Latest from The Spokesman-Review
In today's paper, I wrote about the proposed demolition of two historic buildings on Spokane’s storied auto row, part of the conceptual master plan by the Larry H. Miller Group to build a large downtown campus for its auto dealerships.
The buildings to be razed are, without question, historic. The building on the southeast corner of Madison and West Third was built in 1937, and its neighbor at 1023 W. Third Ave, was constructed in 1913. Both meet the 50-year age eligibility requirement for the National Register of Historic Places. But as Megan Duvall, the city's historic preservation officer, said in today's story, the building's aren't really architecturally significant. In other words, they're kind of boring.
The decision to remove the buildings came after Duvall realized she could use a provision in the city’s demolition ordinance allowing for the razing of historic buildings as long as their destruction supported the rehabilitation of an adjacent historic structure.
It's that structure - the International Harvester Company Truck Showroom built in 1929 at 1030 W. Third Ave - that has historic significance as one of the few remaining and unique buildings left on the old automotive row. The row is technically called the West Downtown Transportation Corridor Historic District, and its period of significance stretched from 1890 to 1949.
The photo at the top of the post shows the Harvester building the year it was completed. Besides how intact the building remains to this day, what's most interesting to my eyes is the huge rock outcropping to the building's east. How'd they get rid of that mountain? Was the rest of downtown marked with similar rocky protuberances, much like how the South Hill remains?
The images below show how the Miller Lexus showroom changed as a result of its dealings with the city and Duvall. Representatives from the company called the compromise to rehabilitate the Harvester building in exchange for demolishing the other two buildings “workable,” but said the process leading to the compromise was “frustrating” because it forced the company to change its designs for a new Lexus showroom.
Instead of obscuring the Harvester building under the metal veneer of a new Lexus showroom, the company now will include the original building in its designs for the showroom. The metal siding has been replaced with limestone and brick in the designs for the new addition.
Let's keep rolling on the topic of rideshare services, which just arrived in these parts. See last's week's story here.
The issue is going to be tossed into the laps of local officials who need to study the issue and decide if regulation is needed, if only because there are some concerns about the services providing safe rides to people relying solely on a smartphone to find a driver.
We checked in with Spokane city officials, who last week said they're likely to review the possible options. We did not check with Spokane County or with the City of Spokane Valley, or Coeur d'Alene, which the two main services provide rides to.
There are numerous similar efforts across the country trying to establish rules and guidelines for rideshares. Here's a map produced by NBC Chicago that tries to track the different regulations occurring nationwide.
Spokane city officials will hold six public meetings this month on their plan to refinance bonds to raise money for street maintenance and the proposed Riverfront Park Master Plan.
The proposal involves refinancing three older bond issues, paying them off and raising an extra $25 million for streets and $60 million for the Riverfront Park plan. It would pay off the 1999 park bonds, the 2004 street bonds and the 2007 pool bonds, leaving the 91 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in place, but extending it for 20 years. The two older bonds are due to expire this year, although the 2007 pool bonds have another 16 years.
City officials liken the plan to a homeowner refinancing to take advantage of lower interest rates.
What are the biggest areas of the Spokane economy in terms of retail spending?
Let's take a look, compliments of the city's chief financial officer, Gavin Cooley. Today's news story, about how much area cities and counties rebounded in retail sales last year, noted that Washington has a big net called “taxable retail sales” and a smaller part of that group, which is called retail trade.
Retail trade covers products sold like cars, stereos, computers, furniture. Taxable retail covers services and those products purchased by construction crews or manufacturers, who also pay a sales tax on those items.
Inside the city, this is the breakdown:
Construction taxes accounted for 11 percent of the city's retail taxes last year.
Retail trade accounted for 45 percent. Services accounted for 29 percent. The remaining 15 percent is distributed among a number of small categories.
As a general rule in Washington state, the breakdown between taxable non-trade and trade retail is 55 to 45 percent.
Looking just at 2014's first two months, Spokane city retail shows the largest gain this year is in services, up 10 percent from Jan-Feb. 2013.
