UPDATE: Land use shenanigans continue as annexation could bring another sea of surface parking to Southgate District

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The conceptual site plan for the South Regal Lumber site from South Regal Street includes a mess of car-oriented retail and another veritable sea of surface parking in an already saturated Southgate District. It’s neither mixed-use nor consistent with a vibrant urban neighborhood district. (PHOTO: Spokane Planning)

Last week, we posted about an absurd land-use situation in Indian Trail that could result in a 1,500-unit housing complex. The post went crazy-viral all over social media. Now we’re back with a similarly-absurd situation at the opposite end of our city, in the Southgate District.

Here, Spokane Housing Ventures, an affordable housing developer with a laudable goal to provide living space to lower-income folks, proposed to annex and re-zone a chunk of its property into the City of Spokane. Spokane Housing Ventures would develop its site into affordable units. Great!

But here’s the problem: the City Council expanded the annexation proposal to include the former South Regal Lumber property. Local developer Cyrus Vaughn would develop this area into several pads for car-oriented commercial spaces, such as fast-food restaurants and coffeeshops, medical offices, and a grocery store space likely focusing on organic products. (Important Update: Despite recent rumors that the proposed grocery might be Whole Foods, this would not square with that retailer’s recent trend toward smaller, more compact, more pedestrian-oriented stores. Whole Foods also tends to prefer more central locations within urban areas. Alternatively, it appears that the retailer in question is actually Natural Grocers, which has recently expanded into the Spokane market with a Northside store.)

In all respects, the Cyrus Vaughn project at the former South Regal Lumber property is a vehicle-oriented development. This despite the fact that the development is located just a block or two from a City of Spokane-designated District Center.

This means that the new property should be zoned “Centers and Corridors” once annexed. But that’s not the plan. Currently, much of the property is zoned “mixed-use,” the strictest zoning regulation in unincorporated Spokane County. In other words, the closest analogous zoning regulation in the City of Spokane would by “Centers and Corridors.” The annexation process, inexplicably, proposes to move from these relatively strict guidelines to the lesser guidelines of “Community Business,” allowing car-oriented retail, a sea of surface parking, and a stale, bland, and sprawling urban environment. This can’t happen.

Spokane deserves to grow into a dense, vibrant urban city anchored by strong neighborhood districts. It deserves not to sprawl, but to grow. It deserves a future built on density, improved transportation, and walkable neighborhoods which improve quality of life, public health, and air quality. But that won’t happen without strong land use guidelines anchored by properly-implemented Centers and Corridors. If you agree that Southgate deserves a more strongly urban-designed neighborhood center, share your comments at the City Council Meeting, Monday, February 8 at 6pm. You may also be able to share public commentary by contacting the Planning Department here:

City of Spokane Planning & Development
Attn: Jo Anne Wright
808 W Spokane Falls Blvd
Spokane, WA 99201-3333

It’s time for a vibrant, walkable Southgate District. It’s time for a better Spokane.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: Are you concerned about the continuing disregard for land use regulations and the importance of density in our Comprehensive Plan? Do you think it’s time for a full-scale revamp of the planning document? And are you willing to offer comment to the Spokane City Council with regard to the Southgate annexation? Share your thoughts on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments below. We love to hear from you.

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6 thoughts on “UPDATE: Land use shenanigans continue as annexation could bring another sea of surface parking to Southgate District

  1. I’m glad to see that the former lumber yard is getting a new life.
    However, I wish the new project had more retail/restaurant space along the street and a lot less car-oriented wasted space.
    I really wish that city planners & developers here would take a trip down to Austin, TX sometime and see how developers there are creating vibrant, award-winning medium-to-high density mix-use projects with minimal/hidden parking.
    Parking in those developments are either underground, or parking lots built behind the projects, or they’re blended in with the building design built on multi-levels above the retail level.
    Downtown Austin has especially seen a project boom with some of the best examples of high-density & mix-use projects in the country.
    In my opinion, Austin could easily rival & compete with role model cities like Seattle & Portland when it comes to smart planning & development.
    The former lumber site has tons of potential and it could be a showplace and a model of smart design, if only it had the right developers & planners behind it.
    On the bright side tho, it could possibly attract a grocery store that focuses on organic products.
    With that in mind, I’m hoping its Whole Foods..God knows a Spokane store has been rumored for awhile now.
    If they can get a Whole Foods as a retail anchor, then I’d be willing to overlook the ugly parking lots and the car oriented priority.

