City leaders have paved the path to build larger elementary and junior high school parking lots.
The Spokane City Council voted 4-3 Monday to allow school districts to build lots with up to 2 1/2 spaces for each classroom. Since 2006, parking lots for those schools had been capped at 1 1/2 per classroom. There were no limits before that.
The issue was hotly debated at City Hall after South Hill neighborhood leaders lobbied the council to force Spokane Public Schools to seek a conditional-use permit from the hearing examiner in order to build lots with more than 1 1/2 spaces per classroom.
In a building with 50 staff members, the 1 1/2 space maximum capped parking spaces to about 38, district officials said.
Supporters of a stricter standard argued that as Spokane Public Schools renovates or builds new schools in existing neighborhoods, bigger parking lots could take away fields used by schoolchildren or force the district to acquire and tear down adjacent homes.
But school district leaders argued that slowing down the approval process to require a hearing is unnecessary because most neighborhoods prefer lots that accommodate the staff and visitors. They argued that too much street parking can be dangerous for kids walking to school as drivers attempt to navigate congested roads.
Council members Nancy McLaughlin, Joe Shogan, Steve Corker and Bob Apple approved the standard.
Other council members argued that requiring a public hearing for larger lots was not a burden on the district and would help prevent one-size-fits-all plans for school parking lots.
The district is working on plans to rebuild or renovate four elementary schools that are part of the district’s $332 million building plan approved by voters in 2009.
At Jefferson Elementary, the district hopes to build a lot with 64 spaces, said Greg Brown, Spokane Public Schools’ capital projects director. That’s up from about 40 at Jefferson’s current adjacent paved lot.
At Finch Elementary, the district seeks to add 20 to 30 spaces to its lot, which currently has about 25 spaces, Brown said.
The district already won a variance to increase parking at Westview Elementary to 64 from about 30.
Brown said the district will work with neighbors on a plan for Hutton Elementary, which currently does not have a lot.