Assembly Weighs Suspended Design Standards For New Construction

A controversial proposal to suspend design standards in residential construction heads to the Anchorage Assembly during its Tuesday night meeting.

Anchorage has a very basic problem: not enough housing units are coming online to keep up with the city’s growth.

Solutions, however, are a lot more complicated.

“There are some serious systemic issues with the current situation in permitting,” said Bill Popp, Director of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, which has brought together leaders from the private sector identify barriers to more housing. “The system has become so skewed that it has pretty much choked off new development in Anchorage.”

Popp and others are supporting an ordinance introduced by Assembly Members Ernie Hall and Amy Demboski that places an 18-month suspension on design standards recently adopted within Title 21 reforms. An alternative proposal being considered modifies specific provisions little by little, but leaves the overall code in place. But for some that approach does not go far enough.

“Continuing to piece-meal the situation was not going to solve the problem,” Popp said.

Opponents of the ordinance believe it throws out years of work that went into making a comprehensive plan for Anchorage’s future development.

Cheryl Richardson has worked on housing issues with the Anchorage Citizens Coalition, and said the measure would strip away protections neighborhood groups have long pushed for.

“People decided that they wanted Anchorage to grow up, not out,” Richardson explained, outlining strategies like infill and redevelopment to bring new apartments and condos into the market, but also align with neighborhood goals for urban design.

It is the last Assembly meeting of Mayor Dan Sullivan’s administration, and three other controversial measures involving tennis courts, a land swap between the Airport and Point Woronzof Park, and new restrictions on alcohol sales are also set to take public testimony after 6pm.