Welcome to CIVICS, where we break down what’s coming up this week in municipal meetings throughout the Inland Northwest, so you can get involved and speak out about the issues you care about.
Once again we have a busy week ahead of us, but some of the biggest items that stand out to us are:
- An epic duel over how Spokane will criminalize being in a park after hours.
- At long last the the Office of Civil Rights, Equity and Inclusion gets a permanent director
- Three potential alternatives to residential zoning and pedestrian planning in the South Logan Neighborhood transit-oriented development zone.
- A possible new motto for Spokane
This week, these groups are meeting:
- Urban Experience Committee
- Spokane City Council
- Spokane Board of County Commissioners
- Mead School District Board of Directors
- Central Valley School District Board of Directors
- Spokane Plan Commission
- Housing Action Subcommittee
- Spokane Transit Authority Board of Directors
- Spokane County Planning Commission
Urban Experience Committee
The Urban Experience Committee will be considering a resolution to ensure that the Spokane Public Library and the community organizations it partners with don’t have to pay for traffic control costs when they have to close down Spokane Falls Boulevard from Lincoln Street to North Monroe Street for events during the summer months. The plaza there was developed by the city with the understanding that the library would host events there to activate the space, but traffic control costs can be prohibitive, according to the resolution.
Possible change to sales taxes for housing
The committee will be considering a change to the city code that imposed the one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) sales tax to support housing and housing related services. There’s no other details in this agenda packet on what the changes to the code would be, but it notes that the changes are based on the “rapidly changing developments in affordable housing.” The agenda packet also notes that this change would expedite the construction of affordable housing.
If this ordinance gets two council sponsors at the committee meeting, it will have a first reading at the council meeting on June 26 and then be voted on July 10.
Spokane’s new motto
The committee will be considering adopting “In Spokane, We All Belong” as the official city motto for Spokane. City Council President Breean Beggs is proposing it and it’s meant to symbolize “the goal of peoples of all backgrounds, races, gender identities, and physical and mental abilities feeling welcomed and vital to the City of Spokane.” In the design, the motto has been translated into nine languages.
You may be thinking: isn’t “Near nature, near perfect” or “Creative by nature” our motto? You, like us, would be wrong. Both of those were created for tourism purposes on behalf of Visit Spokane. Neither is the city’s official-official motto. “In Spokane, We All Belong” would be codified as the city’s slogan in the municipal code.
It’s a lovely motto, but we’re not sure if anything will ever be used more often than “Spokane doesn’t suck.”
School health centers
They will also be considering a formal agreement with the Spokane School District that would ultimately create school health centers at Shadle Park High School and North Central High School. The city would support the creation of the centers with up to a total of $300,000 for the capital costs of turning a classroom at each school into a health center. The district estimates that converting the spaces to have patient exam rooms (preferably two), a greeting reception area, provider workspaces and access to water will cost between $200,000 to $250,000 at each school.
According to the agreement, the school district would match the funding and would be responsible for developing, implementing and paying for all medical service providers at the sites.
Spokane City Council
More money for Trent Shelter — again
After granting the CHHS department an additional $3.9 million for the Trent Resource and Assistance Center (TRAC) in May because its operating costs went over what the city council budgeted, the department is back with a change to that budget ordinance — an additional $800,000. This totals $4.7 million of additional operating expenses for TRAC.
According to the Inlander, TRAC’s operating costs are more than $13 million per year. The funding will still come from the Real Estate Excise Tax Fund, which had about $4.2 million in its balance as of a month ago, and is technically supposed to pay for capital facilities, like infrastructure, not operating costs.
Dueling ordinances: park trespassing law
We have TWO emergency ordinances on the agenda regarding being in city parks after hours.
In the first, three council members are looking to pass the harsher park trespassing ordinance — which makes it a misdemeanor criminal trespass to be in a city park after hours (10 p.m. for every park except Riverfront, which closes at midnight). Council Members Karen Stratton, Michael Cathcart and Jonathan Bingle are sponsoring this ordinance, while Council President Breean Beggs has a gentler version of the ordinance where someone would only get a misdemeanor for criminal trespass if they’re in a park after hours and then disobey an order to leave a city park by police or park personnel.
Right now, being in a park after hours is only punishable by a non-traffic civil infraction. In the Stratton/Cathcart/Bingle ordinance, they argue that police officers don’t have enough power to get people to leave parks when they’re causing trouble, which has led to shootings and fights. This version of the ordinance has the support of the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane Parks Board, but the city’s Equity Subcommittee basically advises against the harsher version of the ordinance and supports the gentler Beggs version. The May 22 letter from the subcommittee states, “We do not recommend criminalizing as a first response.” They also provide recommendations for the rollout of any ordinance, like having a comprehensive communications plan.
Beggs’ version of the ordinance also repeals the recently enacted ordinance for public drug use, which was the local fix to the Blake issue. That ordinance is no longer needed with recent state legislation.
If either ordinance gets five affirmative votes, then it will be put into effect immediately.
Bye-bye local Blake fix
Speaking of the Blake fix, if Beggs’ version of the park ordinance doesn’t go through, Council Members Lori Kinnear and Betty Wilkerson are proposing an ordinance that would repeal the recently enacted drug possession law that the council passed in anticipation that the state legislature didn’t pass new statewide laws by July 1. Now that the legislature has adopted laws regarding public illegal drug use and possession, the city law is no longer needed. This new ordinance would go into effect August 15, the same day the state law takes effect.
