OPINION: Assembly rezoning plan needs more public input

Homeowners, listen up: This might be the only written notice you get. The Assembly plans to rezone every residential property in the Anchorage Bowl one month from now, through draft Anchorage Ordinance 2023-087(S), without mailing a direct notice to property owners. This stealth rezoning would violate the rules for public notice, but the Assembly’s tactic is to exempt themselves from the rules, through AO 2024-045, on their May 21 agenda.

Does this sound like government gone amok? After Municipal officials and lawyers told the Assembly their areawide rezoning proposals would violate both state and local land use laws, they began to change the rules, introducing AO 2024-045 to grease their path forward. Moving at strike-force speed, the Assembly held a public hearing May 7, after which the ordinance was postponed, ostensibly for a rewrite and to secure a new legal opinion.

The public testified strongly against giving the Assembly greater powers. Not one Assembly member had questions or comments for citizens who testified; members’ downcast eyes seemed intentional. Nor did any member question the body’s intent to remove current safeguards and deny homeowners legal written notice.

Rezoning should make our city more efficient, more affordable and more livable, not yank it backward, allowing blighted areas to languish and encouraging random density. The Assembly’s areawide rezoning proposals promote density everywhere, even where there are inadequate roads, utilities and other services. Our adopted plans call for adding targeted density where residents can easily walk to work and catch a bus. Targeted density would begin to grow the long overdue, vibrant urban hubs we lack here.

Anchorage came together for four years in the late 1990s to define our future vision and build our comprehensive plan through community surveys, task forces, professional reviews, workshops and open houses. Hundreds attended large public meetings held in middle school cafeterias. People consistently agreed that Anchorage’s neighborhoods with a mix of housing types were the most important aspect of community life, providing centers for educational, recreational and social activities. Downtown and Midtown were to transition into more intensive urban centers, complemented by traditional neighborhoods, and by rural neighborhood character for South Anchorage. Design standards, heights, setbacks and transportation choices are key aspects of blending housing types.

Anchorage 2020′s “vision” still works, even though politics have prevented its implementation. People have not rejected it, nor has the Assembly offered a different vision. Their proposals just create random growth with less sunshine and more traffic: hot spots where sudden density overwhelms the local roads, parks and public services. Tall, boxy four-plexes in low-density neighborhoods will not provide more affordable housing.

Citizens still believe in a future for Anchorage with first-rate, distinctive neighborhoods and expanding urban hubs. It’s time for the Assembly to quit dodging public input and grabbing for power and instead follow our adopted Comprehensive Plan to invest in targeted rezoning. Targeted rezoning supported by infrastructure investments will produce cost-efficient density that will benefit neighborhoods, blighted areas, and the city centers.


If you are among the 62,000 affected property owners in Anchorage, don’t sit by your mailbox waiting to learn how rezoning affects your property or what gets built next door. Email your Assembly and put the May 21 and June 25 public hearing dates on your calendar. Phone testimony is easy if you can’t come in person (sign up online 24 hours ahead). It’s your city: Let the Assembly know (email wwmas@muni.org) you support distinctive neighborhoods and targeted infill to grow a great northern city.

As the late Walt Parker once said, “A great city is simply a collection of great neighborhoods.”

Eleanor Andrews, Dave Evans, Sami Graham, Lynn Halquist, Deborah Hansen, Martin Hansen, Denise Hanson, Elise Huggins, Sarah Kleedehn, Marty Margeson, Jake Metcalfe, Patrice Parker, Sharon Stockard, Pam Tesche, Kathie Veltre and Jerry Wertzbaugher are residents of the Municipality of Anchorage who have concerns over the Assembly’s proposed zoning changes.

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