Spokane City Council approves emergency interim zoning ordinance

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane City Council voted 6-0 on an emergency zoning ordinance concerning shelter space in heavy industrial zones.

This action follows a similar vote on April 18 that did not pass at the time. Councilmember Betsy Wilkerson brought forward the ordinance, who voted against the original ordinance.

“I brought back this zoning ordinance because the conversations regarding funding and sustainability of an emergency shelter have seemingly halted since the April 18 vote,” Wilkerson said. “The administration has promised for weeks to have a package of information to us that includes cost, lease agreements, and wrap-around services, which we Council Members have been waiting to receive. I want to clarify that the delay in getting this shelter set up is not zoning; we are awaiting the pertinent details to make a sound decision. Council Members and our constituents need to know the anticipated costs as other shelter contracts are up for renewal this June.”

The zoning ordinance will be in effect until November 7, unless extended at a later Council public hearing. It’s anticipated that while the ordinance is in effect, the city will evaluate whether to make measures within the ordinance permanent.

“The Administration has updated their criteria for the shelter contract, incorporating some of the best practices that Council request via resolution,” says Councilmember Zack Zappone, who was out of the office during the April 18 meeting. “I support the zoning change and look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Administration on a holistic approach to address homelessness.”

Councilmember Jonathan Bingle added, “If our goal as a council is to provide shelter to the homeless, this ordinance is a necessary first step. Drug dealers, sexual predators, and human traffickers often prey on those living on the streets. This will give many the option of having a safe place to sleep. With the newly added support of Councilmembers Wilkerson, Stratton, and Zappone, we could get this done.”

A public hearing will be held during Council’s regular Legislative Session at 6:00 p.m. on July 11, 2022. Currently, no lease agreement or provider is identified for the proposed Trent Site location.

Mayor Nadine Woodward issued a statement on the ordinance as well:

“Sidewalks, alleyway, and fields are not safe or humane places for people. This zoning change gives the City additional flexibility to offer people a safe place to sleep indoors and support individuals in the next steps in their journey. This community challenge requires community collaboration to achieve the best outcomes for everyone. The City is in the final stages of negotiating a lease on a new space with wrap-around services and receiving proposals from prospective operators of that shelter. Both are being done in partnership with a growing list of community members who are willing to be part of the solution. We appreciate the City Council’s action tonight and look forward to their continuing support as we put the health and safety of our community first.”

READ: City Council restarts search for homeless shelter operator due to ‘conflict of interest’