09 Jul 22, by Hello for good

Camping Ban: Downtown Leaders Call on City to Reinstate


July 8, 2022

Contact: Elisabeth Hooker

509.456.0580 x-102

Downtown Business Leaders Call on City to Reinstate Camping Ban

City Council Urged to Prohibit Camping, Sitting, Lying in Downtown

[Spokane, Wash.] Downtown Spokane Partnership Board of Directors today called on City Council members to support reinstatement of Spokane’s Unauthorized Camping Ordinance with designated no camping areas at all times, including within the Downtown Business Improvement District and Downtown Police Precinct boundary.

“The time has come for Spokane to take the necessary action of reestablishing order on the sidewalks of Downtown and around the facilities which provide services to people experiencing homelessness,” said Chris Batten, chair of the Downtown Spokane Partnership board of directors. “Sitting, lying and camping on sidewalks and underpasses is harmful. Allowing the uncontrolled spread of encampments carries legal risks and imposes significant economic and human costs to the city and our community.”

The call to action follows the July 6 announcement of a new proposal by Mayor Nadine Woodward with Council Members Michael Cathcart and Jonathan Bingle to revise ordinances that protect public land, property, and sidewalks and clarify enforcement of the City’s camping and sit-and-lie laws. Developed with input from various community organizations, changes to the ordinances reflect ongoing feedback from Downtown businesses and residents requesting a no camping designation in Downtown.

Continued Batten, “The reality is that in a compact urban environment like Downtown Spokane, there is no room for people to sit, lie and camp while maintaining access for everyone. The time has come to re-establish dignity in our public spaces, implement and enforce time and place restrictions on where and when individuals can camp on downtown public property, and enforce rules that keep our sidewalks clean.”

In a letter sent to City Council on July 8, the Downtown Spokane Partnership applauded the proposal to update and clarify no camping designations in Downtown, noting these updates address today’s needs while running a relatively low risk of a successful Martin v. City of Boise based challenge. Creating a special set of exemptions, privileges and rights for some to occupy public and private property without complying with laws that apply to others undermines the ability of all citizens to access clean and non-threatening public spaces, while jeopardizing the economic viability of local businesses.

In a memo from Tonkon Torp, LLP developed in February 2022, it clarifies that the court’s decision “in no way” requires governments to “allow anyone who wishes to sit, lie, or sleep on the streets…at any time and at any place.”[1] Tonkon also notes that allowing the uncontrolled spread of encampments carries its own set of legal risks, including exposure to lawsuits by businesses and residents stemming from economic harms, property damage, constitutional violations, and violation of the rights of individuals under the ADA and related protections for the disabled. Aside from legal risks, encampments can cause substantial interference with intended uses of public facilities and increased costs from responding to emergency situations, damage to critical infrastructure, reduced urban livability and desirability, and the loss of tax revenue.

“Downtown is for everyone, but we recognize that certain behaviors can cause severe impacts and threaten public safety and health,” said Emilie Cameron, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership. “Hazardous encampments cause real issues that affect residents, employees and visitors. If we lose Downtown as a place where people feel safe, we risk losing the momentum we’ve all worked so hard to gain.”

While there are many similarities among recent proposals to update the City’s ordinances, Mayor Woodward’s proposal expands the no camping designation to Downtown and near congregate shelters and clarifies enforcement of sit-lie policies. The Downtown Spokane Partnership strongly supports these updates to maintain key protections for Downtown, prohibiting camping at all times within the Downtown Business Improvement District and Downtown Police Precinct boundary and clarifying no Sitting, Lying on a Sidewalk between 6 a.m. and midnight.

According to Batten, “It’s time to do something bold.”

[1] Martin v. City of Boise, 920 F.3d 584, 617 (9th Cir. 2019)


About the Downtown Spokane Partnership

The DSP is a private, non-profit membership organization that serves as Spokane’s central city advocate and service provider of the Downtown Spokane Parking and Business Improvement District, dedicated to enhancing the quality and vitality of Downtown Spokane as the basis for a healthy region. The DSP accomplishes its mission through advocating for public policies, business and project development, quality planning, physical improvement projects, public safety, beautification, and marketing programs that ensure downtown’s continued success. To learn more, visit

[1] Martin v. City of Boise, 920 F.3d 584, 617 (9th Cir. 2019)