Zoning laws are a critical aspect of urban planning, influencing the development, design, and functionality of cities. In Spokane, these regulations are particularly pivotal in shaping its growing landscape and community characteristics. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the zoning laws of Spokane, Washington, to provide residents, investors, and developers with an understanding of how these regulations affect property use and development in the city.

Introduction to Zoning in Spokane

Zoning refers to the process by which a municipality or other governmental entity regulates the use and development of land. Spokane’s zoning laws are designed to separate residential areas from commercial and industrial areas, to regulate building heights and densities, and to control the layout of community development. Each zone within the city is classified to accommodate specific types of development and usage.

Key Zoning Districts in Spokane

Spokane’s zoning framework consists of several different districts, each with its specific guidelines and intended use. These include:

  • Residential Zones: These zones are primarily designated for housing and may include single-family residences (SF), duplexes (RT), or higher density apartment complexes (RA and RM).
  • Commercial Zones: Catering to business needs, these zones (such as GC for General Commercial and NC for Neighborhood Commercial) are designed to accommodate a variety of business types and sizes.
  • Industrial Zones: Intended for manufacturing and industrial operations, these areas (like LI for Light Industrial and HI for Heavy Industrial) are essential for supporting the city’s economic development.
  • Office Zones: These are used for professional offices and services. They aim to be positioned in a way that they serve nearby residents without causing congestion or misuse of residential streets.
  • Overlay Zones: These zones overlay other zoning districts to provide additional regulations for specific characteristics and uses, like historic preservation or airport vicinity restrictions.

Permitted Uses and Restrictions

Each zoning district has its list of permitted uses, conditional uses requiring a special review, and prohibited uses. For instance, an area zoned as a Residential Single-Family (SF) typically does not allow the operation of any type of commercial business that might disrupt the residential nature of the environment.

Furthermore, specific restrictions and requirements relate to building heights, setback from the street, lot coverage, and landscaping. For example, in a General Commercial (GC) zone, both the building height and the landscape requirements might be significantly more relaxed than those in a Residential Suburban (RS) zone.

Understanding Special Use Permits

In some cases, a proposed use of land may not align directly with the outlined uses of a particular zoning district. In these scenarios, a special use permit may be needed. Obtaining a special use permit typically involves a review process by planning commissioners and may require a public hearing to consider the impact of the proposed use on the surrounding area.

Navigating Zoning Changes and Variances in Spokane

There are instances when property owners might find the current zoning regulations restrictive for their intended property use. In these cases, property owners can apply for a zoning change or a variance. A zoning change could reclassify a property to a different zoning class, while a variance permits deviations from the specific requirements of the zoning ordinance. Both processes involve substantial review and community input to ensure that the changes benefit the wider community interests.


Zoning laws in Spokane are a dynamic and evolving element of the city’s planning and development process. By understanding the zoning regulations in Spokane, residents, developers, and investors can better navigate the potentials and limitations of property use in the city. For detailed planning and successful compliance, it is often advisable to consult with local zoning and planning experts or the city’s planning department.

Whether aiming to develop property, invest in real estate, or simply understand the layout of one’s community, getting familiar with Spokane’s zoning laws is an indispensable step for any stakeholder.

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