off the list completely.

“I still think that there is possibly a lot of potential in the Arctic Rec Center,” said Rivera. “But I need to do what’s in the best interest of the community. And I think, for me, that means putting this proposal, that I think has possibility, has potential, putting it behind us and focusing on the future.”

Rivera said he believed the Navigation Center should also be removed from the list, something the mayor did not agree with.

“I’m not taking the Navigation Center off because it’s still the best site, it was two years ago, it is today, it will continue to be. And we have to remember the Assembly has already spent almost $3 million on the Nav Center,” Bronson said.

But Rivera said both sites have issues and neighbors near the Nav Center let the Assembly know about them.

“We heard the exact same thing about the Tudor and Elmore Navigation Center from hundreds of neighbors who were concerned about preserving neighborhoods, institutions,” he said. “And so I think we should, for the benefit of this community and moving this conversation forward, take them both off the table.”

Rivera said going forward he would like to make shelter selection a much more public process, involving the community in discussions on what a shelter could be and look like even before a site is selected.

“Really work with the community from the very beginning,” he said. “So that by the time that we do get to a proposal the community should, hopefully, feel comfortable. I’m not saying everyone is going to be happy, but hopefully they should feel comfortable by the time we are done.”

Rivera said he planned to have a resolution for Assembly members to vote on at the next meeting on March 21.