Retail trade is down 2 percent. Which makes me wonder if Spokane hosted some major spectator events or touring shows in January or February 2013.
The city of Spokane has begun construction of its $14 million combined Solid Waste Management & Fleet maintenance facility, known as the Nelson Service Center, at 915 N. Nelson.
The center will allow the city to convert solid waste trucks to compressed natural gas from diesel fuel, to save money and operate more efficiently.
Work on the two-story, 57,500-square-foot service center is expected to continue until summer or early fall of 2015.
It's on the south side of a 32-acre, city-owned parcel in the Chief Garry Park Neighborhood.
This is the city's first major use of a design-build project. Garco Construction and Bernardo Wills Architects LLC, both of Spokane, are the building’s contractor and designer.
That option was chosen to speed construction and maintain better control over costs.
CYCLING — I've just learned that the city of Spokane is eliminating its Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator position.
As of Dec. 21, Grant Wencel, who's held the postion for more than four years, will be terminated and the job will go dark.
Here is a reaction from Bradley Bleck, who's been closely involved with the recent advances in bicycling routes and status in city transportation planning:
As someone who has served on the (Bicycling Advisory Board) for nearly seven years as a volunteer and member, who worked to help bring a bike/ped coordinator to the city, I can only see it as a significant step in the wrong direction, one that will make both recreational and utilitarian cycling in the city much less a priority.
Developer Steven Schmautz is completing the renovation of the former Johnston Printing warehouse into commercial offices at 121 W. Pacific Ave. in Spokane.
The conversion will leave about 8,600 square feet of office space. Three tenants have signed leases: The Union, a yoga salon run by Tyler Lafferty and Nick Murto, principals at Seven 2 design firm; Copeland Architecture; and Helvetika, the new name for the former agency Anderson Mraz Design.
The three tenants are expected to move in sometime in December.
The building has one 2,100-square-foot office not yet leased, said Vic Overholser of SDS Realty Inc., the leasing agent.
Rendering courtesy of SDS Realty, of Spokane.
TRAILS — A packed house showed up last night at the new Jefferson Elementary School for the city-sponsored meeting to unveil new plans for the $6.8 million project that will repave and remodel High Drive while changing access to the South Hill bluff trails. The meeting provided a lot of answers to concerned neighbors and perhaps raised a few more questions.
One comment from the audience caught my attention as an illustration of how wide the views range on developing a public asset such as High Drive. The comment from the man, Dave, reminds us that private property owners often take very narrow views of public interest on city right-of-way.
To paraphrase Dave:
The city should focus funding earmarked for sidewalks to poor neighborhoods where people need the walkways to get to the bus rather than waste the money on a sidewalk in an affluent neighborhood where it isn't needed.
First, Dave apparently doesn't look out the tinted windows of his vehicle as he drives to and from his South Hill home to observe all of the walkers and runners who use High Drive each day.
Second, more walkers and runners would enjoy the premier views of High Drive if they didn't have to walk in the road especially around dangerous curves.
Third, it's crazy that the city has gone this long without providing a sidewalk or path the length of High Drive, one of the finest pedestrian routes the city has to offer.
TRAILS — As today's news story points out, City of Spokane engineers are ready to present a new plan for the $6.8 million High Drive street project after public criticism of initial proposals this summer and fall sent them back to the drawing board.
The project is of major concern to the hikers, cyclists, dog walkers and runners who flock to the 25-mile trail system along the South Hill bluff. Initial proposals would have reduced access to the trails and eliminated up to 80 percent of the available parking.
The city will unveil the revised design in an open-house meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, from 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., at the new Jefferson Elementary School, 123 E. 37th Ave.
- To get involved with protecting and improving the bluff trails and the natural landscape they traverse, check into the Friends of the Bluff.
TRAILS — The City of Spokane's plans to “remodel” High Drive in 2014 while updating sewer lines could change bike lanes and reduce parking options for the popular South Hill bluff trails.
