CIVICS | Spokane is finally signing contracts for Camp Hope projects and county commissioners are considering a regional homelessness authority pitch.
After a few pretty boring weeks in city hall, we’re happy to bring you a jam-packed set of agendas.
But first, we want to highlight a special earthquake response event at Feast World Kitchen on Monday. Last week, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 23,000 people. Two chefs at Feast have family and friends who were devastated by the earthquake and the proceeds from this fundraiser will go to providing support. Syrian wraps will be served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a Turkish kebab dinner will be served 4 to 8 p.m.
Urban Experience Committee
Feeling zippy: The Spokane Urban Experience Committee is usually pretty interesting and next Monday is no exception. In anticipation of the 50 year anniversary of Expo ‘74, the committee is considering an ordinance to move money around to expedite three projects on the riverfront: the renovation of the South Suspension Bridge in Riverfront Park, finishing the Great Gorge Loop Trail in Riverfront Park by adding a section of trail under the Monroe Street Bridge and fixing up the parking lot south of the Post Street Bridge. The total price tag for the projects is $4.7 million.
Also on the 50 anniversary docket is approving a zipline along the south bank of the river. Read more on the project from Emry Dinman at the Spokesman-Review here.
The committee also is getting a report on the performance of the My Spokane 3-1-1 system, which helps people navigate city services. According to the meeting documents, most people use the system to answer questions about utility bills and garbage pickup.
State money for Camp Hope, housing and homelessness data and equitable internet access: Months after the city complained that the state wasn’t moving fast enough to move Camp Hope, the city council is finally set to approve city contracts with the state and service providers for city-supported programs. The committee is discussing the approval of a $2.8 million contract with the Department of Commerce that will fund city proposed initiatives for housing people from Camp Hope. The money will provide $2 million towards the Trent Shelter, $656,625 to Housing Navigators for a rapid re-housing program and $150,000 to United Way for a diversion program.
The committee will also be getting an update from the Development Services Center (DSC) on new permits issued. This presentation should give insight into how Spokane’s introduction of new emergency zoning measures that promote housing density are actually affecting the city’s housing crisis.
In addition to new housing updates, the council is seeking better data and more frequent updates on homelessness to improve understanding and decision-making when it comes to funding priorities. A state auditor’s report last year, covered by RANGE here, found that the city lacks basic data necessary to assess the success of the homelessness programs it funds.
The committee is also set to approve $75,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to hire a consultant who will advocate for the city’s equity and economic development priorities to be included in the Spokane County Broadband Action Team plan which will be submitted to the state Broadband Office. Across the country, there’s been clear cases of racial disparities in access to high-speed internet. What’s unclear is how prevalent this issue is in the city of Spokane, where 90% of households have broadband internet according to census data. For about $25,000 a month between now and May, when the report is due, hopefully they’ll be able to figure that out.
Streetcar desires: In addition to a couple new place designations, the committee will be discussing an ordinance to establish the Cannon Streetcar Suburb Local Historic District. This new historic district, which we covered in a previous Civics newsletter, was approved 9-1 by the city Plan Commission.
Finally, the city will hear a resolution to fund $300,000 in for community outreach and plan developments in West Central. The main focus is on improved infrastructure in the area, including better crosswalks, bike and pedestrian paths, a new employment center and perhaps most interestingly infrastructure for a new streetcar route.
Spokane City Council
Parking lots or housing?: The city council is set to hear the first reading for the “Pavement to People Ordinance” that would establish a tax deferral program so developers will build affordable housing on underutilized land (like empty parking lots) in downtown. Spokane got the ability to create this program after Gov. Jay Inslee signed SB 5755 into law in March 2022.
A 2019 Downtown Parking Study done by the city found that 30% of the downtown area is parking and even during the busiest time of day, only about half of it is utilized.
The deferral amount is the full 9% sales and use tax and requires the applicant to rent or sell at least 50% of the units as affordable housing. The program would be set to sunset in five years. The official hearing will be at the final reading of the ordinance on February 27.
Collective bargaining: The city council is set to vote on an emergency ordinance that would disallow the use of tentative agreements without the council’s feedback in executive session.
The ordinance says that this change is being made because the city’s negotiating team in the past has committed to tentative agreements before getting feedback from the council, which can cause misunderstandings.
The ordinance also sets up specific rules for police contracts: it requires that the council and the Office of Police Ombudsman Commission host a joint public hearing to take public testimony on the city’s police accountability system at least 30 days before collective bargaining negotiations with the police unions.
