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River access at Spokane Convention Center?

Interesting news from the Spokane River Forum, in case you didn't know: Last April, voters approved the Public Facilities District’s $65 million dollar project that includes developing 91,000 square feet of new space at the Spokane Convention Center. River access is part of the plan.

At their December 12th public meeting, questions and comments were taken as part of applying for a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit. Planned actions include demolishing the former Shenanigan’s restaurant and removing the parking lot; shoreline improvements, Centennial Trail improvements, and development of a river access beneath the Division Street Bridge. Click here to see renderings.

Avista, Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, Futurewise, Spokane Riverkeeper, Spokane River Forum and Northwest Whitewater Association have provided comment letters to the Public Facilities District. “In general, everyone is excited about the project and the opportunities that it will bring to Spokane visitors and Riverfront Park users,” said Andy Dunau, the Forum’s Executive Director. “But the devil is in the details.” Click here to read the letters.

User groups are concerned about public access, particularly the loss of parking and a loading/unloading area to access the Centennial Trail and prospective river access. Other concerns include desires for a public restroom, public drinking fountain, opportunities for food and recreation concessions, and on-going trail maintenance, especially in the winter when it will be further shaded from the sun.

“Vacant City, Sprawling County” photography show

Did you know that in Spokane County, 25% of growth in the last decade has happened outside our urban areas? Making matters worse, the Urban Growth Area itself has not reached the population it was planned to accommodate. Also, it was estimated that Spokane County is expected to grow by more than a staggering 150,000 people between now and 2031. It becomes obvious: Growth needs to be focused inside our cities and towns to keep them economically vibrant instead of making infrastructure investments for sprawl which increases costs to taxpayers and stretch our urban services so thin.  

Futurewise has done some great work in this area by ensuring a better quality of life for future generations. They are inviting you to "Vacant City, Sprawling County" featuring the photography of John Klekus in the Community Building lobby on December 5th at 6pm. Hilary Franz, the Executive Director of Futurewise will be in attendance.

Spokane County Shoreline Master Plan Hearing

Interested in supporting clean and healthy waterways for people, fish, and wildlife in Spokane County? Here's your chance to make difference. Spokane County is once again in the final stages of updating its Shoreline Master Program. They will decide whether to accept Department of Ecology’s required and recommended changes to their plan at a public workshop and hearing on November 8th. 

This is the regulation that protects all the state waterways in Spokane County including the Spokane River, the Little Spokane River, Hangman Creek, Newman Lake and 73 other bodies of water in Spokane County. Always remember: Even if you live in the City Of Spokane, you're still a Spokane County constituent and your participation is needed. 

Stop Spokane County from getting cul-de-sacked!

Tomorrow there's a hearing on the proposal to expand Spokane County's already outsized Urban Growth Area when the Growth Management Steering Committee of Elected Officials meets from 9am to noon in the Spokane County Public Works Building, 1026 W Broadway Ave. Arrive after 8:30 a.m. to sign in to comment.

The expansion is unneeded.

A little background: This hearing stems from the review of the Urban Growth Area by Spokane County and its cities and towns. The Urban Growth Area is the area designated to accommodate projected urban growth and development for twenty years and was first established in 2001. The review determines whether to expand or retract the existing Urban Growth Area.

As someone who has been to the open houses during the review, I can attest to the makeup of the participants: Mostly developers who see the expansion as something cheaply akin to a gold rush.

Spokane is in a crucial development stage. As local environmental advocate Kitty Klitzke pointed out at the time of the meeting in 2009, “our county’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) already covers over 89 square miles, this is over 2.5 times larger than the City of Paris, France. And Paris we ain’t. Their population, at 2.2 million is almost 5 times the population of Spokane County.”

In the last decade, 25 percent of county growth has occurred in rural spaces while enough land already existed in the urban growth area to accommodate their projections.

All the more reason to focus growth inward as the city of Spokane's infrastructure is strained due to unsustainable sprawl.

Complete Streets Pedestrian Zine Launch Party is tonight!