  2. There needs to be a plan for transportation in this area that will accommodate increased traffic flow and also be pedestrian friendly? Also how will this plan cope with those using the adjacent fitness center patrons who park along the street?
    The other concern is that current planning is for 2 restaurants that want drive through windows but this is not a wanted feature. Drive through access must also comply with the Centers and Corridors plan but the planners have a different viewpoint.

  3. I sent this email to the city counci.

    Hello from Cheney,

    I really hope the annexation proposed for the South Hill doesn’t go forward for a few reasons.

    1. There’s no such thing as 100% auto dependent affordable housing. Cars are expensive to own. Once you factor in transportation costs, that housing isn’t affordable anymore. The area under consideration for annexation is 100% auto dependent. Before voting on this please look up the costs of driving a mile and yearly ownership of a car, they’re not cheap.

    2. To actually be affordable housing needs to be on bus lines and near jobs and services. Spokane may need more affordable housing, but you have to look at transportation and other costs too, not just price per square foot or rent.

    4. The world has more than enough suburbia to go around. Car sales in America peaked back in ’04 or ’05. People are driving less every year. People under the age of 30 are turning their backs on cars and the ‘burbs and not looking back. In a decade or two there will be no market for that housing, few renters for the retail space and it will become a costly and problematic area for the city.

    5. Most of the building going on on the back side of the South Hill is completely shoddy crap. No one needs more of that.

    6. And while I have you here, why don’t we stop annexing county land and turning it into suburbia. Please let the county be rural, like it used to be and should still be. Spokane’s full of vacant land and tear down, cracker box housing with blue tarps on their roofs. Downtown has an over abundance of surface parking lots and rundown building. Let’s focus on fixing up and building out land already inside of Spokane’s current city limits before we look at expanding.

    Michael Crites

  4. Hello from Cheney,

    I really hope the annexation proposed for the South Hill doesn’t go forward for a few reasons.

    1. There’s no such thing as 100% auto dependent affordable housing. Cars are expensive to own. Once you factor in transportation costs, that housing isn’t affordable anymore. The area under consideration for annexation is 100% auto dependent. Before voting on this please look up the costs of driving a mile and yearly ownership of a car, they’re not cheap.

    2. To actually be affordable housing needs to be on bus lines and near jobs and services. Spokane may need more affordable housing, but you have to look at transportation and other costs too, not just price per square foot or rent.

    4. The world has more than enough suburbia to go around. Car sales in America peaked back in ’04 or ’05. People are driving less every year. People under the age of 30 are turning their backs on cars and the ‘burbs and not looking back. In a decade or two there will be no market for that housing, few renters for the retail space and it will become a costly and problematic area for the city.

    5. Most of the building going on on the back side of the South Hill is completely shoddy crap. No one needs more of that.

    6. And while I have you here, why don’t we stop annexing county land and turning it into suburbia. Please let the county be rural, like it used to be and should still be. Spokane’s full of vacant land and tear down, cracker box housing with blue tarps on their roofs. Downtown has an over abundance of surface parking lots and rundown building. Let’s focus on fixing up and building out land already inside of Spokane’s current city limits before we look at expanding.

    Michael Crites

  5. Spokane certainly deserves more thoughtful inclusive design, but I would go a step further and say that it is required to by law to build expanded retail in Centers and Corridors per Washington’s Growth Management Act that requires municipalities to implement growth according their Comprehensive Plans. Our Comp Plan identifies Centers and Corridors as the preferred growth mechanism for the city and has policies that actually forbid the creation of new General Commercial zones. The policies are there, the code is in place, we just need our Council and City Staff to follow it.

  6. Pingback: Spokane’s latest Comprehensive Plan punts on major land use issues, guts Complete Streets | Spokane Rising

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