Category Archives: Transportation

Council approves loan for Ridpath Affordable Housing & Central City Line Application: 4.17.17 and 4.24.17 Meetings Recap

Council had a fairly short legislative agenda on Monday, April 17th. We did vote to approve the Spokane Human Rights Commission’s 2017 Work Program on a 7-0 vote. Congrats to the members of that group for their detailed plan and for the strong participation of its members. Some of the areas they are addressing in 2017: human trafficking, educating regarding LGBTQ rights, housing policies.

On Monday, April 24th, Council addressed several exciting proposals and voted to approve them. First, Council considered a resolution in support of an application for Federal Transit Administration Small Starts Funding for the Central City Line project.

After several years of work preparing the application and many community conversations, STA is finally ready to send in a full application for the bus rapid transit project to the Federal government to be rated against other projects across the country. Council voted 5-1 (Beggs absent, Fagan opposed) in support of sending in the $50M+ application to match state and local operating dollars. I’ve been the chair of the Central City Line Steering Committee over the past 18 months and I can tell you that STA and its contractors have done a great job making the case for funding for this project, which will run from Spokane Community College, through the U District and Downtown to Browne’s Addition and will feature all-day, frequent service with comfortable stations and quiet electric buses.

Council also voted to approve a loan for the development of affordable housing in the old Ridpath Hotel. After 8 years of closure and at least 5 years of blight and ownership problems with this building, there is a proposal by Ron Wells, a local housing developer to develop 179 units of affordable housing with a mixture of financing, including private loans, state affordable housing loans and tax credits. The city’s financial investment would be a long-term, low-interest loan of $1.75M in federal housing dollars that were used to fund redevelopment of affordable units and were paid back to the City over the past 25 years (some of those were paid back by Mr. Wells for previous housing efforts). These are Federal dollars designated for affordable housing redevelopment and cannot be used for other city services.

Council spent many weeks reviewing the information regarding this loan and having conversations with staff and community members. I received comments from constituents in favor of providing the loan because of a desire to have more affordable housing options in the price range that will be offered at the Ridpath (for example: 1 bdrm max rent of $705 including internet and utilities). Also, the Ridpath has been a blight on an entire Downtown City block, which has prevented adjoining properties from being redeveloped. Positive activity and long-term residents would bring a new energy to this corner of Downtown. I also received comments from constituents who were concerned about making the loan for a variety of reasons. There was fear that the loan would not be paid back to the City if the project went under. Also, if the money wouldn’t be better spent in other parts of the City.

In the end, I voted to approve the loan (5-1, Fagan opposed, Beggs absent). I was convinced that this was the best chance the City has had to redevelop the building and ensure 20+ years of affordable housing for working people, students and single young professionals in Downtown. It is truly a historic building and and opportunity property. I believe directing the Federal dollars that were paid back to the City towards this project is an appropriate and strategic approach to growing additional investment and increasing safety and housing for a key demographic in Downtown Spokane.

Council weighs in on labor negotiations with Police and approves two moratoriums: 4.10.17 Council meeting recap

After a spring break, Council was back in session on April 10th to address several items, some of which were emergency moratoriums.

First, Council voted 6-1 (Fagan opposed) to establish a “decision matrix” for City staff to use during the scoping phase of construction projects specifically for Centers and Corridors and Targeted Investment areas. The matrix will help capital programs staff weigh the input of neighborhoods, businesses, adjoining neighbors and City Planning documents when they are doing initial design of a project in key areas of our City slated for growth. These areas are denser with a mixture of businesses and residents, making the construction projects more complicated and requires more input prior to applying for grants. The need for this has been driven by the concerns over the Monroe St project, which was driven by neighborhood planning, but did not receive specific feedback on design prior to going out for funding. I’m confident this matrix will be a valuable tool for future capital planning and allow all voices to be heard earlier in the process.

Council also enacted a new policy that addresses how asset forfeiture dollars can be spent by the Police Dept., voting 5-2 (Fagan and Stratton against) to requiring approval by the Council for how the dollars are spent. I voted in support of this ordinance, brought forward by CM Beggs, because I believe in transparency and in the Council being able to consider all sources of revenue when establishing our annual budget and strategic priorities.

Council unanimously adopted a letter to Mayor Condon outlining the City Council’s goals and objectives for the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations with the Police Guild. CM Kinnear worked hard to collect the priorities of all the Councilmembers and come up with a list of items, including improvements to police oversight and changes to overtime, that Council could all agree to. The negotiations have been stalled and Council hopes this letter clearly identifies our priorities so the Mayor can begin negotiations in good faith with the Guild.

Finally, there were two emergency moratoriums unanimously adopted by Council. These are items not normally noticed prior to the meeting because they address current planning and permitting and require a public hearing within 60 days. First, CM Kinnear brought forward a moratorium on demolition permits in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood in order to allow the Neighborhood Council and City to complete a historic overlay plan that supports infill growth, yet addresses the need to preserve the historic character of this beautiful neighborhood.

