It's two weeks & one day before Election Day, and I'm covering tonight's Bellevue City Council meeting. Important discussions on the East Main LUCA, implementation of the Environmental Stewardship Initiative, and a preliminary timeline for mid-biennium budget discussions. ImageImage
Tonight's East Main study session is because CMs were unable to come to consensus around FAR & height at the previous meeting. Tonight's meeting will seek to work out those details. Supposedly staff has met with CMs to iron out their concerns.
Because it's campaign season, I expect tonight's update of the Environmental Stewardship Plan implementation to be met with CMs praising staff for their work & talking about how Bellevue is leading on this effort.
However, there's still much work to be done - and the work that *has* been done won't lead to the concrete emissions reductions that will get us to our goal of 50% emissions by 2030. Staff will likely emphasize this chart showing that 40% of stewardship actions have been started. Image
However, the things that have been started are often easy wins, and the "ongoings" don't actually represent any change in city policy as a result of this plan, but rather a continuation of previous timelines.

Status quo will not help us avert climate crisis. ImageImageImageImage
(Calling the use of Mobility Levy funds, which have been collected for the past five years, an "acceleration" of the bike/ped plan feels a tad disingenuous).
Want to be clear that the issue (mostly) isn't on staff - it's on Council to set the implementation of the ESP as a priority - through more manhours, new staff positions, & more $$$.

The incumbent conservative CMs will not do this - no matter how green they bill themselves.
That's all to say: are you in Bellevue and haven't volunteered for Ruth & Dexter?

The future of affordable housing, transportation, and environmental stewardship in your city is at stake - we need all hands on deck.
Can't volunteer? Then *please* tell your friends, family, neighbors & coworkers to vote.

Don't live in Bellevue? Tell your Bellevue friends to vote. It really is *so* important, because right now is the time when we can get a progressive majority.
Mayor offers condolences for the passing of former Secretary of State Colin Powell at the request of multiple Councilmembers before the meeting moves into public testimony. Eight speakers this evening.
First speaker is a representative for Splash Forward, who is commenting on the next steps for a new aquatic center (another thing being discussed at night). Supports the site recommendation of Bellevue Airfield Park.
Next speaker has commented in the past about the ARCH program and hate crimes. Has concerns about the judges that have been voted in in local courts. Also says that the bridge moratorium is not enough, urges the Council to do more. "Beds are still full from COVID-19."
Third speaker, who normally comments on environmental issues, through PCA, is commenting on the aquatic center tonight, whose proposed site is adjacent to his property. Says Bellevue already has significant aquatic facilities. Image
Developer representative justifying a previous ask of greater FAR for nonresidential developments in the East Main area, also wants more amenity options in the Tier 1 category. More information on public amenities & tiers here.
Wig Properties representative wants to discuss block length & perimeter, which is not on the agenda until the next study session. Seems to have concerns around building walkable blocks "where feasible", since this will make surface parking less feasible.

Yes indeed. That's good.
"We need to recognize that this is an isolated site... It's harder for retailers to survive. Therefore retail parking will be of utmost importance."

Dude. You understand these rezone discussions are happening because *light rail* is coming in 1.5 years, right??
Next speaker echoes support for Splash Forward's testimony & goals. Talking about the importance of community pools & how private membership pools are inaccessible to poor families. "We need an inclusive & safe space for community members to come together & create connections."
Bellevue Club representative echoes the previous Wig Properties testimony asking for limiting the restrictions on small block sizes.
Middle School student who's passionate about sustainability appreciates Council's previous actions on climate. Supports fully funding the implementation of the plan, using both current & new staff if necessary.
Cofounder of 300 Trees commends the tree giveaway that the organization partnered w/ the City. City environmental staff went above and beyond to help facilitate the program. He also advocates for stronger tree protection codes. Org will provide "State of the Trees" report by EOY.
Another Splash Forward rep supports the new proposed site for aquatic center. As a water polo coach, "There's not much access right now." Lot of the facilities are apparently outside. Org works to reduce barriers for BIPOC swimmers, and Lake Hills is most diverse neighborhood.
There was 1 more person who wanted to speak, but since Bellevue *also* puts a hard limit of 30 minutes on oral communications (in addition to maximum 3 people/one side of an issue), we won't be able to hear them. They'll have to write in w/ their comments.
Moving onto staff's presentation on mid-biennium (mid-bi) calendar.

Things will move quickly & discussions will be more limited than normal budget discussions. Fewer steps are required as well. ImageImage
Mid-bi budget adjustments are historically a time to address inflation, but CM Zahn notes this mid-bi process will be different b/c of COVID-19. Perhaps better revenue projections than what was forecasted last year.

