Second appeal hearing for approved Safe Outdoor Space in NE Albuquerque

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The still-empty property on Menaul near the Big I, known as Albuquerque’s first approved safe outdoor space for tents, has been a topic of debate for six months now. And a lot of that debate comes from people who don’t want it there.

“We feel this encampment will only attract more illicit traffic and hasten the decline of midtown,” said Karl Holme, executive director of the Greater Albuquerque Hotel and Lodging Association. 

Holme testified on behalf of his association during a land use hearing Monday. 

“Just because the SOS application meets all the IDO requirements, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for this location,” said Holme. 

The neighborhood is also home to the Menaul School, a faith-based boarding school that’s been part of the neighborhood for decades. 

“Based on who our community is– children, international students who don’t know America well, who don’t know what’s safe and unsafe, and we’re saying we’re going to mix those two communities together, we can anticipate that this is going to cause problems,” said Lindsey Gilbert, president and head of Menual School. “Anything that makes our campus look less safe is bad for our community.”

Among those listening to the day-long hearing was Elizabeth Holguin, the deputy director of Homeless Solutions and clinical advisor for the city. She has spoken in support of safe outdoor spaces from the beginning.

“It’s not the only location, it doesn’t have to be this location, but it’s one that met the zoning code, it’s right next to the highway,” said Holguin. “It’s actually away from the neighborhood so I thought it would be a good location.”

She says there are misconceptions about the unhoused population, like they have bad intentions or might be involved in criminal activity. But this space would cater to women who are victims of human or sex trafficking or domestic violence, a population that Holguin says mostly just wants a safe haven.

“I think that everybody wants to have a solution but every time we propose one it’s maybe not here, not like this,” said Holguin. “So it’s difficult to make real progress and be able to test new ideas.”

A representative from the planning department says the hearing officer will take about a month to review the appeals and give a recommendation to City Council. Councilors will then have the final say whether the space will move forward.