Published June 8 2023
Plus, new Neighbors Helping Neighbors donation program, micro-apartments and Diversity Advantage projects
On Monday, the City Council proclaimed June as Pride Month in Bellevue and reaffirmed the city’s commitment to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community against ongoing discrimination and injustice, while also celebrating the community’s meaningful impact on Bellevue’s rich and diverse history and culture.
Award-winning Bellevue Botanical Garden
The council also recognized the Bellevue Botanical Garden, which was recently voted best public garden for King 5’s 2023 Best Northwest Escapes. Botanical Garden director James Gagliardi presented an overview of achievements in the past year.
Gagliardi noted a partnership with Bellevue Utilities on the award-winning Waterwise Garden, where visitors can see natural yard care in action. The Botanical Garden welcomed more than 425,000 visitors in the past year, and over 750 volunteers contributed 16,000 hours of service.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors (with utility bills)
The council directed Utilities staff to move forward on a new Neighbors Helping Neighbors donation program. The council previously asked staff to explore a program that allows community members to make donations in support of Bellevue Utilities rate relief programs for customers in need of financial assistance.
Utilities will implement a new billing system that can accept donations. To develop the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program, Utilities staff evaluated Bellevue’s existing rate relief programs and other utility donation programs. Donations will help customers who need temporary financial assistance, but don’t qualify for the city’s other rate relief programs due to age and physical ability.
Diversity Advantage Initiative and Cross-Cultural Center updates
The Diversity Advantage Initiative team shared updates on current projects. Work includes updates to the 2014 Diversity Advantage Plan, which will be informed by community and staff feedback in the fall, implementation of a budget equity tool to advance equitable outcomes for all residents, and continued diversity, equity and inclusion training for city staff.
The public can also look forward to participating in community dialogues on race and social justice for the Centering Communities of Color Initiative in July and August and diverse activities across the city through a traveling Cross-Cultural Center without Walls. (The city will award funds to nonprofits to host these activities.)
The city’s Juneteenth celebration will be at City Hall on June 20.
Removing barriers for micro-apartments
The council approved changes to the land use code to remove barriers to the development of micro-apartments. Micro-apartments present an opportunity to increase and diversify the city’s overall housing supply by providing lower-cost housing through small square-footage units and offering additional options to Bellevue’s single-person households. The changes apply in mixed-use areas of the city near transit and include setting a maximum unit size, reducing vehicle parking and adding bicycle parking, among other requirements.
Removing barriers to micro-apartments is part of the set of actions selected by council last year under the “Next Right Work” planning effort to complement the city’s ongoing housing work and encourage more housing and affordable housing production.
The council previously considered the proposed changes to the land use code at their April 24 study session and asked staff to bring back information on several topics, including parking reductions for affordable units, access to open space for micro-apartment residents and how the city’s multifamily tax exemption program could be applied to micro-apartments.
The council voted 6 to 1, with Councilmember Jennifer Robertson dissenting, to approve the recommended changes to the land use code, and to direct staff to update the multifamily tax exemption code to apply to micro-apartments. Additional information is available in the meeting materials and on the city’s Micro-Apartments LUCA webpage.