Traffic flow, pedestrian walkways, and bike lanes will also be affected, according to the Friends of the Bluff.
Earlier on Wednesday we ran a map with an item on the proposed amendment request submitted on behalf of the family of John and Holly Sonneland. That earlier printed map is the existing land use for the 30 acres the Sonnelands own on Spokane's South Hill.
Here is another map from the city that shows the proposed, requested uses for the same property. The large purple block would be centers and corridors designated for mixed use. The darker yellow area to the left and below, bordered with purple lines, would remain residential, but it would change in nature.
As our other SR news story (ran on May 22) reported, the Sonnelands say they didn't submit the full 30-acre rezone request. They say a local developer, Steve Schmautz, went forward for a full rezone, rather than what the Sonnelands wanted, a smaller, less-than-eight-acre rezone of their property.
This map shows that if the full project moved forward, one request to the city would change the residential parcels, currently zoned single-family residential, to R15-30, allowing for up to 30 units per acre.
The original documents accompanying the request did note that the project, if developed, would not build apartments at that density, but closer to 10 units per acre. The Sonnelands, again saying that type of development is several years off, if at all, say they don't want a high-density residential development.
This is one of those tales that never quite answers all the questions it raises. The Sonneland family, a fixture for decades on Spokane's South Hill, has more than 30 acres that will eventually go through some development. The first part of the plan is the existing Quail Run commercial cluster on 29th Avenue near Southeast Boulevard.
Today's story summarizes the confusion and attempted fix after a developer submitted a request to amend the Spokane Comprehensive Plan and allow mixed-use development on many of the still-undeveloped acres the Sonnelands have.
The property iincludes the last significant green belt of natural land sitting atop Spokane's South Hill.
The upshot: while the city is still reviewing the request for rezoning all 30 acres, the family now says they're not ready to move forward with that size of project. Instead, with the help of a local developer, they're more focused on making a zone change happeon on the northeasternmost 6 acres or so of the property.
To grab more information about the project, on the city's planning department site, go here. Scroll down to the specific link for the Sonneland project.
The term “primary industry” and primary jobs came to mind when I wrote the story last week on the evolution of the former Playfair Race Course into Playfair Commerce Park.
A primary industry is a good thing. It's a company that sells its products or services outside the region, thus importing dollars into the local economy.
SCAFCO, the company that acquired the former racet rack, is the quintessential Spokane primary industry. And its ongoing success in selling its steel studs and steel storage tanks is the key reason SCAFCO could buy the old abandoned track and spend a lot of cash improving it.
The photo above is an example of the kinds of changes SCAFCO has made on the 48 acres that are the new commerce park. Provided by Bruce Katahira of SCAFCO, it shows the before and after changes for Olive Street, in the park.
Hats off to SCAFCO. The park has a strong future. The map here also shows the general layout of the property.
The morning after the season’s first snowfall, as I worked at my computer I could look out the window and see a steady parade of people heading down my street toward Manito Park.
Parents towed toddlers on sleds and teenagers laughed and pushed and punched one another as they trudged to the traditional sledding hill at the edge of the park. I couldn’t help myself. I had to smile. Welcome to winter in the heart of Spokane.
I stopped typing and watched another family as they walked past my window and, not for the first time, I appreciated the direct link to the past this park provides. Each winter, for more than 100 years, the view has been essentially the same. Snow falls and people come out to play.
I moved to Spokane in 1999 and for several years we lived outside of the city, north toward Green Bluff and near the shallow, curving Little Spokane River. But in 2006, when I realized we were spending a big part of each day driving to and from the city, we sold the big house with the big yard and moved into a little cottage around the corner from Duncan Gardens. My surroundings changed from sprawling suburbia to the intimacy of an old neighborhood with a big park next door.
We’d visited Manito Park from time to time, but after the move the 90-acre oasis became more than a place to visit. It became a seasonal marker for my days. In the spring we watch the tender green buds unfurl and dress the gardens. In the heat of summer I walk through the rose garden at the end of the day and the air is sweet with the scent of a million blooms. In the fall, the park glows with golden leaves.
