The City of Spokane's Comprehensive Plan was adopted with the premise that "neighborhood planning is an important community process in the City of Spokane that will serve to fulfill the vision of the comprehensive plan while ensuring that neighborhoods continue to be the foundation of a strong community" (City of Spokane Comprehensive Plan 11.4.8). In the Comprehensive Plan the city laid out its commitment to neighborhood based planning. Unfortunately with the recent budget cuts, neighborhood planning was one of the first programs to go.
Planning at the local level has been shown to be an effective tool in neighborhood development. Planning brings a community together and through various techniques of community development and strategic planning residents are able to voice their concerns and find ways to build on their assets. It is a very powerful process that the City of Spokane should be encouraging. Various organizations such as the Neighborhood Alliance of Spokane County advocates for increased collaboration and sustainability at the neighborhood level. However, with little resources it is nearly impossible for neighborhoods to undertake a planning effort on their own. The Neighborhood Alliance provides assistance, but with out a full time staff member working with each neighborhood, planning is almost impossible.
Through a Community Outreach Partnership Center HUD grant, the East Central Neighborhood has been able to have faculty and students of Eastern Washington University and the Community Colleges of Spokane provide staff members and technical assistance to help the neighborhood develop their plan. A Stakeholder Group of 40 residents was developed to help guide the direction of the plan. The plan is made up of nine elements ranging from transportation to land use. The Stakeholders represented the residents of the neighborhood and provided opportunity for public input at the South Perry Street Faire, Unity in the Community, and two large public meetings held in February 2004 and October 2004. Overall hundreds of residents gave input into this plan. The plan was adopted by the Stakeholder group and later the Neighborhood Council and is on its way to the Planning Commission and City Council.
East Central hopes to provide their process and planning principles to other neighborhoods in the city, so they will be able to benefit by planning for their own neighborhoods. It is important that the City recognize that the neighborhoods represent the fabric of this community and their voice and vision of the future needs to be adopted into the Comprehensive Plan.