A new Director of the Office of Civil Rights, Equity and Inclusion
The City Council on Monday will consider the mayoral appointment of Jerrall Haynes as the Director of the Office of Civil Rights, Equity and Inclusion. This appointment is a big step forward for Spokane, as the office was established in January 2022, but didn’t yet have a director, though Haynes has spent more than a year developing the office as the city’s civil rights coordinator. According to the city ordinance establishing it, the office is responsible for addressing citizen and employee civil rights concerns and issues of equity and inclusion through advocacy, education and policy reform.
Haynes is a former Spokane school board president and has also been a community court coordinator.
Emergency ordinance bonanza: municipal drug court law, police chief investigation, and opioid abatement council
The City Council will consider an emergency ordinance that would make municipal courts better align with the newly passed state legislation regarding public drug use and drug possession. We wrote about it last week here.
Another emergency ordinance would give the Office of the Police Ombudsman (OPO) the authority to investigate the Spokane police chief. We also wrote about it last week.
In the final emergency ordinance, the council will vote on whether to create a Spokane Opioid Abatement Council, which is needed to access tens of millions of dollars from an opioid settlement. Read more about the formation of the council from The Spokesman’s Emry Dinman here.
West Central affordable housing
The city council will consider a resolution that would allow Habitat for Humanity to use up to $500,000 of tax increment financing (TIF) funding to acquire homes for permanently affordable housing in West Central.
The first reading of ordinances that would more tightly regulate and establish fees on short-term rentals will happen Monday night. These ordinances will establish a limit on the percentage of units that can be used for short-term rentals in multi-family properties, and create licensing requirements for the rentals, among other changes.
Read Carl’s deep-dive into Spokane’s short-term rental regulations here.
Missing middle housing extension
The city council is set to pass an extension on the interim zoning ordinance called Building Opportunity and Choices for All that allowed the construction of duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes on lots previously zoned for single-family housing. The extension will allow the interim ordinance to remain in effect until December 18, 2023, when the city is expected to have a permanent ordinance ready.
Mead School District Board of Directors
Athletic participation fees
The Mead school board will consider a $5 increase in athletic participation fees: $35 for middle school and $45 for high school. These are one-time fees charged each year for participating students no matter how many activities they do. Students eligible for free or reduced lunch have their fees waived.
Spokane Board of County Commissioners
Shoreline master plan
The county commissioners will be voting on final approval of updates to the Shoreline Master Program (it’s unclear from the agenda what those updates might be). State law requires that the plan get updated every 8 years. After briefing this issue last week, this will be the final vote on the county code that dictates things like where you can build a dock and how you can discharge wastewater into local water bodies.
Odds and ends
This week the county is also buying 0.29 acres adjacent to the Greenacres landfill so that the county can get municipal water to the facilities there. The county is also considering awarding a bid for sprinkler work at four county parks to an irrigation company from Beaverton, Oregon, which came in with the lowest bid. Additionally, the county is set to approve road construction funds on Girard Ln. just west of Argonne on the north side of the river.
Tuesday, June 13 at 2 p.m.
Public Works Building
1116 W Broadway, Spokane, WA
Commissioner’s Conference Room, First Floor
Spokane County Planning Commission
Usually this newsletter requires reading (and sometimes skimming) through hundreds of pages of documents to pull out important issues. But, for this meeting it’s just as simple and instructive to copy and paste the plan for this workshop, which will look at state Commerce Department recommendations to get more housing built and pass codes that incentivize denser residential development:
Housing Element Discussion:
- Increased Spokane County residential density & flexibility
- Maintaining and creating neighborhood character
- Creating and support neighborhoods and mixed-use areas
- Support for accessory dwelling units (ADUs)
- Role of Planned Unit Developments and form-based codes
Spokane Plan Commission
Transit development for South Logan
The Plan Commission will be holding a workshop on the Transit-Oriented Development project for the South Logan neighborhood near the Spokane river and Gonzaga campus. The project would allow denser housing and set development standards around the new City Line as it winds through the neighborhood. This workshop will focus on taking community feedback the city has been gathering and coming up with a preferred alternative plan. Some of these alternatives include increasing or decreasing zoning heights at specific locations, making walking-oriented nodes and adding traffic signals. In general, the alternatives increase housing density over the original plan and build in greater pedestrian access across Hamilton and through the neighborhood.
See all the considerations starting on page 7 here.
New street name
The Spokane School District is asking the city to rename a section of west Dean Avenue between Howard Street and Washington Street to “Joe Albi Way” near the new stadium they are building in downtown Spokane, to honor the old stadium’s namesake.
Wednesday, June 14 at 2 p.m.
Public Works Building
1026 W Broadway, Spokane, WA
Commissioner’s Hearing Room, Lower Level
Central Valley School District Board of Directors
Housing Action Subcommittee
Agenda here (once posted)
Thursday, June 15 at 9:30 a.m.
City Council Briefing Center, Spokane City Hall – Basement
808 W Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane, WA 99201
The meeting is also virtual on Microsoft Teams here.