Category Archives: Neighborhood News

Supporting new housing and commercial development: 8.14.17 and 8.21.17 Council Meetings Recap

Can it be August 22nd already? This summer has really been flying by. And the Council has been getting some very important work done to support targeted multi-family housing and neighborhood commercial activity in our City.

Last night at our August 21st Council Meeting, Council had three different ordinances to consider related to land use and development. First, we voted 7-0 in favor of updating our Multi-family Tax Exemption (MFTE) areas and making changes to the rules for receiving the 12 year exemption for including some affordable housing (now, you can receive the higher incentive for providing housing to people at 115% of the Area Medium Income). Council added the Division Street and Market St. corridors. This program has worked well in creating market-rate housing in areas where the City supports greater density. I am hopeful it will also now incorporate more affordable housing in these areas through this updated incentive program.

Second, Council voted 7-0 to adopt a threshold docketing process for deciding when comprehensive plan amendment proposals will be added to the City’s annual comp plan amendment work program or periodic update. This is a convoluted way of saying the City will now have an “early review” of proposals to amend our Comp Plan instead of putting every proposal through the year-long process, which is sometimes not the appropriate use of time on the part of developers or the City. Many other cities in WA State that plan under the Growth Management Act have iterations of an early review. I want to thank CM Candace Mumm for her work in bringing this forward for consideration and I look forward to testing out this new process this Fall!

Finally, Council voted 7-0 in favor of allowing existing neighborhood commercial structures to be used for specific commercial purposes even if they are located in a residential zone. Click here for more details and a map of the 90 or so properties that are covered under this ordinance. Years ago, these structures, many of which were corner grocery stores or small operations within residential areas were “downzoned.” Some remain in commercial use today, but many were vacated and then became empty buildings or were turned into residences, sometimes unsuccessfully. CP Stuckart has been working hard with small developers and property owners to allow these buildings to be used again (think Rockwood Bakery or Batch Bakery as examples of neighborhood retail in a residential area). After a lot of study and input from citizens, I think the Council has come to a good decision on this matter, including requiring more public input and a hearing examiner decision for buildings on residential streets that fit this criteria to ensure compatability with the neighborhood. I look forward to seeing how these buildings become reused and activated in our neighborhoods.

On a minor note, I have been working with Council and Administration on a joint Strategic Plan for the City. Out of this process, we have decided to update our Council Committee structure to be more aligned with the Strategic Plan. We voted 7-0 to create 4 new committees with new chairs and vice chairs that will lead discussions in the 4 strategic areas. We will kick off the new committee structure in October.

Monday, August 14th we held a fairly short Council meeting, but had a lot of folks show up for open forum on a variety of topics, including concerns about homelessness as well as issues with cleanliness and safety under I-90. Blessings Under the Bridge and the City continue to discuss options for their food and clothing distribution and where these activities might be most appropriate for the community. I’m happy to report that after last week’s meeting, the City, Lewis and Clark HS principal and board members and executive leadership of Blessings Under the Bridge have met and progress is being made on ways to assist those in need and keep the area clean and safe under I-90. More to come soon!

Council did approve appointing pro and con committees and the preparation of fiscal impact statements concerning the two citizens initiatives that are on the ballot this November (6-0) and approved the authorization of a grant contract between the Spokane Airport and the U.S. Dept of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration for airport improvements and a Master Plan for Felts Field. I’m excited about the opportunity this Master Plan brings to future development in the Chief Garry Neighborhood around Felts Field!

New 3-year utility rate schedule adopted: 7.24.17 and 7.31.17 Council Meetings recap

On July 24th, I presided over the Council meeting in CP Stuckart’s absence. Council took action on a variety of issues, including adopting a new Uber/Lyft MOU on a 5-1 vote (Fagan against, Stuckart absent). For the past several years, Council has taken an approach of creating an MOU with these transportation network companies to come to agreement on how they operate in Spokane rather than developing regulations similar to taxis. There are several reasons for this, but mainly because the State Legislature should but has not yet adopted state-wide regulations. Council has heard a lot of frustration from taxi drivers in Spokane about Uber and Lyft not honoring the terms of the MOU. After three years of waiting for the State to enact law around TNCs, Councilmembers Fagan and Stratton have said they are willing to work on moving forward regulations by the end of this calendar year. Because of this, Mr. Fagan made a successful motion to have this MOU be effective only until Dec. 31, 2017.

The other topic of interest on our agenda was the decision by Council whether to place a citizens’ initiative on the ballot that would aim to regulate certain types of coal/oil shipments through Spokane. Our citizens’ initiative process is pretty clear — if an initiative has enough signatures (independently verified by the County auditor), then Council can either pass the initiative directly into law or place it on the ballot for the voters to decide. Council voted 5-1 (Fagan opposed, Stuckart absent) to place this initiative on the ballot, as it had received the necessary minimum number of voter signatures.

The focus of our July 31st Council meeting was a hearing on a three-year rate structure for water, sewer and garbage utility services. The proposal was to increase each of these rates by 2.9% for the next three years. As Chair of the Public Works Committee, I can verify that Council spent the last 3 months discussing these rates and suggesting changes to the Administration. It was a very collaborative process that resulted in several adjustments and changes. Council voted 7-0 to approve the rates. We continue to look for ways to ensure equity and affordability in our rates. Council will vote in several weeks to establish a Senior/Disabled credit for those who qualify under the County reduced tax program in order to ensure greater equity for those on a fixed income in our community.

