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Spokane County judge denies attempt by West Hills residents to block homeless housing

Sept. 19, 2022 Updated Wed., Sept. 21, 2022 at 2:31 p.m.

Catholic Charities has bought the Quality Inn, 4301 W. Sunset Blvd., to use as an emergency supportive housing for singles and couples.  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)
Catholic Charities has bought the Quality Inn, 4301 W. Sunset Blvd., to use as an emergency supportive housing for singles and couples. (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

A Spokane County Superior Court judge last week denied a neighborhood group’s request to block homeless housing projects from coming to the West Hills area.

Spokane for Safe Neighborhoods, which registered with the state several weeks ago as a nonprofit, sued Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, the Empire Health Foundation and Spokane earlier this month.

Their lawsuit sought to prevent the defendants from creating housing for the homeless in the West Hills area.

The most notable homeless housing plan mentioned in the lawsuit is Catholic Charities’ Quality Inn project, which would turn the Sunset Boulevard hotel into emergency supportive housing for 100 to 120 adults. Catholic Charities on Sept. 12 finalized its purchase of the hotel.

Spokane for Safe Neighborhoods also highlighted Empire Health’s proposal to establish 75 tiny, home-like shelter units that could house 125 people. Empire Health officials, however, say they are not actively pursuing a shelter village now.

Both the Quality Inn and tiny home proposals have been part of Spokane’s effort to move residents at Camp Hope – the homeless encampment off of Interstate 90 – into permanent housing. The Washington Department of Commerce has made more than $24 million available to the city to find housing for residents of Camp Hope, which sits on land owned by the state Department of Transportation.

Representatives for Catholic Charities and the city of Spokane declined to comment on Superior Court Judge Annette Plese’s ruling. Dunn and Black attorney Michael Brandenberg, representing Spokane for Safe Neighborhoods, could not immediately be reached for comment.

In its lawsuit, Spokane for Safe Neighborhoods argued that the defendants were failing to analyze the potential adverse impacts of homeless housing proposals.

The lawsuit stated that neighborhood residents would be “adversely affected, damaged, and prejudiced,” by an increase in nearby homeless housing availability and that an increase in homeless individuals in the area would “implicate and raise concerns regarding loss of public safety, loss of residential housing development opportunities, and lost tax revenues.”

Spokane for Safe Neighborhoods also said in its lawsuit that without additional environmental review the Quality Inn project would “cause increased likelihood of imminent unlawful use, damage, and pollution to the Finch Arboretum.”

Catholic Charities has previously called Spokane for Safe Neighborhoods’ lawsuit “frivolous” and “completely without merit.”

In its response to the lawsuit, the organization rebuffed the neighborhood group’s argument that the Quality Inn project would be detrimental to the area.

“The Plaintiff’s allegation of imminent harm is based upon nothing more than the conclusory assertion that homeless people are undesirable neighbors,” Catholic Charities wrote in its response. “The Court should not countenance prejudice masquerading as evidence.”

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