Staff: updated revenue & expenditure forecasts come on Nov 8.
Moving on to the ESP quarterly update.

Staff: 60% of the actions have been started or are on-going in year one.

Again though, that number is misleading since it's based on how staff categorizes something as being "started." Image
Again, not to diminish staff's work, but a substantial part of Bellevue's actions seem to be for complying w/ state law rather than actually leading on climate action.

Praising where we're at (as conservative CMs will do in 2 minutes) instead of wanting more isn't good enough.
DM Nieuwenhuis, who didn't show up for the recent environmental forum, asking how the environmental focus group he spearheaded is going.

I've personally heard disappointment from advocates, who believe it's more policy & process for a city that needs actions instead.
Staff says there's been one meeting with the larger engagement group & one is planned for the future. Other stakeholder meetings have been held as well.

Yes, engagement is important - but action matters more. What's the plan to actually enact what we need to do to reduce CO2?
CM Stokes is interested in scaling up implementation, which he acknowledges will take more staffing. Wonders if there's more details about implementation available, since just the % of actions that have been started isn't a comprehensive metric. Staff says that info's available.
CM Lee participated in the tree giveaway program this past weekend. He wants the city to focus on engagement, improving coordination w/ other city departments, and improving partnerships with PSE & other organizations.
CM Zahn also helped w/ tree giveaway & has repeatedly called for more ESP implementation funding, since the current sustainability department is "small but mighty." Advocates for the importance of environmental equity & again scaling up implementation of the program.
Also (rightly) notes that certain actions will drive down CO2 more than others, so "when we talk about the 77 actions and the 31 that haven't begun yet, which ones are the most important one to in terms of driving down our GHG emissions?" Wants to start with those soon.
CM Barksdale agrees in the importance of "helping [staff's] team scale in order to make more progress." Would like to be able to commit to one major action per area per year. Supports flagging which actions are more impactful in reducing CO2 emissions in these updates.
After a lengthy break, onto the East Main LUCA discussion. Updated timeline on the LUCA discussions below. Looks like not much has changed other than the addition of the session this evening. ImageImage
Current map of expected ped/bike facilities on site. SE 4th, which doesn't currently exist, would be a low traffic street with ped facilities "& bike facilities if developer chooses." Other connections are possible but would be up to developer to meet block length requirements. Image
Stakeholder request, which staff supports, would see only ped facilities at SE 4th St - grade changes would be difficult & there are other facilities present, according to staff. Also note that it's likely developers will provide other connections elsewhere. Image
Looks like staff have made minor amendments to Option B in response to CM & stakeholder testimony, mainly around the amenities. Summary of the different proposals below. Image
At the last meeting, conservative CMs wanted to increase the base non-residential FAR for the site to 3.5 from 2.5, in line with the developer's request. However, that would reduce the amount of potential public benefit available. Staff detailing that now. Image
Compare the potential public benefits available if the base nonresidential FAR were increased to 3.5. ImageImage
Staff took CM & stakeholder feedback to heart and expanded the proposed amenity options. Included CM Barksdale's ask to support more mom & pop shops in East Main as a "special amenity," placed in Tier 2. Image
CM Zahn appreciates staff balancing stakeholder asks w/ city's needs. Asks about some concerns on fee in lieu that were raised by the Eastside Housing Roundtable. Staff notes they didn't have time to process the group's concerns b/c they were submitted right before the meeting.
DM Nieuwenhuis expresses concerns at the capping of bonusable area for childcare facilities at 10,000 sq ft. Staff notes that larger facilities can be built, but only 10,000 sq ft will apply to bonuses for public amenities. DM suggests raising that to 15,000 sq ft.
DM is still supportive of 3.5 nonresidential FAR & wants to move more things into Tier One priorities. Staff have noted that adding additional amenities to Tier One dilutes the pool and might reduce the amount of other priority amenities that end up getting provided.
In response to CM Barksdale's question, staff notes that, at 2.5 base FAR, 80% of the necessary public benefit can be provided by creating 4 potential streets (necessary anyway for block size standards) and 40,000 sq ft of open space (necessary for a 10% open space requirement).
CM Robertson agrees with DM Nieuwenhuis in adding additional amenities to Tier 1. Also supports 3.5 base FAR, even though staff just provided a presentation on why that's not ideal. Neither CM supporting 3.5 has provided justifications for why their minds have not been changed.
CM Stokes, who had expressed support for 3.5 FAR for both (non-)residential, actually supports 2.5 for nonresidential and was confused at the previous meeting. Says the pedestrian bridge would be nice to have, but city will need to look at cost.
Another editorialized reminder that we wouldn't need a pedestrian bridge across 112th Ave SE if City Council was willing to prioritize pedestrian signaling in Downtown & East Main and was fine w/ cars waiting for a little bit to ensure pedestrians can cross safely at grade.
CM Lee still wants 3.5 FAR. "I could say I want... a Taj Mahal [on the site]. But we're asking the real things that we want that benefit the city... It sounds like we're blackmailing [the developers]." Is really concerned, as always, about project economic feasibility.
Mayor Robinson trying to get CM Lee to wrap up his testimony, only to have to patientily listen to an additional minute and a half of interjected ramblings, is probably just part of the reason why she's endorsed his opponent.

