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Spokane's illegal camping ordinance may be updated for the first time since 2018

The changes to the ordinance were drafted by Mayor Nadine Woodward in coordination with the city council.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane's city council will discuss a revised illegal camping ordinance during their next meeting on Monday. The current illegal camping ordinance has not been revised since 2018.

Under Spokane's current illegal camping ordinance, camping is not allowed on any public property, including conservation lands and natural areas near the Spokane River. However, the ordinance is also not enforced if there is no shelter space.

This ordinance has not been updated since 2018, but the Spokane City Council is preparing to consider an update to the ordinance during its meeting on Monday night. The changes were drafted by the mayor in coordination with the city council.

Both the city council and the mayor's proposals allow for enforcement at all times in some specified locations. The proposed changes would also prohibit camping at all times, regardless of the availability of shelter space, anywhere where an officer can document that the activity poses a substantial danger to any person, an immediate threat or unreasonable risk of harm to public health or safety, or disruption to vital government services

Both proposals would also enforce the camping ordinance in the following areas:

  • Within 50 feet of railroad viaducts located within the Spokane Police Department's Downtown Precinct boundary and within three blocks of any congregate shelter
  • Along the banks of the Spokane River and Latah Creek unless there is no shelter space available

Ahead of Monday's discussion, KREM 2 spoke with councilmember Michael Cathcart. He said he wants to see broader camping restrictions included in the ordinance.

"I had offered a few different versions of this," Cathcart said. "But the most recent one would have said that we're going to strictly enforce 1000 feet around parks, schools, daycares, and 2500 feet around congregate shelters. And I think that that provides a real high level of protection for our neighborhoods."

He said narrowing the scope is necessary to keep neighborhoods safe and he plans to address additional amendments at Monday's council meeting.

Both proposals also have no effect on people camping on private or state-owned land, meaning the people camping in the lot near I-90 would be exempt from both ordinances since the land is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

However, Spokane County Administrator Johnnie Perkins sent a letter to WSDOT on Friday threatening legal action unless the camp was cleared out by Oct. 14.

To read the city's current illegal camping ordinance, click here.

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