Every day, in every season, people come to the park. But there is a subtle shift in winter. This time of year Manito is a more solitary place. Icy mornings bring out only the most diehard walkers. And night comes too fast.
But after a fresh snowfall, it’s as if the park sends an invitation to a party. Just as it has been since 1903, the sledding hill is crowded with people and laughter fills the air.
Several years ago, after recording my weekly public radio program in the studio upstairs, I stopped by Vintage Rabbit Antiques on Monroe. One of the dealers had a box filled with vintage postcards and I pulled out one that showed a crowd ice skating on the pond at Manito Park. I loved the slice of life captured in the photograph, with men, women and children celebrating the simple pleasure of skimming over a frozen pond, cold air biting at faces, the wind stinging hands and ears.
I bought the postcard, scanned the card and keep it on my computer; a wintery moment frozen in time, linking me to both the past and the present in a place I’ve grown to love.
Note: This column was featured in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Nostalgia Magazine
Cheryl-Anne Millsap blogs about antiques and collectibles at The Spokesman-Review. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She can be reached at email@example.com
Friday's a short snow day at Office Hours.
So, do you love your new Blue Cart, the 62-gallon containers area cities are giving residents to recycle more of their household stuff?
You can learn more about what happens to all that stuff when it gets hauled out to the Waste Management facility that opened in October. Look for the Sunday stor on that new MRF (materials recycling facility) at Spokesman.com, on Nov. 11.
And let us add: Happy Holidays to all, even if it's way too early.
Mayor David Condon said Wednesday that he is “very confident” one of two remaining finalists will be the next Spokane police chief, despite a law enforcement panel’s recommendation that he restart the search.
Either Daniel Mahoney, the commanding officer of the Ingleside Police Station within the San Francisco Police Department, or Frank Straub, director of public safety in Indianapolis, will be the city’s next top cop.
People who have a question of a comment or a question on the City of Spokane budget could get a chance to phone it in Tuesday night.
That's when the city is holding a Telephone Town Hall on the budget from 6 to 7 p.m. The phone number is (855) 296-4484. Or you can get to the online link by clicking here.
UPDATED: At 1 p.m., we learned that the city and county don't provide money to the Workforce Development Council. Which means this was a politically necessary system that involved some overview by city and county officials, but without any skin in the game.
City Communications Manager Marlene Feist said: “For the first time, SAWDC did get a County grant this year—an outside agency grant for $20,000.
“The SAWDC funding primarily comes from federal and state grants,” Feist noted.
The Spokane Area Workforce Development Council, a joint effort between the City of Spokane and Spokane County, will be relocated as an operation of Community Colleges of Spokane.
The transferl is part of efforts top align workforce services more efficiently and to let Workforce work more closely with the community colleges.
The SAWDC will continue as a nonprofit agency. Its goals are: closing the skills gap, helping workers gain new skills, helping workers and companies improve productivity and reduce poverty in the region.
A press release said the new plan should make it easier for the agency to find money from a more sources and streamline management.
An interlocal agreement between the city and county allowed the SAWDC to operate as a city department for nearly four decades.
The release said: “But as the city and county have looked for ways to improve services for citizens, moving the SAWDC to a non-profit made sense. Workforce development agencies across the state and nation have thrived using a similar approach.
“This change reflects another model of collaboration between the city and county,” says Mayor David Condon. “At the city, we are making changes to focus our efforts on what we do best and allow others to operate services that are outside our area of expertise.”
Maybe a business “amnesty” program is a great thing to celebrate.
A $1.67 million out-of-court settlement has been reached in the civil suit against Spokane police filed by relatives of Otto Zehm, the mentally ill janitor who died following a violent confrontation with officers after being mistakenly implicated in a possible theft.
The deal also includes a formal apology by city officials, a recommendation to the Spokane Park Board to name a pavilion after Zehm, crisis intervention training for all police officers and $50,000 for a consultant to advise the city about updates to its use-of-force policy.
