ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Some organizations are pushing back against one of Albuquerque’s already-approved ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces.’ In seven different appeals filed against the City, a handful of local businesses and community groups are asking the city to rethink the safe space near the Big-I.
The plan to create the Dawn Legacy Pointe Safe Outdoor Space, located just northwest of the Big-I, was submitted in July 2022 and approved by the city less than a month later. It was the first space approved under the City’s recently created Safe Outdoor Space program, which the City describes as a “secure, supervised area with organized spaces for people experiencing homelessness.”
The Dawn Legacy Pointe Safe Outdoor Space, as proposed, can support a max of 50 people, according to the City. But nearby businesses and community members want City Council to reassess, claiming among other things, that the site has inadequate security, and the rushed approval process overlooked the needs of nearby residents.
One appeal, filed Dec. 22, 2022, on behalf of the owner of Crowne Plaza Albuquerque, claims that the City never handed over environmental assessments or operational plans they had agreed to show. The owner of the Crowne Plaza Albuquerque also claims that the size of the Safe Outdoor Space changed from the time the space was planned to the time of approval. “That is just not a good way to do business, that is not a good way to treat people who are in place, who are relaying on existing zoning to have these things appear without having the opportunity to be heard,”said Rodey Law Attorney, John Salazar who is representing Crowne Plaza in the appeal.
Another nearby business, Sunset Memorial Park, claims the organization behind the Safe Outdoor Space (Dawn Legacy Pointe), never contacted Sunset Memorial Park for input. They also claim the Safe Outdoor Space doesn’t comply with the City’s Integrated Development Ordinance.
“Sunset has struggled with homeless people setting tents just outside the park, using drugs inside the park, disposing of garbage and waste inside the park, using water fountains to bathe, aggressively approaching families who are at the park paying their respect to deceased loved ones, and even removing anything of value left on graves, crypts, and niches,” the appeal notes, according to a press release. The permit approval lacked “opportunity for community input or a meeting to discuss the project’s impact on the neighborhood.”
Nearby Menaul School also has qualms with the site. They have had to up security at the school, according to a press release.
The concerns from the community aren’t just focused on protecting the community, some of the appeals also claim the Safe Outdoor Space might actually be unsafe for the unhoused. “Victims of sexual exploitation are to be placed in unheated tents, with only outdoor hand-washing stations and portable bathrooms to service basic needs,” the appeal filed on behalf of Crowne Plaza Albuquerque says.
KRQE News 13 reached out to Dawn Legacy Pointe, the group behind the contested Safe Outdoor Space. As of publication, a spokesperson deferred us to Bradley Day, volunteer project manager for Dawn Legacy Pointe.
Day over at Street Safe New Mexico, which helps run the Safe Outdoor Space, says the program is misunderstood. “They don’t understand that a Safe Outdoor Space is fenced in and screened, so nobody can see in,” he told KRQE News 13. “They are limited to 50 people, and there is 24/7 security, and the people that are there have to follow the rules.”
Day also says that all the people who use the space must receive a background check, meaning there should be no sex offenders or violent offenders. Day says they have 25 women already signed up.
Last year, Dawn Legacy Pointe faced criticism that suggested: “the site might do more harm than good.” In response, Dawn Legacy Pointe says on its website that “the comments made were both classist and oppressive. Albuquerque has never had housing or transitional living devoted or prioritizing those who experience sex trafficking or exploitation.”
So far, the Dawn Legacy Pointe Safe Outdoor Space remains a work in progress. Day says there is still one more chance for oppositional appeals before operations can begin at the space.
As for the City, Timothy Walsh, a spokesperson for the Planning Department says the Dawn Legacy Pointe Safe Outdoor Space does comply with IDO requirements. And Walsh told KRQE News 13 that the city did email documents to the business owners who requested them and that the surrounding property owners received proper notice as instructed by the city’s Land Use Hearing Officer.