Alibi V.25 No.29 • July 21-27, 2016 

News Feature

The ABC’s of ABC

A plan for our city and surrounding urban areas

An aerial view of Albuquerque and the surrounding area
An aerial view of Albuquerque and the surrounding area

By the year 2040 the mid-central area of New Mexico, where we Burqueños call home, will add just under a half a million people to its neighborhoods. In order to keep up and address the anticipated growth, city folks are in the midst of a two-year update to the city’s top land use planning document.

The Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Comprehensive Plan was first drafted in 1988. The plan has had some updates and amendments done to it over the years but has not kept up with growth and trends. Once approved the large document will help guide zoning, development and even public investment planning into the future. “The ABC Comp Plan outlines how we want to grow as a community over the next 25 years. This update is a great opportunity for the public to add their voice to shape the document that decision-makers will use to change zoning laws and prioritize investment to [make our communities] more walkable, sustainable [and] vibrant ... over time,” City Planner Mikaela Renz-Whitmore told Weekly Alibi.

Who Is Us?

This greater mid-region area encompasses Bernalillo, Sandoval, Torrance, Valencia and southern Santa Fe counties. This area currently has more than 900,000 people. By 2040 it is estimated the area will add 311,000 people to Bernalillo County alone and another 149,000 to the outlying counties, according to statistics from the Mid-Region Council of Governments. Currently the plan shows that Millennials and Gen X-ers make up over 50 percent of the current population. Gen Z, or the 14 and under set, come in at 20 percent with baby boomers and older at about 30 percent. As Gen X-ers and baby boomers age, the number of people 65 and older will double by 2040.

Re-Up the Plan

City planners say the update is needed to simplify and integrate the city’s zoning regulations, to streamline the city’s development review and approval procedures in order to improve economic development and job creation.

To accommodate all the new folks who will be enjoying our sunshine, the plan envisions a web of communal activity centers connected by transportation corridors, which could be for cars, buses or other modes. One of the top goals is to protect the many established and unique neighborhoods dotted across the city from intense development. Directing intense development into the designated areas will help protect the city’s unique and sometimes rural neighborhoods.

The new plan looks at creating sustainable and resilient community by addressing critical water issues and climate change. Creating more walkable neighborhoods and urban centers lessens the need for cars. The plan also tries to respond to future water challenges saying water scarcity is the predominant environmental challenge facing our high desert home. The proposed plan encourages the use of renewable energy in all housing and business developments to minimize the human contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. It also says the city needs to plan ahead on how to handle the local effects of climate change—water shortage, extreme drought, heat and more intense wild land fires.

What We Want

Public participants in focus groups, public meetings and surveys said they wanted vibrant, safe, active neighborhood centers with the options to walk or bike to work and to do errands. They said they wanted the neighborhood centers connected to employment areas through multiple modes of transportation. Young families say they want housing options to include traditional homes and a growing number say they want cottage homes, urban homes or to live in like-minded housing clusters.

They also want to see the city attract a wide range of jobs and other business activity into existing employment centers such as Downtown, Journal Center and Uptown to provide economic vitality and security. Protecting the many natural and cultural resources ranked high on the list of what is important to residents as well.

What is Next?

The city is serious about getting the word out about the proposed plan. The project has the catchy name of “ABC to Z,” along with an informative website, a YouTube video and a Facebook page. City planners encourage residents to check the proposed plan out, especially the chapters on community vision, sustainability and identity to see if they match their own vision of how Burque should look in future. “The ABC-Z Project will help shape the future of Albuquerque, so it’s important for people of all ages to provide their input. We want to ensure that the Albuquerque we have in 25 years is exactly what our current and future residents need and want in a city that they call their home,” said Melissa Perez, from the city planning department.

The city’s Environmental Planning Commission must first approve the draft plan before it comes to the Council table. The EPC is scheduled to have its second study session at 3pm July 28, in the Plaza del Sol Building 600 Second Street NW. The public is invited to attend but there will be no public comment taken. The EPC will hold public comment hearings from 1 to 8pm Aug. 4 and on Aug. 25 in the City Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall.