Category Archives: Urban Planning

Council urges State Legislators to Pass Capital Budget; Accepts Main Ave. Visioning Study: 8.28.17 Meeting Recap

City Council continues to meet in our Briefing Center while our Council Chambers are undergoing renovations. I realize the sound quality is not great for those watching at home. Please be patient with us, as we will be back in Chambers soon (hopefully Sept. 25th)! And at our 6pm Sept. 25th Council meeting, our goal will be to devote our entire session to a town hall discussion on homelessness. The City has been investing in a diversity of efforts to provide 24/7 shelter access, build permanent housing, and to discourage outdoor camping in public access areas. I have received a lot of input on this challenging issue in our community and there are many ideas to share. I invite you to come down to express your desires and hopes for our community as it relates to housing and addressing homelessness.

On Monday, August 28th, Council voted 6-1 (Fagan opposed) in support of a resolution I co-sponsored by Councilmember Beggs and Mumm, requesting the State Legislators adopt a Capital Budget. This is the longest time in the history of the State that we have gone without a capital budget and from what I hear, there is not a lot of disagreement about many of the capital items that would benefit Spokane. I have been working with legislators on both sides of the aisle who have been very helpful in getting projects for Spokane on the list. What there is disagreement about is an unrelated policy issue — the effects of the Hirst court decision that impacts how jurisdictions can issue permits for exempt wells and access to water. While the impacts of Hirst are concerning and the State should create procedures by which property owners in limbo can apply for water rights, it makes no sense to hold up a vote on a capital budget.

Council heard testimony from many people representing numerous organizations who are anxiously awaiting a decision from the State to help fund many worthy projects that will provide access to quality health care, justice, education and public trails and parks. CHAS and Providence sent representatives to speak out for the dental clinics they are working to open in the next year in Spokane (including one at the City-owned East Central Community Center) to serve low-income adults who have no access to care. Also, the YWCA is awaiting funding for its Family Justice Center, which serves victims of domestic violence. EWU is awaiting $30M for a new science building. Public Schools in Spokane and across the state are looking for state bonding dollars to assist them in updating classrooms and increasing space to meet McCleary requirements. And the City is awaiting critical matching dollars for trail and park projects in Peaceful Valley and the Southgate neighborhood. These are just a few of the over $100M in funds that would be invested in long-term outcomes in Spokane. I sincerely hope the Legislators will listen to their constituents and come together for another special session to pass a capital budget as soon as possible.

Council also voted 7-0 to approve the Main Ave. Visioning Study as a component of future downtown Spokane planning efforts. This study can be found on the City’s website (just search for “Main Ave Study”) and was a joint effort between property owners, business owners and the City to identify ways to revitalize Main St. in the future.

Council voted 7-0 in support of establishing a new “Senior or Disabled Residential Customer Credit” for utility services that becomes effective Jan 1, 2018. This is to provide yet another way to manage rising utility rates for those on a fixed income in our community. Those who qualify for the County property tax deduction would also qualify for this $10/month credit toward the utility bill. You can contact 311 for more information.

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!

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.