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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council eliminates parking minimums a half mile from bus lines

A share of the city of Spokane's portion of state taxes on legal cannabis would be designated specifically for drug abuse education and prevention under a measure the City Council will consider Monday night.   (Christopher Anderson)

New apartments and homes built near city bus routes will no longer need new parking spots, under rules approved by the Spokane City Council on Monday.

The council voted 5-1 to implement a pilot program eliminating minimum parking requirements for new housing constructed within a half mile radius of Spokane Transit Authority corridors.

“This is about addressing the housing crisis we’re in and providing another tool addressing housing affordability,” Councilman Zack Zappone said on Monday.

Under the new rules, developers are given the option to not construct parking but are allowed to do so if they choose. Additionally, the ordinance only concerns new housing projects, and does not apply to commercial developments.

The ordinance is aimed at also confronting rising housing costs within Spokane. By potentially eliminating the need for parking, landlords will be given the opportunity to decrease rent for residents.

Zappone said some studies have shown that parking can raise rents by as much as 17%, or about $3,000 a year, depending on the location.

The success of the policy will be measured by the amount of new development and use of the ordinance.

“I think an indicator of success is seeing that parking is still being built,” Zappone added.

Community input also will be considered when determining the ordinance’s effectiveness.

The ordinance has earned support from numerous organizations, such as the Spokane Realtors Association, Spokane Low Income Housing Coalition, Spokane Home Builders, the Lands Council, and the environmental advocacy group 350 Spokane. Mayor Nadine Woodard also expressed support, but with reservations.

“Initially, there was a desire to see that citywide,” Woodward said. “It makes a lot more sense around transit corridors.”

She noted that she wouldn’t want street parking demand to grow in other neighborhoods to the levels it is in Browne’s Addition, where emergency vehicles and street plows sometimes have problems traveling through narrower streets, especially during the winter.

Councilman Jonathan Bingle, who supported the new ordinance, addressed similar concerns during Monday’s meeting.

Councilman Michael Cathcart cast the lone vote opposed to the measure. He explained his desire for further research, concerns over limited parking within his district, and potential landlord tenant law conflict as his reasons.

“The number of unintended consequences that I see affecting my district, particularly in the Logan neighborhood and the areas around the University district, are so big that I think it needs more study,” he said. “I look forward to the results as they come.”

Spokane follows a national trend of cities as large as San Jose and Nashville that are shifting development towards walkability and density. Though California and Oregon have already instituted similar policies, Spokane will be the first city in Washington to follow suit.

The ordinance will remain in effect through next July, when the council will decide whether to keep the policy in place.

Reporter Emry Dinman contributed to this report.

Trevor Picanco's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.