For almost a year, the Glory Hall has been trying to get a permit to convert the space that used to be a 50-bed shelter to a 7-unit affordable housing complex. The project’s fate could be decided at a Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night.
The nonprofit moved its shelter to the Mendenhall Valley last summer. It still owns the building on S. Franklin Street in downtown Juneau where it used to be housed. And that building is in a known hazard zone for avalanches and landslides, per the city’s maps adopted in the late 1980s.
City code says existing properties in those zones cannot “increase density” through new construction. That’s in conflict with the city’s priority of addressing a shortage of affordable housing. And the Glory Hall has argued that even though the number of housing units will increase with the renovation, far fewer people would be staying at the property on any given night.
The Glory Hall applied for a construction permit almost a year ago. The city initially denied that permit, but the Glory Hall successfully appealed the decision back in May. That gave the city 30 days to reconsider – after which, it denied the permit again.
The Glory Hall did not give up — it submitted an application for a conditional use permit this summer. Earlier this month, the city’s development department recommended that the Planning Commission reject that permit, too.
The Planning Commission will take up the issue of the permit at its meeting Tuesday night. It can grant, deny or impose conditions on the permit. If the permit is denied, the Glory Hall can appeal the decision to the Juneau Assembly.
But the Glory Hall is not going down without a fight. It has invited supporters to testify at the meeting and encourage the Planning Commission to grant a conditional use permit for the project. Glory Hall staff had 40 shirts made with the message, “Juneau Needs Affordable Housing.”
Staff expect up to 40 people will show up at the meeting.
“We need as many people in attendance at this meeting as possible! Please come! As we all know, Juneau is in the midst of a housing crisis and we believe that every unit counts,” the Glory Hall wrote in a recent newsletter.
The Planning Commission meets in Assembly Chambers at 7:00 p.m. The meeting will also be on Zoom.