As the city zigs and zags, trying mightily to spend $22.5 million in CARES Act funding to buy two hotels, a former Alaska Club building and the Bean’s Cafe campus to deal with a few hundred of Anchorage’s homeless, now comes word the facilities’ annual operating costs will be in the neighborhood of $7 million.
The powers-that-be want those facilities badly enough to even change the city’s zoning to allow such operations in B3 zoning areas intended primarily for general commercial uses in commercial centers. Oh, and they would allow all that without Planning and Zoning Commission review.
The Golden Lion and America’s Best hotels, along with the former Alaska Club on Tudor Road, are all located in B3 zoning. The facilities would be billed by the city as “rehabilitative care,” which makes them allowable in those zones. Once bought, there will be no need to go back to the public for input or explanation.
Proponents would pay for all this with money from the recently approved 5 percent retail tax on alcohol and funds from the sale of Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric. But until that money is in the bank, the city would use federal CARES Act funding in a “lease with potential purchase” dodge to get around CARES Act language specifically mandating the act’s funding can be used only for temporary, emergency shelter.
All of this is enough to make us more than a little jittery. When officialdom wants something badly enough to change the rules and stretch requirements to make round pegs fit square holes, it should give us all pause.
And we wonder.
If you took the $22.5 million – and you know eventually it will be more – and added the $7 million operating costs – also, more – for a single year, you would have the tidy sum of $29.5 million. Then, if you were to divide that by 1,100, roughly the number of homeless in the city, you would have nearly $27,000 for each of them.
Why not, instead, give each of them $10,000 and a one-way ticket? We could use the rest for coronavirus aid or property tax relief and be ahead of the game.
It’s a win-win.