On Monday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m., Spokane City Council is expected to vote on revisions to the camping ordinance, more formally known as the “Protection of Public Lands and Properties Ordinance.” Illegal camping has significant impacts that affect businesses, employees, customers, residents, and visitors in downtown Spokane.

While these updates can be a start to ensure safe, clean and clear public rights-of-way, preserve our environment and reinstate a tool to encourage the unhoused to utilize shelter and services, the severity of illegal camping and its damaging impacts on our city’s neighborhoods – especially downtown – will also require further action. Read the DSP letter to City Council.

Opportunities to strengthen this ordinance include:

  • While the best option remains designation of the entirety of downtown as a prohibited camping area, expand access to the entry to and from the viaducts in this ordinance to ensure a safe area and access between alleys and the viaducts.
  • Specify entrances, doorways and driveways as areas where camping is prohibited at all times in the ordinance to clarify any potential confusion in enforcement.
  • Regularly monitor the ongoing impacts of illegal camping – and take action immediately.

If approved as an emergency ordinance, the law goes into effect immediately.

Sit and Lie Ordinance Updates Still Needed

While enforcement of sit-lie has resumed with shelter capacity growing in Spokane, it remains critically important that the City urgently revisit and amend the ordinance to clarify that exceptions – and thereby enforcement – is not determined by shelter bed availability. The need to regulate and maintain public rights-of-way to keep the public safe and ensure business is not impeded at all times remains, regardless of shelter capacity (see item six of the DSP Policy Platform). As we’ve seen with enforcement of sit-lie resuming in early September week, the ability to enforce laws is often enough to proactively prevent some of the very issues they are designed to address.

DSP Ambassadors are providing navigation to shelter and providers that need it for contacts violating the city’s sit-lie ordinance. Contact the Ambassador dispatch line at 509-353-9111 to report issues.

For more information about the updates needed to enhance the sit-lie ordinance, contact Andrew Rolwes, arolwes@downtownspokane.org.