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Wondering what’s going on in Spokane this week? We round up all the latest interesting news in Spokane here – let us know on our Facebook page if we missed anything!
Miss out on our previous news stories? You can find all the news you missed here!
Spokane school boundaries to be redrawn [The Spokesman-Review]
Summary: It has been four decades since school boundaries were redrawn across Spokane.
And for good reason.
Drawing lines on a map is harder than it looks, especially when those lines can affect children for the rest of their lives.
However, Spokane Public Schools has no choice. With passage of the 2018 capital bond and the pending addition of three new middle schools, the district must decide where those students will go to high school.
The district’s newly formed Boundary Adjustment Committee also will examine current elementary school boundaries and consider any changes in how and where those students move on to middle school.
The process will go through spring 2021, but the effects could last for decades…
After receiving public input, the committee will complete a review and make five final recommendations to the board by May 12, 2021.
ES Analysis: This is a big deal, and it's good to see Spokane Public Schools taking their time to process these changes and inform the community.
First, the good: these boundaries are being redrawn because Spokane is growing and adding three new middle schools. Good! In addition, the guidelines for this redrawing are to “support walkability, recognize natural and artificial boundaries, and keep neighborhoods together.” Also good!
The tricky: according to the article, “To level the socioeconomic differences between neighborhoods, the committee might consider more drastic changes in the middle schools and high schools.
For example, the North Side will eventually have six middle schools feeding into three high schools: Rogers, North Central and Shadle Park.
Currently, some students from distant Five Mile are bused to North Central. With the addition of a new middle school on the current Albi Stadium site, the committee could recommend a more contiguous approach and send those students (along with those from Glover) to Shadle Park.
However, that move might lower the overall socioeconomic level at North Central.”
There is a lot of work to do before the boundaries are finalized, so make sure to check out and follow the district website here. We'll also keep you updated on the latest, so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for any breaking news!
Newcomers fleeing expensive housing are finding it again in Spokane. Now they want protections [Crosscut]
Summary: In Spokane, income inequality and out-of-reach housing costs are forcing people onto the streets and into shelters. In late November, lawmakers drafted a set of laws that, should they pass, would usher in new safeguards for renters. The fight over these proposed rules exemplifies the struggles many Western cities face as they attempt to balance continued growth with stability and shelter for their residents.
Housing costs are soaring in Spokane, and wages aren’t keeping up. Since 2010, the average rent has grown by 74%, to over $1,000 per month. In the same period, the average renter’s income has increased by only 51%…
Rent is going up in part because of an influx of new residents. In November 2019, real estate in Spokane and Spokane Valley had the highest relative show of interest in the nation by out-of-towners, according to Realtor.com. Much of that demand comes from the high-priced Seattle area. Census data show that between 2013 and 2017, about 13,500 more people moved to Spokane County than left, with the highest amounts coming from populous counties in Western Washington.
ES Analysis: This is another tricky news story, especially for us to cover given that we are “new transplants” to Spokane relatively recently. However, in all fairness, I did live here from 2005-2009 when it was extremely cheap. But you know what else was not here? Things to do (okay, yes there were a few bars and clubs. A few). A lot of shops, stores – entrepreneurs that make up the backbone of Spokane – were not here because they couldn't sustain their own businesses, so they fled to Seattle or other cities.
There is a lot of give and take when cities grow, and of course rents will go up as people with more money move into a city. We've also had an influx of people starting their own businesses in Spokane, supporting jobs and the economy. Does this mean Spokanites should go homeless? No! Are there ways we could support families struggling to afford rent in Spokane? Absolutely – but it won't be easy.
In this article, the article mentions some steps city leaders took to address this issue, but unfortunately it's hard to come up with a solution everyone agrees on. Expect to see a lot more back-and-forth (and people using extreme stories to highlight their agendas) before anything gets resolved.
Spokane City Council appoints Betsy Wilkerson to vacant seat [KHQ]
Summary: [T]he Spokane City Council unanimously appointed Betsy Wilkerson to the vacant seat in District 2….
Wilkerson will become the first African-American member on the city council in nearly 20 years.
Wilkerson works in the local non-profit world, serving as president of the board at the Carl Maxey Center in the East Central Neighborhood.
ES Analysis: Betsy Wilkerson is the newest Spokane City Council member, having filled the seat left vacant by Breean Beggs, who is now council president. She will represent district two, the South district, and was one of seven finalists out of 32 applicants for the position. While we don't know much about her beyond her qualifications, we're glad to see the process went smoothly and congratulations to Councilmember Wilkerson!
The Dirt: Columbia Building, NAI Black, the Dirt, Spokane [The Spokesman-Review]
Summary: Black Enterprises is planning a $3.5 million project to convert the historic Columbia Building in downtown Spokane into a mixed-use site with several apartments on the upper floors.
Black Enterprises has filed an application to change the six-story building’s use from commercial to multifamily, which will make way for 50 “turnkey” apartments on the upper five floors of the structure at 107 S. Howard St…
The Columbia Building houses The Wave Island Sports Grill & Bar and Fusion Juice on the first floor.
ES Analysis: Make sure to click over to this article – it also has news about a new Papillon restaurant coming to Spokane (not until 2024 though!) and MOD Pizza coming to Hillyard, but this article is interesting in light of the debate about affordable housing. If Spokane truly wanted affordable housing, it could tie tax incentives for new businesses creating multi-family apartments to making some of those units affordable.
Will Spokane do this? It will certainly face pushback from developers. But if they truly wanted to leave small landlords alone, as some have said, and want to address this issue, one way would be the suggestion above. It would take political backbone though – so stay tuned for how this all plays out!
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