Volcano Heights SDP

Councilor Dan Lewis is pleased to present the Volcano Heights Sector Development Plan (SDP), last amended in November 2014.

Mikaela Renz-Whitmore505-924-3932, Long Range Planning

Andrew Webb505-768-3161, City Council Services

The Volcano Heights SDP is a Rank 3 plan, including goals, policies, and regulations, for an area of approximately 570 acres on the City’s Northwest Mesa, west of the volcanic Escarpment in the Petroglyph National Monument and surrounding the intersection of Paseo del Norte and Unser Boulevard.  The plan envisions a mixed-use, walkable environment for existing and future residents and visitors as part of a larger strategy to reduce traffic congestion on the West Side and on the limited river crossings now and in the future.

Update as of 11/5/14

On October 22, 2014, the Mayor signed text amendments to the Volcano Heights SDP. The amendments were published on October 31, 2014 and became effective on November 5, 2014. The City Council voted to approve the amendments on October 6, 2014. These amendments were first recommended for approval by the Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) on February 6, 2014, and were heard by the Land Use, Planning, and Zoning Committee on August 13, 2014.

Text Amendments

As originally intended, the Planning Department returned to all three sector development plans in Volcano Mesa after Volcano Heights was adopted in August 2013 to update the transportation network to be consistent among the three plans.  During this review, other minor items were also identified to be clarified and adjusted to better meet plan goals.

The zoning map has not been affected, nor did goals and policies change.  The text amendments include the following items:

  • New cross sections from Volcano Cliffs SDP and Special Assessment District 228 and renumbered to include the full transportation network within Volcano Mesa.
  • Adjustments to the applicability of Plan sections for new or modified signs in Table 3.1.
  • Adjusted definition of Building Frontage to eliminate reference to lot width and change the calculation to be a ratio of the portion of the façade width within the Build-to Zone to the entire façade width.
  • Revised regulations to minimize fugitive dust, a significant problem on the West Side and particularly near the Petroglyph National Monument, including requiring grading permits for mixed-use developments to only be issued with building permits and grading permits for residential development to be issued only with preliminary plat approvals.  to .
  • Reorganized construction mitigation regulations in the Escarpment Transition zone to clarify requirements and help with enforcement.
  • Reorganized regulation intended for all structures out of the section on residential garages.
  • Updated table to allow primary streets to count toward the required ‘A’ vs. ‘B’ Streets for each block.
  • Updated language about fugitive dust to ensure the enforceability of the regulations and remove the exemption for public rights-of-way and public easements.
  • Updated cross sections for Unser Boulevard to incorporate the multi-use trail on the east side.
  • Updated implementation table to include estimating the cost of constructing Unser Boulevard and Paseo del Norte to their full cross sections.
  • Items revised per developer request, including an exception for residential grading requirements, wall heights, three car garages, garage facades, and garage bays.

Amended Draft

The draft reflecting the most recent amendments is available for review and download below. Separate files have been created in an attempt to best meet users’ needs.

Property Owners

Staff hosted a “Next Steps” meeting in January 2014.  A summary of the discussion is available below.

You can find your property and its zoning designation on the following maps. Please see the Plan for uses, regulations, standards, and policies pertaining to development.

For all proposed projects, the first step in the development process is to schedule a Pre-application Review Team (PRT) discussion, held weekly for no fee on Tuesday afternoons.  Sign up by noon Friday by calling 505-924-3860.

DRAINAGE PLAN STATUS: The Albuquerque Metropolitan Area Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA) held a public meeting December 17, 2013 to review its progress on the Drainage Management Plan for Volcano Heights, within the Upper Piedras Marcadas Watershed. Discussions included water quality and drainage management issues, alternatives for needed infrastructure, and alternatives for reimbursement of infrastructure construction.  Wilson & Co is the engineering consultant for the Drainage Plan for Volcano Heights.

Please visit AMAFCA’s project webpage or contact Karen Stearns505-884-2215, for more information.

ACCESS MODIFICATION: The Transportation Coordinating Committee (TCC) approved the City’s request for new intersections on the limited-access Paseo del Norte and Unser Boulevard within Volcano Mesa to support the Volcano Heights and Volcano Cliffs Sector Development Plans.

For information about the Access Modification Process, please click on the link.

WATER/WASTEWATER: The Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) is reviewing a 2012 draft Northwest Service Area Integrated Infrastructure Plan for an area that includes Volcano Heights, which identifies the size of water transmission trunk lines, storage capacity, water treatment, and fire storage necessary to support development. The Planning Department requested a Serviceability Statement for Volcano Heights, available at the link below. For more information, or to review the draft water infrastructure plan, please contact Allan Porter505-924-3989, or Jeremy Hoover505-924-3988.

To watch the Council video, click this link.

Public Involvement

Your input and support of this Plan throughout the adoption process was vital to ensuring that this area develops in a way that respects the existing development that surrounds it, the rock outcroppings throughout the Plan area, and the Petroglyph National Monument to the east, while providing an opportunity for area jobs, retail, and services that can help traffic congestion on river crossings over time.

