I was honored to preside over the Monday, November 21st City Council meeting in the absence of CP Stuckart. He and CM Mumm were out of town on holiday travels.
The main topic on our agenda was consideration of a resolution recognizing a report of the Infill Development Steering Committee. Council approved this resolution on a 5-0 vote. Over the past six months, this committee met with hundreds of Spokane neighbors, architects, developers, and other stakeholders to gather input into how Spokane can better achieve its infill housing goals. “Infill housing” is a term used to describe building new single-family or multi-family housing within an existing urban framework — building on empty lots or redeveloping underutilized parcels. Trying to build on small lots or within existing neighborhoods has its challenges — matching up with historic architecture, mixing rental and home owner products, and higher and lower density products.
I think this is the third time since 2009, right before I started on Council, that the city has gathered input on how to update our codes to better support a variety of housing options. Quite frankly, right now it is difficult to find options other than larger multi-family buildings or single-family homes. Many people are looking for smaller homes on smaller lots than traditional lots. Many seniors are looking to downsize to townhomes or one level properties.
I’m very happy with the recommendations coming out of the Committee because they are action-oriented. Now, the time is for action to actually update our codes and processes to implement these recommendations in appropriate ways.
Council did hear some concerns last night from 5 Mile Prairie and Indian Trail Neighborhoods. Some neighbors there are concerned about infill and the negative impacts it can have if it is placed in the wrong areas or does not blend well into the rest of the neighborhood. These are valid concerns and our Comp Plan does encourage cottage housing and other types of smaller infill projects to be near Centers and Corridors and the urban center — closer to transit, goods and services. When we look at updating our cottage housing ordinance, we should take these concerns into consideration. Not every housing product fits in every neighborhood. There is not a one size fits all and I look forward to seeing us balance the feel of historic neighborhoods with the need to fill in new types of housing products that attract investment and activity in our City.
You can visit the City’s website for a full description of the Infill Housing Report and all the Committee meeting minutes.