Alibi V.15 No.7 • Feb 16-22, 2006 

Council Watch

Hauling Around 6,000 Unsightly Pounds

Councilor Isaac Benton’s bill to designate the El Vado Motel as a city landmark was heard.
Councilor Isaac Benton’s bill to designate the El Vado Motel as a city landmark was heard.
Wes Naman

Councilor Brad Winter called for a second hearing on his comprehensive ethics bill to allow time for the administration to discuss their concerns. Councilor Debbie O'Malley introduced a group of Valley High School students who made a very polished presentation about the potholed road to their school. The road's condition results in part from confusion over whether APS or the city is responsible for it. Councilors elected the current acting director of the Office of Internal Audit and Investigations, Carmen L. Kavelman, as the permanent director. Mayor Martin Chavez' appointment of engineer and developer Augustine "Gus" Grace to the Joint Air Quality Control Board won approval on a 6-3 vote, Councilors Michael Cadigan, Isaac Benton and O'Malley opposed.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
Flaunting Their Alternative Lifestyles
Last year, Council President Martin Heinrich sponsored a bill allowing Albuquerque residents to park hybrid vehicles for free in parking-metered spaces. His current bill allows alternative fuel vehicles to also park free at a meter for the time allowed on the meter. Councilor Craig Loy asked how police would identify cars owned by city residents. City fleet manager John Soladay said the bill required vehicle plaques or stickers.
Councilor Don Harris questioned the fuel efficiency of alternative and hybrid vehicles. Soladay said the city's conventional fleet averaged 21 miles per gallon (mpg) and the hybrids the city is testing averaged 33 mpg. Annoyed at city personnel for "driving SUVs when they could get away with a moped," Cadigan amended the bill to restrict free parking to vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds. The bill passed unanimously.Benton asked about driver's habits. Soladay said hybrid mileage ranged from 23 mpg to 47 mpg, depending on how particular operators drove the vehicles. Whoa! An increase of over 100 percent just from not driving like a jerk! But the weight limit should have been much lower, since a Hummer's "gross vehicle weight" doesn't top 10,000 pounds unless it's loaded with crates of heavy metal or numerous, very fat people.
Street Cred
Zoning and building codes force businesses, depending on their size and type, to provide a specific number of off-street parking spaces, often so many that businesses can't move onto relatively small infill lots. Heinrich's bill called for allowing parking space credit for half of any on-street spaces along the building's frontage, depending on approval by the traffic engineer. The bill also required businesses to designate about 4 percent of required off-street parking spaces within sight of a business entrance for motorcycles, mopeds and motor scooters.
Councilor Sally Mayer objected to the bill, stressing that it might push overflow parking into neighborhoods, upsetting and frightening residents. Councilor Heinrich amended the bill to require notification for residences within 250 feet of any building considered for the credit. Councilor Cadigan recommended excluding space for future Rapid Ride stops. Cadigan and Councilor O'Malley said the plan would lessen the need for car spaces by allowing more people to walk to work. Councilor Loy said some people don't want to walk to work. The bill passed 7-2, Mayer and Loy opposed.So, what about just applying "No Parking" paint to residential curbs likely to be affected? Since the bill only allows credit for two or three parking spaces along a 100-foot frontage, its effect will be pretty limited, primarily allowing retail shops to occupy small lots. Certain restaurants on certain nights are going to be packed, regardless of a couple of extra spaces. At least three motorcycles can fit in the space needed for one car, possibly compensating for any off-street spaces that would be eliminated.
El Vado Still Kicks on Route 66
The Council held a quasi-judicial hearing on Benton's bill designating the El Vado Motel as a city landmark. The 1937 adobe building is one of the purest examples of the motor courts that lined Route 66 during the heyday of The Mother Road. Richard Gonzales, who bought the property in October, proposed building townhouses on the site, possibly leaving the original lobby and several rooms standing. Gonzales also offered the very valuable 1.29-acre property for sale.
Gonzales said he was surprised to find Benton's bill on the agenda, since he had been going through the city's appeals process. He said he had no intention of applying for a demolition permit to raze the building. City historic preservation planner Ed Boles said the 110-day protection period that follows a filing for landmark status was running out. Benton amended the bill to delay both landmarking and demolition until June 1, leaving time for compromise. The bill passed 7-1, Councilor Loy opposed, Councilor O'Malley excused.The phrase "el vado" means a ford or river crossing, but it can also mean a difficulty to overcome. That seems a possibility in preserving this essential part of Albuquerque's history. Gonzales sounds like he's open to a solution that preserves the building without sending him to the cleaners. Comments about renovation and economic viability included a suggestion that the city pitch in to create a "boutique motel." Councilor Ken Sanchez' call for the city to offer "a price that's fair and reasonable" seems about right.