I wouldn't want to be in meetings w/ the guy either.
Council votes 5-2 to have base non-residential FAR be 2.5. DM Nieuwenhuis, who had previously said he supported 3.5, both introduced the motion & voted in support. Now moving on to discussion around Tier 1 & Tier 2 amenities.
Staff clarifies that Tier 1 amenities for residential developments would only be affordable housing. The discussion of moving amenities to Tier 1 from Tier 2 is only happening for commercial development.
CM Stokes again indirectly getting at the core of the issue - by raising the bonusable childcare sq footage from 10k to 15k, you're taking away from other amenities that could potentially be filled instead. He seems opposed to raising the sq ft out of fear of diluting the pool.
CM Robertson notes that "if the market size for childcare is 15k or larger and we don't right size the amenity points," we might not get the childcare built at all & developer chooses another public amenity. "This is a no-brainer if we support childcare."
CM Zahn has been convinced to increase the childcare sq ft to 15k but wouldn't want it to dilute the other important priorities in Tier 1. I believe her support for increasing size would be predicated on keeping it in Tier 2.
Ah, my misunderstanding, it's already in Tier 1, she was just raising concerns about the dilution of other priorities. Council votes to approve the size increase w/ no dissenters, though I don't believe everybody voted.
Pedestrian bridge moves to a Tier One amenity on a 4-3 vote. CMs Barksdale, Zahn, and Stokes oppose. Moving performing arts to Tier One passes on 4-3 vote, w/ Zahn, Barksdale, and Robinson dissenting. Moving public art to Tier 1 fails 5-2, w/ Stokes & Robinson voting aye.
Mayor Robinson wants affordable housing benefits to be exclusively at 80% AMI for Tier 1, even ownership. That passes 5-2, with Robertson & Lee dissenting. Robertson moves 100% AMI ownership to Tier 2, which passes 7-0 after Stokes changes his vote to yes.
There's a final vote about modifications to DA requirements that went 4-3, although I'm unsure on the exact conditions. Conservatives + Robinson supported, progressives dissented. Since I don't know/care much about the aquatic center, I'll end my coverage there. Thanks everybody!

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More from @Deutski1

24 Nov
Just got rejected for a transpo job that I was really eyeing and it's hitting me kinda hard. It was the first time I applied for something that really felt like it would be a career, and I was really excited at the prospect of making a positive difference in the world.
I want to do good work. There's a lot of directions I can go in right now with my life (journalism, advocacy, environmental research, etc.), but it almost feels like a master of none situation where I don't have enough qualifications in any particular field to actually get hired.
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I hear there's going to be people testifying in the budget hearing asking for more funding to implement the city's environmental stewardship initiative. As I & others have noted before, the city wants to reduce GHGs by 50% in a little over 8 years' time.
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Prepping for tonight's Bellevue City Council meeting.

Two interesting topics are being discussed this evening as study session items - the framework plan for Eastrail in the Wilburton area, and another discussion on the East Main LUCA. Image
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21 Sep
Tonight's Bellevue City Council meeting has some interesting items on the agenda: a discussion on a requirement to use a certain quota of apprentices in City contracts, an update on the implementation of recommendations from the police use of force review, and ARCH's budget. ImageImage
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CM Barksdale notes that out of the 17 projects awarded by the City last year, only one actually used apprentices.

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14 Sep
Tonight's Bellevue City Council meeting will feature discussions around renaming an Environmental Education Center after Jim Ellis (local advocate), the East Main LUCA process, and all the development going on around the city. ImageImageImage
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As I've made clear, I believe a policy of "never naming things after people" is short-sighted - it's all about *who* you name them after and what they stood for.

But I'd at least appreciate consistency from Council on this issue.
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8 Sep
Livetweeting Bellevue's first City Council meeting after their August recess. Topics of discussion include: nomination to the Transportation Commission, B&O Tax amendment, and an update on city's Homelessness Outreach. The latter is what interests me most this evening. ImageImage
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The fact that there's no reason given for why this informational presentation is being held this evening makes me believe it's in response to the conversation around Redmond & the Silver Cloud Inn purchase. Image
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