Category Archives: property value

karluk manor negative feedback continues

I wrote about this Jan. 25th — Rural CAP’s proposed residential center for homeless alcoholics in an existing hotel building in Fairview was generating some fierce opposition.

Since then, the municipal Assembly has been removing some roadblocks, and plans for Karluk Manor seem to be moving ahead.

Today, former Veco Times columnist Paul Jenkins engages in NIMBY-baiting in an ADN column:

If another facility for drunks is such a great deal for Fairview, maybe it would sell in an East Anchorage or Midtown or Hillside neighborhood.  Right?

Jenkins’ faux compassion for the much-maligned Fairview still makes a point [one I have noted serveral times]: social services tend to congregate in places in Anchorage where their clients are located, and where real estate prices are lowest.  The vicious cycle created makes it doubly difficult to distribute these services in locations citywide.

It’s both a financial and attitudinal vexing problem.  People have to stop believing Mt. View and Fairview [and to a lesser extent, Muldoon and Spenard] are dangerous and undesirable locations, and begin to take on an active role in a counterpunch, i.e. try [in any of dozens of different ways] to make the neighborhood famous for a better reason.

Not an easy task, and results may take decades to materialize.

The problem with fanning the flames of NIMBY-ism in order to derail Karluk Manor, is that it is a promising community structure, based on a model that has worked well elsewhere, and should be given a chance to succeed.  I think that, though the situation Jenkins laments should be addressed in the future, the potential for Rural CAP to make real progress in rehabilitation of chronic street alcoholics trumps downside for the neighbors in this instance.

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denigration gap

Late last night an Anchorage police officer was shot five times while sitting in his cruiser on Medfra St. just north of 15th Ave., while filling out paperwork after an interview.  The case is mysterious, lacking an apparent motive and naturally has generated a lot of anxiety, speculation and strongly worded opinions.  I’m reluctant to consider comments on ADN‘s web site as reflective of mainstream community opinion, but one in particular is sticking with me [emphasis mine]:

jfries wrote on 01/09/2010 09:58:04 AM:

I firmly believe that Anchorage has some of the best police officers. Would very many among us want to respond to a call for help in that area at 2 a.m.? These officers serve with strength, respect, and dignity. Thoughts and prayers for the full recovery of this officer and to comfort his family and friends. I was touched by the following quote on the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial:
‘The policeman is a peace time soldier always at war. It is not how these officers died that made them heroes. It is how they lived.’

This post was the eighth most recommended [29 recommendations] out of 179 posts, before it was replaced late tonight by a newer version of the story [by the same reporter].

I would love it if whoever wrote this would discard their cloak of pseudonymity and expound on their negative opinion of Fairview a little bit.  Do they really have sheets of statistics that prove that Fairview’s a more dangerous place than the rest of Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska?  I’d like to see the documenation!

West Downtown, Inlet View and South Addition, immediately adjacent to Fairview are today generally considered “safe” areas, where Fairview is not, because they began to be populated with people of wealth and influence [or, what passes for same in Anchorage] who pinched their buddies on the Assembly and in City Hall to eliminate liquor stores in their neighborhoods.  This action did not eliminate the number of liquor stores in the city — the number of which is based on population — it simply pushed the stores to the boundary of the “safe” area, where they accumulated by the half-dozen along Spenard Rd., and Gambell St. in Fairview. 

That action [artificially] contributes to the urban legend that Spenard, Fairview and Mt. View are unsafe areas — becaue they are plagued by a bunch of drunks staggering in the streets and sidewalks, compared to the nearby “safe” area.  However,  the occurance of violent crime [such as the shooting of Officer Allen] is consistently random in the city at large, not confined to any one neighborhood.

I’m not trying to defend anyone who committed the crime  — they should be locked up — but the denigration of the neighborhood per se has to stop.  I’m not sure if jfries has much experience with Fairview, or has lived there or not?  That part of Medfra St., with well-maintained 1940s-50s era houses does not appear very much like a community that engeneders or tolerates random violent crime.  I have passed through there, between 15th and 5th innumerable times since the early ’80s.  I ride a bike through Fairview practically every work day.  I’d ride through there at 2 AM without a second thought.

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redevelopment potential on mt. view dr.

