• Environment and Critical Areas

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    Bellevue City Code, State and Federal laws establish environmental regulations and procedures that affect development and use of property. These regulations are meant to ensure impacts to the environment are avoided, minimized, documented, and mitigated. Established procedures provide opportunity for public notice and comment. Certain areas are designated as environmentally sensitive or “critical areas” that are protected from avoidable development impacts.

    Critical Areas

    Critical areas are parts of the landscape afforded special protection because they provide unique environmental functions that are difficult, if not impossible, to replace. The code protects six types of critical areas:

    • Streams and riparian areas
    • Wetlands
    • Habitats for species of local importance
    • Geological hazard areas
    • Flood hazard areas
    • Shorelines

    Buffers and structure setbacks are then applied to the edges of these critical areas to protect their functions and values.

    State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)

    The State Environmental Policy Act of 1971 was enacted to ensure projects and proposals maintain and improve environmental quality by requiring procedures designed to ensure public notice and requires the City of Bellevue to consider environmental impacts of proposals prior to making decisions. SEPA review in Bellevue is usually done as part of an associated Land Use application but can be done separately if the project is of sufficient size and complexity that it will have substantial adverse environmental impacts. Projects are evaluated through submittal of an environmental checklist

    Green Building Incentives

    Our City Code offers incentives to encourage building projects that demonstrate a reduced environmental impact. These code incentives are supported by the City’s policy goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by rewarding innovation green building technology. Learn more about green building incentives.


    The City has developed the following information to assist in understanding environmental regulations, permitting requirements, mitigation and other topics:

    The Critical Areas Handbook is a detailed, step-by-step guide to aid in the development, installation, monitoring and maintenance of small-scale environmental enhancement and restoration projects

    The Urban Wildlife Habitat Literature Review and Functional Assessment Model is a tool to help evaluate the presence, function and value of habitat.

    The Tree Pruning Guidelines (flipbook version) explain appropriate tree maintenance practices.

    Critical Areas Training Videos, filmed during a training for professional service providers who perform work in critical areas.

    What good are Environmental Impact Statements?