Premera feasibility: The city council has a “special consideration” item on the agenda to approve a contract amendment with Integrus Architecture to study the feasibility of buying the Premera Blue Cross campus on East Sprague Avenue and using it for municipal courts and possibly city hall or additional offices. The contract for the study will cost $58,500 and be funded by ARPA money.
The city is under a 90-day contract to do due diligence on the property.
A resolution on the new study did not pass at last week’s city council meeting, though Councilmember Michael Cathcart said he would consider bringing it back this week.
One confusing bit: Even though the contract item needs to be considered with that resolution, the resolution is not on the agenda. It’s possible that it’s supposed to be there and just got missed, but we’re not entirely sure.
Either way, read about that resolution from the Spokesman here.
Reintroducing salmon: The city council will consider a resolution that would establish the Spokane Tribe of Indians as the Spokane River Watershed Salmon Lead Entity charged with developing and maintaining a habitat protection and restoration plan. This opens up possible grant funding from the state for any proposed habitat restoration projects the city and tribe submit.
Two-way street: A small portion of Ash Street next to Bryant/TEC School may be re-converted into a two-way street. The resolution from city council would allocate $180,000 of West Quadrant Tax Increment Financing funds to convert Ash Street to two-way traffic between Dean Avenue and Broadway Avenue and improve the crossings at Dean Avenue.
This part of Ash Street is a one-way street and leads to high speeds in the section right in front of the school and routes traffic to residential streets, according to the staff report.
The West Central Neighborhood Council approved the plan and it was recommended by the Neighborhood Project Advisory Committee.
Water bills: A proposed ordinance would charge customers the basic water service charge when water is available, even if the water is turned off temporarily (like for vacation homes or for repairs). This is happening because public works launched a new utility billing system in November that is designed to charge a basic water service charge. It equates to $18.76 for residential homes inside the city and would impact about 765 customers who will start being charged in March.
The city council is set to hold the first reading of this ordinance on Monday.
Oil and water: Here’s an incredibly comforting fact: Spokane’s largest drinking water source has the Yellowstone petroleum pipeline running right over it. OK, that wasn’t very comforting, but the city council is set to approve a contract with Portland company GSI Water Solutions, Inc to produce a study looking at what would happen if that pipeline had a catastrophic leak. Read more about it from Emry Dinman at the Spokesman here.
Remote surveillance pt 2: This item came up in the Urban Experience Committee a few weeks ago and is now in front of the city council for final approval. This Special Budget Ordinance would allocate $29,940 to the Spokane Police Department to rent a mobile security camera that can be stationed at different locations. Read more about it here.
Board of County Commissioners
Regional Homeless Authority discussion: The agenda is light on detail, but we wanted to bring attention to a 10:45 discussion between the county commissioners, Gavin Cooley and Rick Romero on a regional homelessness collaboration. Cooley, former city of Spokane chief financial officer, and Romero, city utilities director, have been leading an effort to establish a regional homelessness authority for the Spokane region. They expect to be giving regular updates to both the board of commissioners and city council as local governments consider this new regional approach to homelessness services.
What exactly is a regional homelessness authority you ask? Well, we broke down what that entity could look like in this article.
Monday, Feb. 13 at 9 a.m.
Public Works Building
1116 W Broadway, Spokane, WA
Commissioner’s Conference Room, First Floor
Business minded: In typical board of commissioners fashion, the agenda here is very business oriented. One thing of interest we found was that the county will be doing a restoration project on Minnie Creek near Fish Lake Regional Park in order to mitigate road construction on Bigelow Gulch. The excavator giveth and the excavator taketh. Another interesting budget item is a bus pass program for county employees. Other than that there’s some contract renewals and approvals, road sign and parking revisions, and several board appointments on the agenda.
Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 2 p.m.
Public Works Building
1026 W Broadway, Spokane, WA
Commissioner’s Hearing Room, Lower Level
Spokane School District Board of Directors
New digs: The school board is set to approve the purchase of a property directly behind Adams Elementary School field that “will allow for improved street access to the site and improved pick-up and drop-off during the school day.” The consent agenda item does not say how the district plans to do this. The property is a lot with a 449 square foot home at 3104 E. 36th Avenue and will cost $208,000 — the washer and dryer are not included though.
#Engagement and reports: The school board will get a presentation on how well the district is doing engaging families through its website, videos, newsletters and social media. Then they’ll get a report on the district’s Career and Technical Education program. Finally, they’ll consider adopting draft budget development priorities for the 2023-2024 school year.