Councilors plowed through piles of legislation at the June 19 meeting before recessing for July. Councilor Isaac Benton proclaimed July 1-7 Independents Week, honoring local independent businesses, and took up the challenge--along with fellow Councilors Martin Heinrich, Ken Sanchez and Debbie O'Malley--to see who could spend the greatest percentage of their weekly budget at local stores.
Councilor Craig Loy moved a bill setting up funding and personnel to survey existing programs designed to integrate schools into their communities. Although several community representatives urged more local input, the bill passed unanimously.
In other actions, councilors approved bonds for new city buses, designated City Council districts as the boundaries used to determine the density of community treatment programs, approved a transfer of vacant land for expansion of the international market area around Ta Lin Supermarket and renamed Civic Plaza the Mayor Harry E. Kinney Civic Plaza.
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Three land use appeals were on the agenda. All three crashed and burned due to procedural problems. At issue were decisions about the El Vado Motel, proposed redevelopment on Central between Laguna Boulevard and San Pasquale, and a cell tower in the Northeast Heights.
The El Vado was on an incorrect list, invalidating the previous decision to put it on the list of historic properties. An earlier hearing cited over 220 police call-outs to the Laguna property, but two-thirds of the calls actually went to an address on East Central. The cell tower hearing examined the wrong property.
The Council voted to hear--or rehear--all three cases. What's happening here? Coincidence? Has the process grown unmanageably complex? Has the entire Planning Department been at the World Cup? Is someone's thumb on the scales?
Taking up an administration bill allowing outdoor liquor service with full meals in Old Town, O'Malley moved a compromise amendment that she and Councilor Sally Mayer worked out with Old Town retailers and San Felipe parishioners. The amendment required a 6-foot wall around the service area.
Benton said he was concerned about the "odd duck" measure from an urban design standpoint. The amendment failed 7-2, O'Malley and Mayer supporting. Benton successfully amended the bill to require 3-foot high screening separating service areas from public areas. The bill passed with only O'Malley opposing.
So a 3-foot wall should conceal drinks on tables unless they're sporting really, really tall paper umbrellas. Or maybe cafés could just serve beer and wine in soda cans. Oh, never mind. Best quote from the debates (from a parishioner): "Monsignor can read a Coors sign through the window of a new restaurant!"
There's Such a Low Profit Margin on People
Councilor Brad Winter amended an administration bill approving the Metropolitan Redevelopment (MR) plan for Del Rey Mobile Home Park. The amendment sets aside 49 mobile home lots for the 46 out of 270 residents who managed to survive the efforts of land owner Equity Lifestyle Properties (ELS) to evict them. The amendment also deleted a planned wall along Santa Monica Avenue and required improved amenities for the mobile home portion of the proposed redevelopment.
The MR plan supports a zone change that ELS wants in order to sell the property to Centex Homes. Cadigan said the law forbids granting a zone change just to allow an owner to make more money but told the tenants, "If we don't do what these developers want us to do, they'll kick you out." O'Malley said she applauded the tenants' courage in refusing to give in, and that several other mobile home parks in the city might face similar pressures. Councilors unanimously approved the MR plan.
This sorry saga featured ELS deliberately letting the property deteriorate and threatening to raise space rents from $400 to $1,000 a month. ELS lawyer James Chavez tried to put lipstick on the ELS-Centex pig by arguing that all over the city, residents were happily leaving mobile home parks to move into stick-built houses that cost about the same amount. Pssst! Mr. Chavez, I've got a great deal on a bridge I'd like to sell you.
A River Runs Through It, Sometimes
Councilor Don Harris proposed a moratorium on subdivision approvals in the Tijeras Arroyo area pending a study for an east-west transportation corridor connecting the Four Hills area with Eubank. Harris says Kirtland AFB and the developer of Juan Tabo Hills are supportive of the study. A 280-foot long bridge is being built across the arroyo to service the 327-acre Juan Tabo Hills.
Seven residents spoke against the road and more development in the arroyo. One speaker said records showed 30-foot high walls of water moving through the arroyo and that the open space was an incredible city asset. Another said, "How would a road down the arroyo stop speeding on Four Hills Drive?" Two speakers said neighborhoods had not been given adequate notice.
The bill was deferred over Harris' objection, but the study will no doubt eventually be done. It will recommend some sort of large construction project. Studies always do. But, please, take the road-down-the-arroyo option off the table. Slap taxpayers with the cost of engineering a road to resist a 500-year flood, and we'll lose our 10th Smartest City award.