The following summary documents are available to provide an overview of significant issues that arose during the process, and more information about the public process is available at the link below.

For information about past meetings throughout the Public Process of the Volcano Heights Sector Development Plan, please click on the link.


As part of a larger strategy to address the imbalance of jobs and housing on the City’s East and West Sides, the Volcano Heights Sector Development Plan (SDP) provides opportunities for employment, regional retail, and higher-density housing options surrounding two of the most vital regional arterials on the West Side.

The Plan is intended to guide long-term development and stimulate job growth on the West Side by offering alternative zoning to the existing straight residential zoning. The Plan includes incentives to attract employment and urban development and regulations to provide predictability of high-quality development across property lines, along corridors, and over time. A streamlined approval process for development projects is proposed to provide predictability and flexibility to meet market needs quickly. Strong design regulations are needed to ensure high-quality development for potential employers, existing and future residents, and surrounding property owners. As property owners are well aware, infrastructure is the key to success as well as the biggest challenge.

The Plan is intended to:

  • Foster a predictable, high-quality, urban, walkable environment that can support multiple modes of transportation, including transit, over time.
  • Articulate, promote, and safeguard community and stakeholder desires for the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and type of streets and blocks.
  • Enable an enforceable, streamlined development process.
  • Result in feasible development in the current and predicted future markets.
  • Be enforceable and implementable.
  • Provide appropriate and effective transitions, buffers, and other measures to protect existing neighborhoods and sensitive lands from the more negative impacts of urban development.

The planning themes expressed in the Plan include:

  • Providing flexibility to respond to market conditions through mixed uses allowed in all proposed zones;
  • Providing predictability for property owners, developers, and nearby residents through detailed design standards to help ensure quality development across property lines, along corridors, and over time;
  • Creating opportunities for employment and local and regional retail and services on the City’s West Side as part of a strategy to reduce traffic congestion on river crossings over time;
  • Coordinating land use and transportation closely in order to create an urban built environment that supports existing and future residents and new businesses and works well for all modes of transportation, including autos, pedestrians, cyclists, and transit; and
  • Balancing the density and intensity of land uses needed for a walkable, urban employment center with responsible protections for the unique landscape and sensitive lands next to the Petroglyph National Monument east of the Plan area as well as existing single-family neighborhoods north and south of the Plan area.


Volcano Heights is one of three sector development plans within the area referred to as Volcano Mesa. Each plan contains goals, policies, and regulations that address land use, transportation, and environment/open space.

  • The Volcano Heights Sector Development Plan surrounds the intersection of Paseo del Norte and Unser Boulevard, between Universe Boulevard on the west and the Petroglyph National Monument on the east.
  • The Volcano Cliffs Sector Development Plan (originally adopted in May 2011) is south of Volcano Heights and Volcano Trails, bordered by the Petroglyph National Monument to the east and Major Public Open Space owned by the City of Albuquerque to the west.

Volcano Heights is approximately 570 acres surrounding the intersection of Paseo del Norte and Unser Boulevard, bounded on the east by the Petroglyph National Monument.  The existing pattern of predominantly housing on the West Side served by few arterial roads contributes to traffic congestion in peak commuting hours, particularly on the region’s limited river crossings, which is expected to result in up to 90-minute commutes to employment centers east of the river by 2035. In order to help provide more balance of jobs and housing on the West Side, the Plan provides opportunities for employment, regional retail, and higher-density housing options surrounding Paseo del Norte and Unser Boulevard.  The Plan also proposes a mandatory street grid that would help disperse regional traffic and serve local development, including a transit boulevard that could accommodate high-capacity transit in the future. While this Plan is not a solution in itself, this planning effort represents a new level of commitment to coordinating land-use with local and regional transportation for all modes of travel, including pedestrian, bicycle, and transit.

In addition to traffic congestion, the Plan also attempts to address the challenge of coordinating future development despite a checkerboard ownership pattern.  As the City believes this area may develop in pieces over the next 25 years, the Plan contains details at the level of a master development plan.  To ensure predictability across property lines, along corridors, and over time, the Plan calls for mandatory streets that must be provided to ensure access for all properties; provides options for non-mandatory roads to serve local development; and requires detailed standards for cross sections, building placement, and architectural design.

Finally, the Plan attempts to balance the kind of density needed to support transit, walking, and cycling as well as a major employment and retail center with protections for rock outcroppings and sensitive lands needed to honor and respect the unique landscape and cultural history of this area.  In addition to requirements for open space, the Plan includes an innovative, optional bonus height system that allows additional building height in certain zones in exchange for benefits to both the natural and built environments.

2013 Adopted Plan

The Volcano Heights SDP (Bill Number R-13-132) was adopted with unanimous support from the City Council on August 5, 2013 and signed by the Mayor on August 28, 2013. To watch the Council video, click this link.