Affirming climate change goals; Chief Garry Park Neighborhood Plan: 7.11.17 and 7.17.17 Council Recap

After Council took a brief break to celebrate the July 4th holiday, we were back on Monday, July 11th for a short legislative agenda. The highlight was the adoption on a 7-0 vote of the Chief Garry Park Neighborhood Action Plan. I want to congratulate Colleen Gardner, the stakeholder chair, and all the business and neighbor leaders who participated over 2 years to produce a a very readable, focused plan which very doable actions to improve the neighborhood. For example, creating a signed walking loop through the neighborhood, supporting growth in the Napa/Mission and Greene/Mission business areas. Well done! Now we have to get to work implementing!

Prior to the Council meeting, we heard a presentation from Parks staff, Board and consultants involved in the Design work for the Pavilion area of the Park. There are many concerns about how this area gets redeveloped as a gathering place and how to create covered events, yet retain views of the River. I look forward to seeing more designs come forward after Council and citizens provide more input!

Council held a July 17th City Council meeting to consider several legislative items, including adopting the City’s 2009 Sustainability Action Plan and goals by City Ordinance. Council voted 6-1 in favor (Fagan opposed).
I was very pleased to support this ordinance because it recommits the City to the Sustainability Action Plan and the goals that the City set back in 2009 to reduce carbon emissions. I believe strongly that we should continue to play a leadership role in the region and in the nation at the City of Spokane in reducing carbon emissions, using alternative energy sources, reducing our energy use (and reducing our costs to the citizens), as well as helping the alternative energy market grow in our area.

Being sustainable financially and environmentally makes sense for our City and ensures we are resilient in the face of climate change and other global and economic impacts to our region.

I look forward to using the framework and goals we adopted to work with our citizens, business and other governments and agencies to identify strategies we can all use in this community to reduce the impacts we our actions have on climate change. I am also committed to working at a State and National level to ensure our strategies support greater national and global efforts.

Council also took a monumental step forward by voting 7-0 to establish a West Plains Public Development Authority with both the County and the Airport. This is the first time in our County we have established a PDA with three partners and I am thrilled that, after 3+ years, we have come to an agreement to share revenue and reinvest it in this area (a large swatch of land next to and adjoining Airport property). The goal will be to establish a Board that will direct the investment of tax funds that are collected already back into the area mostly in infrastructure improvements so we can attract good-paying aerospace and manufacturing jobs to our area. A very exciting step for our community!

Spokane Updates its Comprehensive Plan; 6.19.17 and 6.26.17 Council Meetings Recap

How is it that I was the lucky Council President Pro Temp to preside over the longest Council meeting (so far) of the year? It was a marathon night on June 19th. We had a full agenda and a packed house to provide public input into our Six-Year Comp Street Program, adopting our 2017 Comprehensive Plan update (after 3 years of work by the community), and providing emergency dollars to fund our 24/7 homeless shelter, among other topics.

Each year by June 30th, the City is required by State law to adopt a six-year schedule of street construction/maintenance projects. Council voted to adopt the 2018-2023 Street Program on a 5-1 vote (Fagan no, Stuckart absent). I want to thank all the citizen volunteers and staff who work diligently to vet are street needs and ensure we are investing our dollars in high priority projects. You can view the street program and see which streets are planned for work here.

The main act for June 19th was to review a long list of proposed changes and updates to the Comprehensive Plan, which is our City’s guiding document for growth under the State’s Growth Management Act. This is the first time our community has updated our Plan since it was adopted back in 2001. For those of you watching our meeting, it might have seemed confusing due to the many changes and additions that were being considered by motion. The City is very committed to a transparent and open process for updating our Comp Plan and after 3 years of work to rewrite sections and add new sections, we wanted to ensure that all major changes to the draft document were handled in an open session and could be considered by the public before final adoption. Thus, after making a series of endless motions to accept or reject various language changes that had been brought forward by Councilmembers and the public, we voted unanimously to continue the hearing for another week to allow for a once and final review of these changes.

I was out of town on June 26th on a planned vacation, so I cannot speak firsthand about the details of the Council meeting. However, I do know that Council accepted motions to make some small adjustments (taking away language only) and adopted a final Comprehensive Plan Update. (I hear it was a much shorter night than June 19th!). You can find the full, new version of the City’s Comprehensive Plan here. Please take a moment to review it! It is a wonderful vision for our community that will help lead us forward for the next 5-7 years before we do our next update. Congratulations to Jo Anne Wright, Lisa Key and the entire Planning staff team, along with hundreds of community members who put in thousands of hours to update our city’s plan. We may not have gotten everything perfect, but I am confident we deliberated over the most important changes (including a new transportation chapter and new language related to public safety and criminal justice reform). We did vote to retain the “old” Transportation chapter 4 in order to ensure none of the goals would be forgotten as we use this document to make future policy and budget decisions to shape our City for the future.