Owners of commercial or industrial land can submit information to the city to review if their properties meet environmental, zoning and utility criteria.
Once certified, the shovel-ready property will be listed on the city's certified website.
Spokane Mayor David Condon backed the idea in his election campaign, saying simplifying site information can help the area’s economic development.
Greater Spokane Inc. President Rich Hadley said the certified site program is the first in
The website for the program is: http://developingspokane.org/siteselector/default.aspx.
The City of Spokane may sever its contract with its risk management firm following allegations that the firm pressured police and a city employee to hide potentially incriminating details surrounding a 2010 collision that paralyzed a pedestrian.
According to documents obtained by lawyers representing the paralyzed woman, the city’s contracted insurance adjusters were able to influence the removal of certain details from the official press release about the crash, and reportedly sought to influence the police investigation.
The adjusters, in fact, were able to interview crash witnesses before the investigating officer, who was later advised that “if you guys want a raise” he should work with the risk managers to save the city some money, the documents show.
Anyone with opinions on the qualities they would like to see in the new Spokane police chief is invited to attend a committee meeting on Thursday.
Spokane's Police Advisory Committee will hear comments Thursday at its meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St.
The Spokane Police Department and the Officer of Neighborhood Services hopes to provide a second public comment opportunity in April. Citizens can also email comments to the City of Spokane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City plans to advertise for the police chief position again by the end of this month.
Applications were collected between November and mid-February, but Mayor David Condon said Wednesday that he would like “a larger and more diverse pool” from which to select.
Condon encourages citizens to express their views.
“Restoring public confidence in the Spokane Police Department is my highest priority, and I want to ensure that citizens have an opportunity to tell us what they think is important as we continue with the hiring process,” Condon said in a prepared statement.
Mayor David Condon on Monday announced he's hired local BBB CEO Jan Quintrall to be in charge of the city's Business and Developer Services office.
That office used to have the name of Economic Development Division. Theresa Sanders, the current city manager, headed that division in the administration of previous mayor Mary Verner.
Quintrall's job starts Monday; she'll earn $118,494 if approved by the City Council.
Filling in as interim CEO of the Spokane Regional BBB will be Elea Katzele.
The official release said the new division will include building, planning, engineering services, capital programs and workforce development. Quintrall said her focus will be in eliminating red tape and making business activities and projects less cumbersome.
The key job task is “making sure the people who work (in the department) have the right tools to do their jobs effectively,” she said.
While Verner and other mayors have vowed to simplify the permitting and business application process at the city, Quintrall said the system has a ways to go.
She added, “The bureaucracy breeds on itself. There is still a lack of clarity” in how people go through the business development process, she said.
Worker Jeffrey Reeder helps install a high-density mobile shelving system in the City of Spokane's new evidence storage facility aWednesday. (SRphoto/Colin Mulvany)
Spokane-area law enforcement welcomed the opening of a new evidence storage facility Wednesday.
The 66,000-square foot facility at 4010 E. Alki Ave. has fire suppression capabilities not found in the previous 17,000-square foot facility on West Gardner Avenue.
The city announced plans to buy the warehouse in June 2010, more than a year after voters rejected a tax to pay for a new building.
The city borrowed from the main reserve and investment fund while consolidating work space in other buildings to eliminate the need for leased space. The savings went toward purchasing the new building, which cost about $3.4 million with upgrades.
“It's about a 100 percent improvement over our current facility,” said Tom Bell, police evidence technician.
Employees will be transferring evidence to the new facility over the next week.
Mayor Mary Verner said the new facility fills a crucial community need.
“Without the retention of evidence, justice cannot be served,” Verner said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Verner said the new facility should serve Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff's Office for 50 to 75 years.
The City of Spokane expects to begin a regional or national search for a new police chief by next spring, officials said today.
Spokane Police Department employees are interested in the position but “we also have a desire to look outside the department,” City Administrator Ted Danek told the Public Safety Committee at its monthly meeting.
Assistant Police Chief Jim Nicks recently announced plans to retire when Chief Anne Kirkpatrick leaves early next year.
