Proposed ordinance would increase possible sites for shelters

Published: Jun. 7, 2020 at 10:34 PM AKDT
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The Anchorage Assembly is set to consider an ordinance that would amend the city code to allow homeless and transient shelters to be constructed on B-3 zoning districts, or mixed-use lands.

“Right now, they’re only allowed on PLI, which is public lands and institutions,” said Assembly Member John Weddleton, one of the ordinance’s sponsors. “And there’s just not that much around, so we’re pretty constrained in opening another location.”

Weddleton said the city is looking to set up some more permanent shelter to replace the current mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena, and this ordinance would open up a number of possible locations.

“B-3 zoning is all across town,” Weddleton said. “It’s general business, sso Spenard is B-3, you’ve got it anywhere you have a town center, there’s lots of it along the Seward Highway.”

The mixed-use designation would also allow more homeless service providers to set up near the shelter, similar to the community resource hub currently active outside of the Sullivan. Lisa Sauder, CEO of Bean’s Cafe, has said the resource hub has been incredibly useful for getting people into housing.

“We know that the navigation services and access to the programs that are available to people is hugely critical in getting people out of emergency shelter,” she said.

But the ordinance only amends city code. There’s still a normal process that needs to be followed to set up a shelter.

“To establish a shelter in B-3 would require a conditional use permit, which would go through the planning commission and public hearings,” Weddleton said.

And before that permitting process can begin, the ordinance needs to pass. It’s currently set to go before the assembly for Public hearing at their July 14 meeting, then it will need to be voted on.

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