Here's an event I hope you can walk to tonight: Futurewise presents the Pedestrian Zine, the second in a series of Complete Streets zines. They are celebrating with a launch party tonight at Pacific Pizza in Browne's Addition. Doors open at 5pm. They have lots of great door prizes including a Scoop gift certificate, Sun People Dried Goods tote bag, Jewelry Design Center designer bangle, two tickets to Interplayers, 4 race entries for Spokane Rocket Velo's road race series (2012), garden tools and accessories from Garden Grove, Rings and Things necklace and more.

RSVP on Facebook HERE.


There are numerous interviews with pedestrians in our community. A lot of work went into this project. Zines, always self-published, are incredibly labor intensive.

The DIY zine approach makes perfect sense since complete streets are shaped by cultural, political, geographical and economic forces that go beyond transportation planning polices and urban design formulas. It's an opporunity to reach a whole new audience that wants a vibrant street life and the sense of belonging to a community- the chance to learn about a growing national movement.

Complete Streets Zine Launch Party

Beer. Bikes. Zines. What else do you need to know?

Futurewise's Kitty Klitzke is asking you to join her for happy hour at one of the best bars in town - yes, that would be Jones Radiator, 120 E Sprague - and pick up Issue One of the Complete Streets Zine on Wednesday, May 11th from 5:30-7:30pm. 

This the first entry in a series of Complete Streets Zines that explore the streetscapes of the Spokane area through the eyes of Spokanites. There are numerous interviews with cyclists in our community. A lot of work went into this project. Zines, always self-published,  are incredibly labor intensive. 

The DIY zine approach makes perfect sense since complete streets are shaped by cultural, political, geographical and economic forces that go beyond transportation planning polices and urban design formulas. It's an opporunity to reach a whole new audience that wants a vibrant street life and the sense of belonging to a community- the chance to learn about a growing national movement.

The goal is not to pitch any specific design solutions rather  "benefit from the experience of those who get out there and make alternative modes work, despite the many hazards, inconveniences and hostilities they may face. And help us explore how to make Spokane a better place to live for those of us who want more transportation choices. We should all have the freedom to get around in our community by our mode of choice!" Klitzke says on the Futurewise site. Amen. 

Growth Management: Should counties be allowed out?

OLYMPIA – The state's environmental community is fighting a plan to allow four lightly populated Eastern Washington counties to opt out of the Growth Management Act.
But in trying to generate opposition to the proposed change, the group Futurewise seriously overstated the impact that law has on Ferry County, one of four that would be allowed to drop the law under HB 1094 .
 GMA is protecting nearly three-quarters of a million acres of farmland in Ferry County, keeping it from being “paved over,” the Seattle-based organization claimed in a recent website posting and a separate appeal for funds.
“In Washington, it’s far too easy to pave over farmland if it’s not designated as such,” the group said on its website. “That’s why we were fighting so hard to get the county to property designate and protect the best of the county’s 749,452 acres of land in farms and ranching.”
Wait a minute, said Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, sponsor of the bill. There aren't 750,000 acres of farmland – or any other kind of land – subject to GMA in Ferry County…

To read the rest of this post or to comment, go inside the blog.

Feast With Friends

In their twentieth year, Futurewise remains one of the most important organizations in the country, working hard for a higher quality of life in Spokane and Washington state.

 In case you’re unaware, Futurewise is “a statewide public interest group working to promote healthy communities and cities while protecting farmland, forests and shorelines today and for future generations.”

(Update: Photo by Paul K. Haeder. Apologies for the error.)

Founded in 1990 (the same year the Growth Management Act was passed in Washington State), they’re the only statewide group in Washington working to ensure that local governments manage growth responsibly - essentially the state’s primary advocate for smart growth policies as well as responsible land use, conservation, neighborhood walkability and alternative transportation…all the good things.

Tonight is your chance to support Futurewise with the 4th annual Feast For Friends at the Beacon Hill Center, 4848 E. Wellesley from 6:00-9:00pm.

This open style reception features progressive culinary tastings. Each station will have a winery, brewery, distillery with a selection for tasting and chef serving special dishes made from ingredients provided by local farms and food providers. So fill up your plate and hold up your glass in support of Futurewise’s work to protect farm land and promote healthy communities.

Details after the jump and I hope to see you there.


Tuesday Video, er, Audio: Is Arcade Fire the theme for Futurewise?

