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Councilmembers propose to ease parking regulations as a housing incentive for developers

Spokane City Councilman Jonathan Bingle speaks during a press conference on Monday.
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
Spokane City Councilman Jonathan Bingle speaks during a press conference on Monday.

Developers may soon be allowed to provide fewer parking slots for some projects they build inside the city of Spokane.

Two council members announced Monday they’re proposing a one-year pilot program that would reduce the minimum parking restrictions for housing complexes within a half mile of public transit stops. Councilman Zack Zappone says the goal is to reduce developers’ costs.

“In just 2022 and 2023, the cities of Raleigh, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Anchorage, Alaska; Richmond, Virginia; San Jose, California; and Bend, Oregon have all eliminated parking minimum requirements," he said. "Spokane is just following a national trend or reducing parking minimum requirements to incentivize affordable housing.”

Zappone and his co-sponsor, Councilman Jonathan Bingle, say their proposal is a supplement to an ordinance approved last year that encourages developers to build more varieties of housing. They say their proposal won’t lead to a big, immediate increase in new projects, but will be one more tool for developers looking to keep home prices down.

Zappone and Bingle are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but say they share a common goal of getting more housing built. They say they've worked on the proposal for at least two months. They've also built broad support from a variety of organizations that don't often agree on land use issues, from the Lands Council to the Spokane Association of Realtors.

“We have in mind environmental issues. We have housing issues. We have building issues. We have urbanism issues. And so this issue cuts across a variety of those issues for different stakeholders to build that support together to make this change for the future of Spokane that we want to see," Zappone said.

"We are the middle of a housing crisis, so anything we can do as a community, to come together as policymakers, that solves that crisis, is a win," said Jennifer Thomas from the Spokane Homebuilders Association.

"Neighbors will likely not see a lot of change. Most of the state laws have already been adapted to not require parking offsite," said Darin Watkins from the Spokane Association of Realtors. "It'll be the difference between projects going forward or not going forward."

Zappone says the goal is to have the one-year pilot proposal approved by the full council by mid July and eventually to make the changes permanent, if they prove to be effective.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.