Bringing the Southgate District Center Vision into Focus

The past two months we’ve had discussions at our neighborhood council meetings about continued struggles getting the city to enforce the Spokane Municipal Code and Developer’s Agreements in the design of the Southgate District Center. At issue right now is the 18 month battle to hold substantive discussions about the Right-of-Way (ROW) designs in the developing District Center.  In January we drafted a summary of 5 major issues related to the ROW designs in the District Center and delivered it to all the members of the City Council and the City Planning Director. Last night the Southgate Neighborhood Council passed a resolution outlining the issues and their proposed steps to resolve them.

Major issues related to the ROW design include required features like on-street parking (SMC 17H.010.120(A)), something Southgate has been pushing for and asking to be addressed since August 2012. Additionally there is the issue of designing the street character to align with the requirements of the Integrated Site Plan, Spokane Comprehensive Plan, and the Southgate Neighborhood Transportation and Connectivity Plan. These include complete street features pedestrian crossings, speed limits, medians, and other traffic calming features (lane widths, street trees, bike lanes, etc.). Many of these ideas are touted as Best Practices in the recently released Link Spokane brochure.

When completed, the Southgate District Center should end up resembling Perry Street or Garland Avenue. The zoning and stipulations of the Developer’s Agreements fundamentally change the character of what Regal Street and Palouse Highway should be. This area could be Kendall Yards South instead it’s heading toward looking like East Sprague or North Division. Please take a moment to read our issue summary and resolution and then contact our elected leaders (District 2 Councilmen Jon Snyder and Mike Allen, Council President Ben Stuckart, and Mayor David Condon) and remind them of their commitment to creating a pedestrian oriented, mixed-use District Center in Southgate.

Mayor Condon is trying to brand Spokane as the “City of Choice”, right now the Planning Department is choosing to only enforce portions of the municipal code and binding Developer’s Agreements. I sure hope that was not the kind of choice the mayor was talking about.

Contact your legislators to stop development vesting!

Southgate residents, we have an opportunity right now to close the vesting loophole in Washington state. This is the central issue to the new housing developments over on the east side of our neighborhood in Glenrose. The State House of Representatives is considering hearings on two bills, HB 2234 and HB 2245, that would amend the Growth Management Act to stop vesting when there is an appeal before the Hearings Board.
As you remember, Southgate was party to the lawsuit against the County Commissioners for illegally expanding the Urban Growth Area (UGA) and allowing higher density development to sprawl into formerly rural land. We won that appeal, but the loophole in the current law allows developers to “vest” projects under whatever rules are in place at the time of the application, even if the land use change that allowed the new zoning is being appealed.
Since the developers could “vest” when the County illegally expanded the Urban Growth Area, they are still allowed to build their subdivisions in Glenrose (and other areas around Spokane) even though the UGA expansion was overturned and the zoning has been returned to rural. Basically we end up with suburban growth in rural areas and we as taxpayers get to pay for the expanded infrastructure, maintenance, and emergency services to support the unneeded growth.
For more on vesting and the problem it poses read this detailed article from INVW.org.
I encourage our neighbors to write to Rep. Dean Takko (chair of the House Local Government Committee) as well as our local state representatives Timm Ormsby and Marcus Riccelli in support of hearing the two bills mentioned above so that we can close the loophole and stop the unneeded sprawl of future development around the edges of Spokane’s Urban Growth Area. Reps. Ormsby and Riccelli are sponsors of bill HB2245, bill HB 2234 is being sponsored by Rep. Jon Fitzgibbon. For good measure you can contact our district reps as well: Kevin Parker and Jeff Holy.
During the UGA appeal it was messages from Spokane citizens that persuaded Governor Inslee to allow the State Department of Commerce and Department of Transportation to join the appeal UGA expansion. We need that kind of support again to encourage the legislature close this development loophole permanently and have development move forward as it should under the state’s Growth Management Act.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Tiny Target Debuts in July

The New York Times reported yesterday that about the same time Southgate’s big box Target will open in July, Target Corporation will be opening their smallest store to date: a 20,000 square foot neighborhood size store called “Target Express” in Minneapolis. This news reinforces the slow demise of large format retail as companies like Target and WalMart test smaller scale stores that will fit in pedestrian scaled, walkable neighborhoods desired by more and more people nationwide. You’ll recall Target started this downsizing trend in their company a couple of years ago with the opening of a few City Targets in places like Seattle and Portland.

This trend is coming too late for the development of the Target in our neighborhood, but can hopefully be realized as the other two Southgate District Center properties are designed and built. People aren’t looking for big box retail centers anymore, they want walkable neighborhoods with right-size amenities nearby. People are choosing well-designed, walkable neighborhoods over suburban sprawl. The sooner Spokane realizes this, the quicker we can become the “City of Choice” envisioned by the mayor.

Link Spokane: Updating the City’s Transportation Plan

The City of Spokane is updating the transportation chapter of the city’s Comprehensive Plan in 2014. On Thursday they released a 12-page booklet with the Inlander that outlines the process, the philosophy that drives it and some draft goals for the final product.

There are some great ideas in the document, some of which are already being enacted. Projects like the Crestline water main and the upcoming High Drive redevelopment incorporate some of the vision the city is talking about (combining transportation and utility projects to stretch limited funds). The big question is how these concepts, some of which are already in the current Comprehensive Plan, can be enacted in current projects like the development of the Southgate District Center.

The booklet emphasizes the need to encourage multi-modal transportation options with the goal of creating “livable streets”. Features like dedicated bike lanes, roundabouts, and pedestrian connections are held up as “Best Practices” in transportation planning and design. These are all elements of the complete streets approach Southgate Neighborhood took in developing our Neighborhood Connectivity Plan. I encourage you to look at the city’s plan and see how it melds with our neighborhood’s.

The city is encouraging public input through a series of open houses starting early next month. The full list is on the back of the brochure or can find the information on the Spokane Planning Department website. I’ve also entered the events on our website calendar. Now is the time to put this on our radar and give our input to the city since this update will set the tone for transportation planning in our area for the next 20 years.

All Building Permits Granted for Target Site

Last month we found out that the city has granted permits for all the buildings on the Target site. We showed the plans at the Southgate Neighborhood Council Meeting last night, but I’ve uploaded them here so you can see them in detail. THey have not changed much from the first versions we saw during the Design Review process back in February an April last year. One new addition is the identity of the tenant of the largest business site in Pad D: PetSmart. As you can see their name is on the 12,000 square foot site and that was confirmed in conversations with city Planning Department staff.

Without further ado: Target Pad Plans