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Martineztown residents target zoning rules in civil rights claim

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Loretta Naranjo Lopez, top, a sixth-generation Martineztown neighborhood homeowner, is concerned the City of Albuquerque has improperly zoned Martineztown. The Historic Neighborhood Alliance and Martineztown Working Group announced Wednesday they have filed a Civil Rights Act complaint against the city, claiming its zoning laws are discriminatory and perpetuate the erosion of the Santa Barbara-Martineztown neighborhood. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Residents of a historic Albuquerque neighborhood, which has roots predating the Mexican-American War, are taking their fight with City Hall to the federal government.

In the shadow of the 102-year old San Ignacio Catholic Church, members of the Historic Neighborhood Alliance and the Martineztown Working Group announced Wednesday that they had filed a Civil Rights Act complaint against the city of Albuquerque, claiming its zoning laws are discriminatory and perpetuate the erosion of the Santa Barbara-Martineztown neighborhood.

“It’s unfortunate that the city is allowing one of Albuquerque’s oldest and most culturally rich neighborhoods to be destroyed in exchange for industrial facilities,” said Diana Dorn-Jones, founding member of the Historic Neighborhood Alliance. “The residents of Martineztown are fighting to have a voice in the zoning process because it can save this culturally rich neighborhood.”

The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the agency tasked with making sure recipients of federal funds do not discriminate on the basis of race, under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act.

Residents are asking HUD to launch an investigation into the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning code. They’re also calling on the city to fix what they say is a decades-long problem in its most recent restructuring of zoning laws.

The complaint claims that Martineztown has suffered from a lack of zoning protections that the city has instituted since the 1950s in more affluent and less diverse neighborhoods.

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A view of the Martineztown neighborhood on Wednesday. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Loretta Naranjo Lopez, a life-long resident of Martineztown who retired as a city planner in 2003, said inequitable zoning laws have resulted in deterioration of the social fabric of the mostly-minority neighborhood.

“Many of the commercial uses are not safe or orderly and is not harmonious in a well-established residential area,” Lopez said. “This historical trauma, by allowing incompatible commercial and heavy commercial uses in historic neighborhoods, has created an environment that has a high level of noise and air pollution. The integrated development ordinance ideal just perpetuates this condition.”

The filing of the complaint comes almost one year after the city’s adoption of the comprehensive plan and amid last week’s council approval of the Integrated Development Ordinance, which will become effective on May 17.

“The mayor is also concerned about historical equity issues in underserved neighborhoods,” said Alicia Manzano, spokeswoman for the mayor’s office. “We encourage all sides to work together to resolve concerns in a way that doesn’t jeopardize critical HUD funding for housing and homelessness initiatives.”

Wednesday’s announcement also came on the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

 

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