'We can do better': Spokane city council members support downtown lot improvement

SPOKANE, Wash. - An overgrown city-owned lot in downtown Spokane is at the center of safety concerns. 

Last week, Lutheran Community Services Northwest (LCS) shared those worries with City of Spokane leaders about people loitering behind overgrown shrubbery in an empty lot, on the corner of Browne and Sprague. LCS Northwest Director Erin Williams Hueter said staff and clients felt unsafe in the area. 

"When there is crime across the street, whether it is drinking or using drugs or stashing things in the shrubs, or sometimes sexual activity in the grass, it's not just distracting to people who are coming here. It feels unsafe and it feels scary," Williams Hueter said. 

Spokane City Council members Breean Beggs and Lori Kinnear agree. They noted this is especially problematic for the clients at LCS, who are going to the downtown office for a variety of crisis services and outreach. 

Both Beggs and Kinnear have said they support crime prevention through environmental design on the overgrown city property. That design could include things like adding more lights or changing the landscaping. 

Kinnear said similar changes at downtown businesses have already deterred some criminals. She hopes similar adjustments at the corner of Browne and Sprague will do the same. 

"There are solutions to these sorts of problems, these sorts of challenges, and reaching out to council members or the mayor's office is one way to address those challenges."

While recognizing the strides Spokane has made, Kinnear said "we need to do better."

"If you look at the property, there is shrubbery that is overgrown, garbage. It needs help," Kinnear said.

In a press release, Beggs said this project is part of the overall vision city leaders have for Spokane. 

"This would be one more step toward implementing our downtown plan of using crime prevention design of landscaping and buildings to create a safer Spokane," Beggs said. 

The resolution for the littered lot comes as a relief to community members, like Williams Hueter. 

"Our neighborhood is thriving and growing every day. I want people to know that they can be safe and that they can be comfortable coming to our offices for services," Hueter said. "So, I'm really, really grateful that when I reached out, I got such a positive and prompt response."

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