Kirkpatrick has said she'll stay until a new chief is appointed, which officials say won't happen until after the mayoral election.
“People are not going to apply until they know who the boss is,” Kirkpatrick said.
Danek said the search, which could take three to six months, could begin in March or April.
Kirkpatrick has always said she planned to stay in Spokane about five years. She said she's looking at other opportunities.
“It's not a retirement, I'm just moving to a different stage in my life,” said Kirkpatrick, adding that neither she nor Nicks will be “lame ducks” in the meantime.
Spokane police majors Scott Stephens and Craig Meidl said after the meeting that they are not interested in applying to be the next police chief.
Good morning, Netizens…
Picture: (David Condon, via the SR)
I have been largely ignoring the upcoming mayoral elections, largely because I believe it has been bid on in a competitive manner by a diverse group of organizations. Everyone, it seems, has a say in who we elect as our next Mayor of Spokane; everyone except for the voters perhaps. Rumors persist that a voluntary collection was taken by members of the Police Guild, the proceeds of which would support their chosen candidate, as well as stipends being given to Rocky Treppiedi and various other luminaries whom they feel best-represent their interests.
Of course we could kill two birds with one stone by formally making the ill-fated Ridpath Hotel the Mayor's official residence. This, of course, might give Ridpath heir-apparent/owner Greg Jeffreys and a handful of other owners a bad case of indigestion, because then they would be forced to clean up this blight on Downtown Spokane, something which the Ridpath's owners are apparently unable or unwilling to do.
Mayoral challenger David Condon, has already taken Mayor Queen Mary to task calling her handling of the Otto Zehm case “an indictment” of city government. “As mayor, Mayor Verner has wasted taxpayer money and slowed the course of justice by her defense of the city bureaucracy and the mismanagement of this case,” Condon said in a statement released Tuesday by his campaign.
Thus, Condon, who used to work for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, has come out of the chute barking at Queen Mary like a bulldog, but that doesn't seem to make a difference to me.
A retired Spokane police officer will have his hypnosis weight-loss therapy paid for by city tax money.
Members of the Spokane Police Pension and Relief Board unanimously approved the unusual claim from board member Gary Gow at its meeting Thursday.
Gow, who retired from the Spokane Police Department in 1985 after 20 years of service, abstained from voting. He’s been a member of the pension board for 21 years.
The story was posted on LawOfficer.com's Facebook page today. The comments are quite interesting.
OLYMPIA — A state board in charge of money for recreational projects rejected a plea from supporters of a whitewater park in the Spokane River and refused Thursday to extend a $500,000 grant. The project will probably take longer than supporters estimate, and the city should return when more prep work has been done, board members said.
In a 6-1 vote, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board agreed with a staff decision in April not to extend the expiring grant. Board members rejected arguments that doing so would kill the momentum for the project; instead they said the project should complete an environmental impact statement and obtain needed permits, then return to the board to ask for the grant to be awarded a second time.
Spokane City Parks Director Leroy Eadie said after the vote that the next step will be to “go back and regroup” and try to find the $75,000 to $80,000 needed for the EIS. It might be possible to pay for that study with another grant obtained by Friends of the Falls: “This is a little bump in the road. This project's had a lot of bumps in the road.”
The City of Spokane is looking for three people willing to review its council district boundaries and decide whether they need to be adjusted as a result of the 2010 Census.
Think that's you? You have until July 1 to decide. Here's the criteria:
Be a registered voter.
Be a resident of the city for at least two years.
Be a lobbyist now, or any time in the past year.
Campaign for public office, be part of someone else's campaign or contribute to a campaign while on the board
Serve on the City Council or campaign for a council seat for two years after the plan takes effect.
If the lines are redrawn, they won't matter to this year's campaign. They'll be used in the 2013 city elections.
Board members will be nominated by the mayor and approved by the council. Council President Joe Shogan and a councilmember to be named later will serve in advisory capacity on the board.
And before you ask, no there's no pay involved.