• Council adopts permanent regulations for homeless services

    Published July 17 2018

    In a 4-3 vote, the City Council adopted a land use code amendment for homeless shelters during Monday night’s regular session. Mayor John Chelminiak, Deputy Mayor Lynne Robinson and councilmembers John Stokes and Janice Zahn voted in favor of Ordinance No. 6419, while councilmembers Conrad Lee, Jared Nieuwenhuis and Jennifer Robertson voted against it.

    The amendment adds regulations to the land use code to determine how and where a homeless shelter can be sited in Bellevue. The vote did not involve the selection of a specific site for a permanent men’s shelter.

    “After Monday night’s decision, we now have a path forward to achieving one of the City Council’s vision priorities: siting a permanent location for a men’s shelter,” noted Mayor Chelminiak. “It is imperative that we site a shelter as soon as possible.”

    The newly adopted ordinance, which goes into effect five days after passage and publication, addresses the following:

    • The permit process to consider a proposal to build a shelter: an applicant may ask the city to negotiate a development agreement for the use and design of a homeless services use; by resolution, the council can accept or decline to do so. Otherwise, the permit would be processed as a conditional use permit.

    • For community involvement, a Good Neighbor Agreement Advisory Committee will be established, which will foster communication between the community and shelter operators. The committee is made up of up to 19 members, including up to eight residents who reside within a mile of the proposed shelter, with the option for up to two of the eight residents to serve at-large by council appointment. The committee also encourages participation by individuals who represent business interests in the vicinity of a proposed shelter, a K-12 student perspective, operator interests, human services interests and people experiencing homelessness. The committee will be supported by technical experts consisting of up to two faith-based or non-governmental organization representatives and staff from the Bellevue Police, Fire, and Parks & Community Services departments.

    • No requirement was adopted for buffers or separation requirements for homeless services uses.

    After the council voted on the ordinance, Mayor Chelminiak thanked the community for its engagement and involvement in the drafting of the land use code amendment. Public outreach to the community about siting a permanent men’s shelter began in 2016. Most recently, starting in March, the council sought public input for development of the amendment. The effort included a citywide online survey, one large workshop at City Hall, an optional “listening session” and two “Q&A sessions” at local community centers.

    The council discussed a draft amendment during the April 23, May 7 and 21 meetings, and 72 people spoke during a public hearing on June 11. The council then considered specific amendments to the draft amendment from individual councilmembers at the June 25, July 2 and July 16 meetings.

    The council’s overarching policy goals with the land use code amendment are to:

    • work toward an Eastside solution for a permanent location for a men’s winter homeless shelter;
    • support the establishment of a year-round homeless shelter on the Eastside;
    • take steps to ensure homelessness is rare, brief and one-time;
    • regulate homeless services uses without criminalizing homelessness; and
    • effectuate policies contained in the Comprehensive Plan.

    Since Aug. 7, 2017, an emergency ordinance has been in place that outlined the permitting process required to establish a homeless shelter in Bellevue. With the adoption of permanent citywide regulations to govern the permitting of homeless services uses, extension of the emergency ordinance isn’t necessary and the public hearing, scheduled for Monday, July 23, has been canceled.

    Since 2008, Bellevue has hosted a temporary winter shelter at various locations in the city. During this period, Congregations for the Homeless has operated the Eastside Winter Shelter as an emergency low-barrier winter shelter for men experiencing homelessness. The current location of the temporary winter shelter, which will open again in November, is Lincoln Center, 555 116th Ave. NE.