This letter is provided as opinion/commentary from the authors. You can submit your own letter to editor@abq.news

This story also appeared in Commentary

Dear Editor:

The Paper.’s recent coverage of the Gateway Center (“Neighbors, Mayor Declare Truce Over Gibson Center:  Homeless Shelter OK’d”) appears to be based on faulty information The Paper. received from the City of Albuquerque. We are the presidents of the three neighborhood associations that are appealing the conditional use permit for Gateway, and we can state unequivocally that we have not dropped our appeal. We are not, as The Paper. reported, “satisfied” or “tired of fighting.” The recommendation issued by the City’s Land Use Hearing Officer (LUHO) on February 18, 2022 must still be heard by City Council. This is clearly spelled out in that recommendation. 

The document posted in July to an “obscure corner” of the City’s website referred to in The Paper.’s coverage was obscure for a reason:  it dealt with a peripheral technical question that the LUHO remanded to the Zoning Hearing Examiner (ZHE) for additional consideration. The main appeal was not affected by that tangential issue.  

Perhaps this is an innocent error on the part of the City. Since we have not been included in any City communications to City Council about this matter, it is impossible to know. But this wouldn’t be the first time that the due process rights of the neighborhoods have been violated in the Gateway matter. 

Earlier in the case, the City failed to give the neighborhood associations notice of a hearing before the ZHE. The ZHE conducted that hearing despite our absence. Because of these due process violations, the LUHO sent the case back for yet another hearing, explaining that the “Appellants [the neighborhood associations] were denied their opportunity to present evidence, testimony, and arguments to the ZHE.”

There is little doubt in our minds that if an applicant for a City permit were an entity other than the City itself, these troubling procedural developments would never have occurred. The City gets to act as both judge and jury on Gateway, with a disconcerting lack of transparency.

Your readers—especially the residents of the affected neighborhoods—deserve to know the full picture, not just the City’s version. Our neighborhood associations will continue to fight for reasonable conditions on the City’s use of Gateway as a shelter, including capacity limits that are in line with the City’s professed interest in using “trauma-informed” principles, and measures to ensure that the adverse impacts associated with a shelter will be responsibly managed. 

Lastly, District 6 cannot be the only district in the City to host a new, City-run overnight shelter, so we will continue to work for true equity in shouldering the burdens of the homelessness crisis in Albuquerque.

Janet Simon, President, Parkland Hills Neighborhood Association
Rachel Conger Baca, President, Siesta Hills Neighborhood Association
Sandra Perea, President, Elder Homestead Neighborhood Association

Editor’s Note: The appeals process has closed, according to Council Director Chris Melendrez. The Paper.’s reporting was based on an email summary of the case sent by an attorney for the city to interested city staff. Melendrez confirmed on Aug.17 that they had not received any appeals and they considered the matter to be final. Melendrez responded as follows: “The Paper. confirmed last week with the City Planning Department that no additional appeals were filed, that the appeal window had closed, and that the project is approved to proceed.”