Assembly extends testimony on property purchase into next week

America’s Best Value Inn and Suites is proposed as a transitional housing facility with homelessness resources. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly ended a third night of public testimony on Thursday with no vote on the city’s plan to purchase four properties for treatment and homelessness resources.

Community members testified in person and over the phone for six hours Thursday evening. Similar to the meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, there was not time for everyone who wanted to testify to do so. The assembly scheduled another meeting to hear testimony for next Tuesday, July 21.

The majority of people testifying opposed the plan to purchase properties for drug and alcohol treatment, supportive housing and life skills counseling, among other services. The most controversial properties in the plan are The Best Western Golden Lion in Midtown and the Midtown Alaska Club. 

A sign opposing the ordinance to purchase four properties, including the Golden Lion Hotel next to Geneva Woods hangs at the entrance to the neighborhood on July 15, 2015. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Community members in opposition accused the assembly of trying to force the plan through with little community input and few details about how the facilities would be operated. Safety concerns were also mentioned often.

The Berkowitz administration has said they are following proper procedures for getting the facilities up and running. Chief of Staff Jason Bockenstedt said that includes getting assembly authorization to start the purchasing process before they can put out a call for proposals from providers to flesh out the design details of each facility.

The city continues to run an emergency mass shelter at the Sullivan Arena, which Bockenstedt described as “hugely inefficient” to operate. He says the urgency for the city’s housing and resource plan is, in part, because they want to end services at Sullivan and replace it with a more sustainable solution.

Advocates say the number of people experiencing homelessness in Anchorage is expected to rise next month as coronavirus rental and mortgage protections begin to sunset.