Council Considers Casitas, Comments and Ethnic Cleansing
All in a day’s work for busy officials
Albuquerque City Councilors faced down a long agenda at its Feb. 1 regular meeting by deferring more than a handful of items. The agenda trimming didn’t help much as the meeting buzzed on for more than four hours.
Councilor Pat Davis gave a shout out to the Nob Hill neighborhood for its 100-year anniversary of the subdivision plat filing that led to the neighborhood’s creation; in 1916, Nob Hill lots went for $25 each. “Move out of the low zone and up to the ozone” was the advertising jingle used to entice then city residents to move east to the area near the newly built University of New Mexico. Now in 2016, if you can even find a vacant lot, it could run anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000. Davis’ proclamation says that Feb. 7 is Nob Hill day in the city Burque. Davis called Nob Hill the hippest, funkiest and most unique neighborhood in the city. There are a number of centennial events planned throughout the year by the Nob Hill Main Street Association and the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association.
After a couple of years of planning, and after more than an hour of discussion, the majority of City Councilors said no to allowing more secondary dwelling units, casitas or granny units in single family home residential neighborhoods. Some residents and neighborhood association representatives said they were very much against allowing more casitas because of the possibility of the units being rented out. Students from the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning addressed the Council and said a study was done on the potential impact of allowing more secondary dwelling units. The study determined casitas were a good thing for the city because they expand the housing choices available throughout the city. The study found no link to crime or to decrease in property values. Councilor Isaac Benton sponsored the bill and said he was disturbed by the anti-renter mentality. Councilor Klarissa Peña supported the bill saying folks in her South West Valley district use secondary dwellings. “It is our history, our culture, Latina, Chicana, whatever you want to call me, we take in, and take care of, our parents, grandparents, and other family members—we don’t put our family members in nursing homes.” Councilors Benton, Peña, Davis and Gibson supported allowing more casitas while Councilors Winter, Harris, Sanchez, Jones and Lewis did not support the idea of more grannies in their hoods.
Public comment period is always interesting and one never knows what will come out of the mouths of city residents signed up to address the governing body. Here are a few snippets:
“The only thing missing is their pointed white hoods with eye holes cut out.” “Do your job.” “It doesn’t matter if you are a Hispanic or a Gringo.” “Don’t feed the pigeons it will make them hungry.” “We need some money tonight so a baby doesn’t sleep on the street—got a dollar?” “I am a five-time rape survivor.”
Folks from the Jewish Voice for Peace continue to ask the Council to end the sister city relationship with Rehovot, Israel due to its treatment of Palestinians in Israel. According to the speakers, Israel has poisoned, uprooted or destroyed more than 800,000 olive trees. Olive trees are the primary source of income for the Palestinian families. Albuquerque’s Sister City Program began in 1956 to implement the city ordinance requiring the promotion and encouragement of private and public programs to foster cultural and commercial exchange between Albuquerque and our sister cities. The speakers say that the city’s sister city relationship enables Israel to continue its ethnic cleansing.
Rail Yard Rules
City folks are looking at ways to improve usage the city’s Rail Yards. According to a recent report presented to the Council, from June 2014 to December 2015 there were 177,400 visitors to the Rail Yards for 77 events. Most of the visitors attended the weekend warm weather markets with an average of 4,000 people trekking Downtown to the rail yard Sunday market. Other functions include photo shoots, music events and weddings. Late night noise and rowdiness complaints from surrounding residents prompted the city to review and adjust how the Rail Yards are used by the public.
Councilors approved among other items, several alley right-of-way projects, appointed a number of people to city boards and committees and approved a revamp of the programming for the Spanish speaking residents at South Broadway Cultural Center.
Councilors postponed multiple other items, including picking an inspector general, amending the food truck ordinance, amending the Balloon Fiesta Park Commission ordinance and several proposed charter amendments.