In 2006 the Land Use and Housing Subcommittee, part of the Mt. View Neighborhood Planning effort underway then spent some time in visioning sessions about how the commercial corridor could be revitalized.  Lately I have been wondering what that might actually look like, and about the reasons for pursuing it.

First a little history.  The main drag in Mt View is called Mt. View Drive.  Until 1965 or thereabouts it was called the Palmer Highway and it was part of the main route north out of town to Eagle River and the Mat-Su Valley that opened sometime in the ’40s.  In 1965 the new Glenn Highway was constructed to bypass Mt View a few blocks to the south.  It was not a positive development for Mt View. 

From all along the winding route of Mt. View Drive there is a very wonderful panoramic view of the Chugach Mountains to the east and south.  The street follows a bluff line and sits on a plateau relative to the Glenn Highway and the rest of Anchorage to the south.  You can get some sense of it looking at the photo on the header of this blog site.  [I should find some better photos — it’s really great, trust me.]

At this point in time it feels like a prime opportunity to reinvent Mt View’s commercial center.  But to do so will require that all residents, stakeholders and government rally behind a plan.  I would like to start a discussion and air some ideas.  For the purposes of the discussion we will look at properties along the north and south sides of Mt View Dr along a two-block run between N. Bragaw St. and Klevin St.  But the principles could just as well be expanded east and west.  There is still a lot of vacant commercial property surrounding the study area, and uses that are “place holders” such as mini-storage and trailer parks.

All of the buildings on the properties in our two study blocks now are at the end of their useful life.  The land use is locked into a highway strip development pattern that remains from the earliest days of the road.  There is some parking for businesses, but although about two thirds of the property area is paved with asphalt, only one third of the existing parking spaces are legal, i.e. comply with current dimensional standards for stalls and maneuvering clearances and access aisles.  Most of the parking lots cannot be reconfigured to comply. 

The type of development that would make for a safe and vital neighborhood center isn’t possible because of a lack of exploitable potential.  Current municipal zoning mandates on-site parking, and there is minimal on-street parking.  This means that if someone wants to open a restaurant with 12 tables, they must have enough adjacent land to install a 48 car parking lot [and all that entails — parking lot lighting, landscaping, storm water drainage and treatment, etc.].   To an extent these are the same problems that face all of Anchorage.  The Anchorage 2020 plan called for Town Centers to be developed.  The underlying philosophy is quite similar, but a neighborhood center is much smaller footprint [micro compared to macro].  It’s relatively cheaper and smarter to redevelop Mt View because the infrastructure is already here and the street is backed up by the most densely populated part of Anchorage.

In order to redevelop Mt View Dr in this best way possible there are two major prerequisites: 1. a plan for street improvements that will provide substantial on-street parking; and 2. a revised zoning designation that will allow construction of commercial space without any requirements for on-site parking.  These two changes will mean businesses will have a great deal of flexibility because resources needed by all will be public and shared.  More businesses and residents located in a compact area will mean more amenities and parking will be available, and sensible planning will mean we can capture the intrinsic value of these properties.

If Mt View becomes a revitalized commercial center that attracts patrons from outside the neighborhood, every existing resident and business will also benefit.  If new residential units are provided along with new business and retail space, the presence of the residents will have a domino effect: the residents will supervise the area at all hours, in concert with business owners and lead to increased desirability and business vitality.

Key components to making the scheme work for residents, business and car traffic are: pedestrian access; traffic calming; parking; viewshed protection and view “captures” [through master planning and acquistion of “air rights” on adjacent sites]; and application of smart growth fundamentals and sustainable design principles.

Change is always really difficult.  But please understand in this case there are consequences for not changing.  We have already learned, I think that Mt View will not become a destination based on any single new business, or upgrades made that aren’t part of a coherent grand scheme. 

The drawings that follow are rough, and there’s not a lot there.  I want to continue to work on them and add detail to the buildings; landscaping, curbs and sidewalks; people and clouds and so forth.  But they will give some idea of potential.  Shown are the conditions in 2008 and visions for 2016 and 2028.

Here are some numbers for the two block study area:
Total parking: 154 spaces — 7 on-street; 98 on-site [conforming], 49 on-site [nonconforming]
Retail space: 39,000 sq. ft.
Living units: none
Office space: none

Total parking: 182 spaces — 50 on-street; 124 on-site [conforming], 8 on-site [nonconforming]
Retail space: 55,000 sq. ft.
Living units: 32 apts. — 13 1-BR; 5 studio; 10 2-BR; 4 3-BR
Office space: 7,400 sq. ft.