Since 1990, Futurewise has done a fantastic job on growth management issues as the state’s primary advocate for smart growth policies. So the new Arcade Fire album, titled “The Suburbs” would be a perfect theme for them to choose on their 20th anniversary, right?

They want to know.

This particular song was recommended by our newly minted Spokane Riverkeeper Bart Mihailovich. Over slinky keyboards, the 80’s indebted epic is a dancey, welcome relief on an album focused on growth - land use decisions and of the personal variety. Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics:

On the black river, the city lights shine
They’re screaming at us, we don’t need your kind.
Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small
That we can never get away from sprawl
Living in the sprawl
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains
And there’s no end in sight

Jump on over to the Futurewise FB group to help them come up with a name. But in the meantime, start your Tuesday morning off with good new music. It won’t be long before those indie kids begin to study the impacts of Rural Cluster Developments on Spokane County. You can thank Arcade Fire.

Happy 20th Birthday Futurewise

“If you care about where your kids are going to live or if you care about where you’re going to retire, Futurewise is the group you need to invest in because their work is the key to our ability to make progress on all those issues.” Aaron Ostrom Director of Fuse

Here are a few topics we often talk about here on DTE: growth management, responsible land use, conservation, neighborhood walkability and efficient and earth-sensitive transportation.  If you consider tying them all together, what we end up talking about is a vision for a higher quality of life in Spokane, Washington state, the country and the world.  A vision for a more sustainble region.  Sounds great right? 
It does to us now, as it did to the founders of Futurewise 20 years ago.  That’s right, 20 years!  Pretty incredible when you think about how difficult and frustrating public policy work can be.  That’s 20 years of jumping hurdles, running uphill, swimming upstream, etc….. you get the picture.
In case you’re unaware, Futurewise is “a statewide public interest group working to promote healthy communities and cities while protecting farmland, forests and shorelines today and for future generations.”  Founded in 1990 (the same year the Growth Management Act was passed in Washington State), they’re the only statewide group in Washington working to ensure that local governments manage growth responsibly - essentially the state’s primary advocate for smart growth policies.

In the below video you’ll hear stories about how Futurewise started, what’s it done in the last 20 years, and why its work is critical for the future.  What we want you to do is consider how Futurewise has aligned with your vision of a sustainable Spokane.  Think about how it has helped protect that vision or introduce you to that vision, or  use this video and post to begin that thought process.  What  you’ll find is Futurewise is more important to you than you probably previously considered.  For the next 20 or 40 years, having organizations be watchdogs of corporations, developers and other power brokers is going to be essential for protecting our vision of a sustainable Spokane, and Futurewise has 20 years of experience doing so.  Get connected, get educated, get involved. 

Complete Streets Spokane

Now’s the time to become familiar with Complete Streets.

There’s a growing movement in Spokane to institute a complete streets policy for all users—- including pedestrians of all ages and abilities, bicyclists, and public transportation—-in an effort to increase safety and awareness.

Yesterday the Spokesman had an article about Dave Robertson who was hit while crossing Second Avenue and Monroe Street. He posted about the incident at Rings and Things where we works and was returning from. “Pedestrians get this all the time. Drivers only see other vehicles – they don’t look for people, they look for cars,” Robertson said in the S-R. “I have had countless near-misses in the last calendar year alone, walking and biking downtown.”

DTE had some close calls too and we’re not alone. Two years ago, crossing Monroe and Main—-one of the most dangerous, congested intersections in the city—-we were pushed by a driver late for class and pounded on the hood until they stopped. We were lucky.

Just in time for the holidays….

The following is a mesage from Futurewise:

We both know that Sprawl is the gift that keeps on taking! On Wednesday tell the County Commissioners, “Send it back!”

Looks like good news is on the way from the Spokane County Commissioners (more on that in a minute). But in the meantime, we need to tell them to say “No thanks” to three comprehensive plan amendments that seek to mine on elk habitat, unnecessarily expand our over-sized urban growth area, and create more intense development on ecologically fragile unincorporated Liberty Lake.

