Alibi V.14 No.7 • Feb 17-23, 2005 

Council Watch

Backyard Barbecue

Left to right: Councilors Sally Mayer, Debbie O’Malley and Tina Cummins living la vida loca.
Left to right: Councilors Sally Mayer, Debbie O’Malley and Tina Cummins living la vida loca.
Stacey Adams

At the Feb. 7 meeting, Councilor Sally Mayer's bill funding five more animal control officers to staff the just-passed "dangerous dog" ordinance passed unanimously.

A vote on the yearly capital implementation cleanup bill was deferred after Councilor Miguel Gomez objected to amendments proposed by Councilors Debbie O'Malley and Eric Griego. One Griego amendment specified that a velodrome approved last year by voters be built before a BMX track that was added later to the project. Griego said building the BMX track first was a bait and switch on voters. But the big issues of the night concerned just who gets to mess up whose neighborhood.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
Saddle Ridge Shootout
A longtime equestrian facility in the Saddle Ridge neighborhood closed, and the operators sold the 7.7-acre property to developers, who counted on changing the zoning to residential. In two separate appeals, the neighborhood opposed the zoning change and the Council agreed. The developers took the case to federal, then district, court, winning a ruling that the Council should reconsider the matter.
The two sides argued whether local conditions had changed enough to warrant different zoning and whether it would benefit the neighborhood. The effect on Saddle Ridge property values was not discussed. Griego opposed the Council getting involved in determining zoning. The zone change passed 5-3, Griego and Councilors Martin Heinrich and Brad Winter opposed. Councilor Michael Cadigan abstained.A developers' representative argued that building 38 houses in the 7.7 acres was advantageous to the community. Now, "community" is one of those loosy-goosy terms that can mean anything. In this case, the proposed development is advantageous to the developers and possibly to growth planning, but not to the neighborhood, which loses its breathing space.
Going Bigger
Gomez deferred three bills annexing a total of 69 acres in his Southwest Mesa district, but wanted discussion anyway. Victor Wyatt, representing the Stinson-Tower neighborhood, said the timing and type of development proposed were not right for the neighborhood with schools already overcrowded. Wyatt wanted higher square footages, lower densities and less entry-level housing.
Local resident Norman Mason said the area already had an abundance of homes that looked like Monopoly pieces. He wanted traditional southwestern styles, as opposed to, "I don't know what it's typically called. Scottsdale style?" Jim Strozier of Consensus Planning said everything was very amenable and that people were coming together, and that $140,000 was the beginning price of homes planned.Councilor Craig Loy said people moving to the Southwest Mesa for low cost homes might become a problem, so it was good that higher priced homes would keep them from concentrating in the neighborhood. Considering that the Bush administration plans to cut affordable housing, can we talk about the elephant in the living room?
Going Smaller
An administration bill carried by Cadigan allows new houses to be built closer to the street, garages to face alleys, and lot sizes to be smaller. The goal is to use less land per residence and create more walkable neighborhoods. An amendment advanced by Councilor Tina Cummins and Mayer barred the smaller lots from neighborhoods platted before 2005 and doubled the front setbacks.
Although changes wouldn't affect established residential areas, Mayer said her Heights district neighborhoods were "terrified of this." Gomez asked if alleys promoted crime. Louis Kolker, executive director of the Greater Albuquerque Housing Partnership, said there was no definitive evidence either way. The bill passed 5-4, Loy, Winter, Mayer and Cummins opposed.Heinrich proposed requiring glazing on house fronts. Because the plan moves garages from the front to the rear, and is designed to encourage very narrow side yards, odds are that glazing will migrate to the front of the houses without legal prodding. This type of urban design has a long history and a lot to recommend it, though individual implementation is bound to vary widely.
A Nonmeeting of Montaño Minds
The controversial Montaño Bridge was built with the agreement that it would remain two-lane until problems were remedied at the Fourth Street and Second Street intersections. Problems still exist but Mayor Martin Chavez ordered parts of the road re-striped to four lanes without consulting O'Malley, the district's councilor. After her earlier bill requiring an independent transportation study was vetoed by Chavez, O'Malley moved a compromise bill worked out with the administration.
Dr. Joe Valles, representing Westside neighborhood associations, said the EPC recently approved a 70-acre development for the Coors and Montaño intersection, with access only onto Montaño. Cadigan, whose Westside constituents' top three priorities are roads, roads and roads, failed twice to amend the bill so that restriping Montano could begin immediately. O'Malley's bill passed 8-1, Cadigan opposed.Albuquerque's seven bridges--at Rio Bravo, Bridge, Central, I-40, Montano, Paseo del Norte and Alameda--total about 26 lanes. In comparison the slightly larger Memphis, Tenn.--West Memphis, Ark., metropolitan area has only two automobile bridges across the Mississippi, totaling eight or 10 lanes, and nobody seems particularly upset. While their population distribution is more lopsided, it's a hint that the number of lanes may not be the underlying problem.