Total parking: 155 spaces — 51 on-street; 104 on-site
Retail space: 69,000 sq. ft.
Living units: 84 — 24 1-BR; 5 studio; 30 2-BR; 18 3-BR; 1-4 BR; 6 3-BR town houses [variety of sizes and types of units available, accommodating 200+ people]
Office space: 7,400 sq. ft.

Study area of Mt View Dr in 2008, looking SE.
Study area of Mt View Dr in 2008, looking SE.
Looking west on Mt View Dr, showing existing strip development.

Looking west on Mt View Dr, showing existing strip development.

Looking SE in 2016.  Traffic lane revisions, on street parking, a few new buildings.

Looking SE in 2016. Traffic lane revisions, on street parking, a few new buildings.

Looking west along the study area of Mt View Dr in 2016.

Looking west along the study area of Mt View Dr in 2016.

And a similar view in 2028!

And a similar view in 2028!

Looking east in 2028, showing a variety of housing and commercial buildings.

Looking east in 2028, showing a variety of housing and commercial buildings.

West part of study area in 2028, looking SW.

West part of study area in 2028, looking SW.

East end of study area in 2028.  Apartments oriented toward territorial view.

East end of study area in 2028. Apartments oriented toward territorial view.

2028 looking SE.  Compare to similar 2008 view at the beginning!

2028 looking SE. Compare to similar 2008 view at the beginning!

Update 12-18-08: Looking over some meeting notes from the Business Focus Group of the Mt View Neighborhood Plan [currently being facilitated by Agnew::Beck Consulting], I see some similar plans are already being discussed.  Thanks to Heather at A::B for pointing this out.

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blacklisted again!

I caught a cab home from the airport yesterday morning. Interesting conversation with the driver. When she found out we were going to Mt View, she told me a long story about her boss laying out the ground rules, a few years back at the beginning of her employment. He said, as a female she was allowed to drop people off in Mt View but not pick up; and that she was not to go there after dark under any circumstances. This was because, sometime back in the ’70s or ’80s a couple teenagers robbed and killed a cab driver. [I vaguely remember the news of the murder but can’t recall if it had anything to do with Mt View.]
As we crossed midtown I gave her my stump speech about Mt View and a summary of all my experiences getting to know other residents and activists over the last nine years. “It’s too bad,” I said. “I know your boss had nothing but good intentions, to keep you out of harm’s way and all. But why should a reputation of a place have to suffer? Why not blame the criminals and not the neighborhood?”
It’s a continual problem for us, and we have talked about it at length, until we burned out and became more ambivalent. A lot of people, particularly conservaties believe that a culture exists in Mt View that has a high tolerance for crime; and that any investment or attempts to forge improvements are folly at best. I guess I don’t see that. As a city, Anchorage would be a lot better off to take the position that all of its neighborhoods have intrinsic value and are worth all the effort we can muster to ensure peace and tranquility. We know what needs to be done. We just have to generate the interest and willingness to try. A big part of this is convincing the cab driver’s boss and other well-meaning people.
The cabbie was bringing me home from 10 days in Seattle. I spent a fair amount of time in the Rainier Valley district. In the 1980s a drive up the length of Rainier Ave. was somewhat fearful, as if you didn’t want to linger. It’s a lot different today. I saw dozens of 100 year old houses under renovation, a lot of new investment on the commercial strip and a lot less obvious intractable poverty. Also saw former retail and warehouse buildings adapted to new uses. This and other parts of Seattle are in much better shape than they used to be, and are offering a chance for first time home buyers to get a stake in the area, even as they are priced out of other parts of the city. As in Mt View, houses in the Rainier Valley, and Delridge, White Center and other places in South Seattle sell for a fraction of other neighborhoods within the city limits.
Seattle decided these places matter, when there was a danger of them becoming real ghettos, as exist in the rust belt of the midwest — places such as East St. Louis, Detroit and Chicago.


This is a real estate web site and database of homes for the entire country. You can find out details about your own property and look at a map and aerial photo of prices of houses up and down your street. They also allow the property owner to add and correct information and post photos and descriptions of the property. And other useful features such as an estimate of market value and tracking changes to value over time.