Hearing on 2009 Spokane County Comp Plan Amendments WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2009 at 6:00 P.M.
Commissioners Hearing Room
Spokane County Public Works Building
1026 West Broadway Ave.
Or email the commissioners here

Ask the Commissioners to:

  • -Deny 09-CPA-5 Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Map Amendment to amend the comprehensive plan zoning from Rural Conservation to Mineral Lands for the undeveloped portion of the site that is designated elk habitat. The staff report documents that the site includes Rocky Mountain elk habitat. The un-mined portion of the site should be retained for Rocky Mountain elk habitat. Limit the mining and restore the elk habitat. (Inlander story on this here).
  • -Deny 09-CPA-07, which would change the Comprehensive Plan Designation of an area north of Liberty Lake from Rural Traditional to a Limited Development Area-Residential Low Density Residential. The neighbors don’t want it and it’s not legal.
  • -Deny 09-CPA-9, which would amend the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Map from Urban Reserve to Light Industrial and add the land to the Urban Growth Area. The amendment is not needed to accommodate projected growth. The potential for adverse impacts on neighboring uses is high.

Now for the good news | Rural Clusters Update

Futurewise and a group of dedicated farmers have been attending the deliberations on rural cluster regulations. The Commissioners have so far unanimously decided to remove small tract agriculture from eligibility for rural cluster development and reached a split decision to permanently protect the open space remainder! Please thank them for their decision and encourage them to come to an agreement on how to implement permanent protection of the open space remainder for perpetuity.


The following is a message from Futurewise:

Most people in Spokane County agree that we need to direct growth to our urban centers and protect our rural areas. Yet our cities continue to be plagued by vacant lots, while 25% of our growth is occurring in our rural areas. Causing more and more septic systems to be dug, and the highest rate of new unregulated well drilling in the state. In Spokane County farms are being crowded out, and the wells of some longtime residents are running dry. We can do better!

Spokane County is updating its Rural Cluster regulations and seeking feedback.

What you can do:
1. Attend a workshop: ask questions and give feedback. April 9th 6pm, Green Bluff Grange, 9809 E. Green Bluff Rd. April 16th 1pm at the Public Works Building, Commissioners Hearing Room, 1026 W Broadway
2. Take the Survey: Spokane County has created a nine question online survey to collect feedback on Rural Clusters Regulations. For specific suggestions on how to answer the survey visit www.futurewise.org/spokane/ruralclusters
3. Please spread the word, tell your friends and neighbors about this important decision!

Shoreline Master Plan

When it comes to environmental news, it seems like Spokane County can’t escape controversy. (See wastewater and racetrack more recently.) On February 24th, the County will hold a public hearing on the Shoreline Master Plan that has been justly criticized for reducing waterway protection. 

The Lands Council and Futurewise are urging citizens to take reasonable action, and voice your opinion. On their respective sites, the non-profit organizations set up clear methods to thoughtfully comment on the plan. A few quick points from the Lands Council on the “top things to tell the commissioners”:

*The Planning Commission are volunteers who have the community’s interest in mind. Tell the county that the Planning Commission recommendations should be given greater consideration, especially the High Quality Area designations that will improve protections for water quality and rivers, streams, and lakes.

* The proposed shoreline master program will reduce buffers on rivers from 250 feet to 50 feet. Tell the county to adequately protect wetlands, rivers, and streams by either using the buffers and other provisions from the county’s critical areas regulations within shoreline jurisdiction or adopting buffers that are as protective as the critical areas regulations in the shoreline master program. This is necessary to protect the water quality of rivers, streams, wetlands, and lakes.

Green Economy Part 1

Photobucket Welcome to a DTE mini-series on the economy. This isn’t going to be too high-concept, since we’re armchair economists at best, but we firmly believe that a way out of this downturn is in the possibility of clean-energy and green-collar jobs. The following posts will seek to highlight examples of innovative thinking and what we can learn from other cities as it pertains to Spokane in terms of sustainable practices and a potential economic revival. Let’s start with our neighbors to the east: Missoula. Members of the Greenhouse Gas and Energy Conservation Team are trying to help the city launch a clean energy project that calls for selling “renewable energy certificates,” which would help subsidize construction costs in the community. “It’s really low risk. There’s no investment involved. There’s minimal expense. And there’s a potential for some revenues to be generated,” said Brian Kerns, a member of the Conservation Team, in the Missoulian.