I brought forward a moratorium on issuing permits for off-premise signs (i.e. billboards) in the Center and Corridor zone of Historic Market St. in Hillyard. Normally, there are no new permits for off-premise signs allowed in Spokane in order to retain the character of neighborhoods and reduce sign clutter. However, there is an interesting clause in our sign code that allows billboards that are taken down due to a public works project to be relocated on the similar corridor. I recently became aware of this because of the North South Corridor development. Signs that used to be on Market St near the railroad tracks are potentially moving to the historic Market St. corridor — right on top of historic buildings. Two permits are already in the works. My concern is that this is not consistent with the pedestrian-oriented nature of this beautiful street and this moratorium allows City Planning to review this part of our code with the community. In the meantime, these billboards could still be relocated to the General Commercial areas of Market St north and south of the historic center.

Public Hearings on these two moratoriums will be held on Monday, May 22nd at our 6pm legislative session.

Council votes to confirm Mike Ormsby as City Attorney; Adopts Budget Priorities: 5.16.17 and 5.22.17 Council meetings recap

On Monday, May 15th, Council considered the appointment of Mike Ormsby, our previous U.S. Attorney for Eastern WA, as our new City Attorney. Unfortunately, I caught a very nasty bug and was home sick. I did manage to call in for about an hour of the City Council meeting and did vote to confirm Mr. Ormsby (4-3 – Fagan, Mumm and Beggs opposed). We heard testimony from a variety of perspectives, pro and con. Mr. Ormsby is born and raised here in Spokane, was the youngest person ever elected to the Spokane School Board, and has had a long, successful career in private practice and as the U.S. Attorney. Some concerns were shared about his role as an attorney in the River Park Square loan arrangement with the City. Also, an attorney who sued his office related to discrimination. Others who have worked with him praised his leadership and mentorship.

I spoke with Mr. Ormsby previous to the vote about these concerns and he addressed them thoroughly with me. I am confident he can lead our office of attorneys very effectively and ensure Council and Mayor communicate frequently about potential litigation so we can avoid conflicts. I welcome Mr. Ormsby to City Hall!

On May 22nd, Council adopted its 2018 Budget Priorities (6-1, Fagan opposed), which can be found here. I worked hard with the Councilmembers over the past two months to sponsor a prioritized list of priorities to kick off conversations with the Mayor. This has been an effective tool the past two years in finding alignment and making the budget process fairly smooth for citizens, Council and staff.

This year, we prioritized investments that align with the City’s draft strategic plan, which focuses on three areas: Safe, Healthy and Compassionate City, developing our Urban Advantage, and creating Sustainable Public Infrastructure. Highlights include hiring additional police personnel; ensuring 24/7 homeless shelter funding with community partners; developing revitalization plans to spur private development in key business centers and corridors; and increasing funds for improved snow removal and street repair.

Our water system plan calls for us to do an annual review of applications for water service outside our retail water service area. We had eight applications for service. After holding a public hearing and hearing from property owners and staff, we approved two based on our water system and Comp Plan policies.

Finally, we held public hearings on two moratoriums that were put into place in March 2017: one on demolition permits in Browne’s Addition and one on relocating billboards to Centers and Corridor/Historic Zones. Both these moratoriums were approved by Council (6-0, Mumm absent) and will be in place for 6 month while the community and staff can study the code and bring forth changes as needed.

East Sprague BID and St. Paddy’s Day Merriment: Feb. 27th and March 6th City Council Recap

City Council held a fairly short meeting on Monday, February 27th. We had a long list of administrative items to approve at our 3:30pm session due to the President’s Day holiday the previous week. At our 6pm Legislative session we approved a few minor items, including the appointment of Crystal Marchand as the City’s new Budget Director. Crystal has worked hard to integrate the city’s capital and operational budgets over the past year and I look forward to working with her in this new role.

The other legislative item of note was approving the new role assessment for the East Sprague Business Improvement District (BID). The businesses last year voted to tax themselves a small amount to be used for promotions of the District (the area centered around Napa and East Sprague), clean up, safety and security. I am very impressed by how well the East Sprague Business Association (ESBA) is starting to manage the dollars and invest in the District, which will soon be undergoing a complete street rehabilitation in April of this year.

On March 6th, I was pleased to chair the City Council meeting while Council President Stuckart was on a vacation out of the country. We welcomed our Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the Haran Irish Dancers to kick off St. Paddy’s week (month?) in Spokane. Our legislative agenda was very lite. One item of note was (re)creating the position of Bridge Inspector at the City. Former Streets Director, Mark Serbousek, will be filling this role and I look forward to working with him in this new capacity. Mark served previously as the Bridge inspector and brings a lot of experience to the table as we look to replace and redeck many bridges over the next 5 years.