Supporting new strategies for infill housing: 11.21.16 Council Meeting Recap

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.

My comments at the Standing United Against Hate event on Nov. 22, 2016

I’m City Councilmember Amber Waldref, here on behalf of the Spokane City Council. Many thanks to Dean Lynch and the members of the Spokane County Human Rights Taskforce for inviting elected and public safety leaders to be here. I appreciate their leadership in organizing this effort to speak out against hate.

This last year has been tough. We watched a national presidential campaign become very divisive. We have heard awful things said from all sides about people who may look, act, or believe differently. And now we’ve had several incidents of hate and bigotry blatantly, boldly directed at children and families in our own neighborhoods.

What can we do? Here are three things we can all do.

First, we can support action now and plan for the future
I’m proud that, already, our community has come together in vigils at the grassroots level, community conversations, standing up against hate and addressing it head on. As community leaders, we can support these efforts and implement longer term strategies to promote respect & address bias before other hate crimes or discrimination can occur. And as elected officials we can look at adopting policies in our jurisdictions that prevent discrimination and support basic human rights.

Secondly, we can teach and model respect and acceptance to our children…and learn from them.

Children know and see all. I’ve experienced this fully with my 8 year old and 5 year old girls. My experience is that the basic instinct of a child is to be tolerant and open to all people… it’s my job as a mother to encourage their minds and hearts to stay open, compassionate and accepting of differences. Let’s not leave our children out of the community conversation. They can teach us a lot.

Finally, as leaders, we can look inside and address our own biases
It all begins with me – with what is inside my own heart and how willing I am to address my own biases. Do I take the time to listen and learn from other people’s experiences, especially people with whom I might initially disagree? How many times am I in the minority? I encourage other leaders to reflect with me on these and other questions so we can be more effective in supporting a culture of unity and acceptance.

Hate exists “because the ground in the area is receptive for it,” says Steven Johns Boehme, leader of the Michigan Ecumenical Forum. “If you drop the seeds of prejudice in soil that is not receptive, they won’t take root.”

We’ve got great soil here in Spokane County. I look forward to working with all local leaders and our community to using our soil to grow the seeds of compassion, acceptance and respect for all.

Neighborhood Traffic Calming & Downtown Parking: 10.24 and 10.31.16 Meetings Recap

City Council held two short meetings on October 24th and October 31st. On Monday, Oct 24th, Council approved 7-0 an allocation of Photo Red traffic infraction funds for traffic calming projects in neighborhoods. This allows the Council to enter into contract for building safety projects in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 in every Council District. Additional traffic safety projects will be finalized and put out to bid in 2017.

Council also approved 7-0 changes to the City’s agreement with the Downtown Spokane Partnership for the contract to manage our Downtown Business Improvement District.

On October 31st, I took the evening off to take my children trick or treating for Halloween. Council approved a resolution urging customer friendly enforcement of parking meter time limits in downtown Spokane. The resolution was sponsored by CM Beggs and CM Kinnear with the goal of encouraging good turnover of downtown parking so that all of us can have access to parking spots. The resolution doesn’t change any of the parking rates, but encourages access to more metered spaces and a plan to implement more customer-friendly policies like providing warnings first for overstaying the parking limits.

Police Chief Meidl Confirmed; Ballot issues supported: 10.10.16 & 10.17.16 Council Meetings Recap

It’s been a very busy, beautiful October — too many things to digest and not enough time to report. I look forward to sending out a e-newsletter next week with an overview of everything I’ve been working on — from changes to state foreclosure laws to housing policy to ensuring the best alignment and design of the North/South Corridor project through my District.

Here is an overview of actions at the October 10th Council Meeting:
Our first item was considering whether to confirm Craig Meidl as Police Chief. As you know, the selection of a new chief has been a long process that started back in Jan/February of this calendar year. A national search was conducted and community members and stakeholders were allowed to weigh in a various points with finalists chosen by a selection committee that had community members and Councilmembers participating. The Mayor surprised us all in August when he named Craig Meidl as chief even though he had not applied for the job and had not been vetted by the community. Council and community called for the process to be opened back up again. Mr. Meidl applied and was subsequently interviewed and compared against some of the same and other candidates with community input. I spent over six hours back in August and six hours in Sept. interviewing candidates with a group of other community leaders. The vast majority of the community leaders on all panels recommended Mr. Meidl above other candidates.

This has been a difficult process for me and for many in the community. I had constituents asking me to confirm Mr. Meidl and others asking me not to. Mr. Meidl has been a member of SPD for many year. He said and did some inappropriate things after the death of Otto Zehm and conviction of Karl Thompson. He has apologized to the Zehm family and me and the community. I can forgive him, but there are many citizens who cannot.

After a lot of consideration, I did vote to confirm Mr. Meidl for several reasons. First, he performed well in the interviews and has an excellent knowledge of how we need to continue our SPD moving toward 21st Century model policing. Second, the other candidates were not strong. There seems to be a lack of candidates nationwide for police chief positions (or at least those willing to come serve in Spokane). I am still very concerned about Mr. Meidl’s ability to implement internal cultural changes as someone who has been “inside” the agency for many years. I will be watching this process and ensuring the culture audit findings lead to change. Also, CM Beggs has suggested and is moving forward with a “truth and reconciliation” process that Mr. Meidl has agreed to participate in with the community to rebuild trust. Council voted 5-1-1 (Stratton no, Beggs abstaining) to confirm Meidl’s appointment.

Council expressed support for State Initiative 1464, regarding campaign contributions and having public funding of campaigns (6-1, Fagan no). Council also expressed support for State Initiative 735, which would express Washington State’s support for Constitutional Amendment regarding freedom of speech for people and that corporations are not people. This is regarding the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling several years ago (6-1, Fagan no).

Council supported a resolution in favor of Spokane Transit Authority Prop 1, which would increase transit by 25% over the next 11 years (6-1, Fagan no). For more info, please visit www.stamovingforward.com

Council’s October 17th Legislative agenda was very light. The highlight was approving the issuance of sale of bonds that were approved by voters for improving Spokane Parks and Pools in 2008. The Council approved on a 6-0 vote (CM Kinnear absent) refinancing these bonds at a lower interest rate, which will cost property owners less over the life of the bonds. A great deal for taxpayers!