• Council Roundup: Affordable housing sales tax approved and arts survey results

    Plus, lowered speed limit for Surrey Downs and Arts Commission and Library Board appointments 

    On Monday, as the City Council proclaimed Oct. 12-16 as Affordable Housing Week, councilmembers unanimously voted to adopt a resolution imposing a one-tenth of one percent sales tax increase in Bellevue to support targeted affordable housing projects and related services. 

    The tax is a result of House Bill 1590, enacted by the State Legislature in the most recent session. It allows a sales and use tax increase of up to 0.1 percent imposed at either the city or county level for affordable housing and mental and behavioral health services. 

    If Bellevue had not chosen to enact the tax prior to the King County Council’s approval of the tax at the county level on Tuesday, the county would only have been required to spend 30 percent of the revenues collected by the city (estimated at $2.6 million per year) in Bellevue. As a result of the vote in Bellevue, the city now has more control over how 100 percent of the taxes generated in Bellevue (estimated at $8.9 million per year) are spent.

    Several cities in King County have exercised the same option, including Issaquah, Kent, Renton, Covington and Snoqualmie. The new tax will take effect Jan. 1, 2021.

    Further information on Bellevue’s Affordable Housing Strategy is available on a dedicated web page and more details on the new tax are in the meeting agenda item.

    Arts survey results

    The council received a briefing on results of a regional arts survey conducted by the city to assess the local impact of COVID-19 on the arts industry and the sentiments of arts consumers as it relates to accessing arts content virtually and returning to in-person events. 

    More than a thousand people responded to the survey, with over half of respondents reporting they attended events weekly or monthly prior to pandemic. Survey participants were from cities across the region, and 82 percent said they attend arts events in Bellevue. While recent virtual arts events have attracted high attendance numbers, only 37 percent of survey participants said they had paid for a virtual event. Meanwhile, 57 percent of people wanted to see a readily available vaccine before they would consider attending an in-person event.

    The city also met with over 25 organizations in one on one listening sessions to further understand the economic impact of the pandemic and ability of local arts providers to transition to more virtual platforms to deliver arts content. More work is expected with arts partners in the community to create a follow-up survey to assess the changing needs and perceptions of arts audience members as the conditions in the pandemic continue to shift. The initial survey findings are posted to an arts survey web page.

    New speed limit for Surrey Downs

    In other action, the council adopted an ordinance lowering the speed limit on all streets in the Surrey Downs neighborhood to 20 mph, down from 25 mph, the speed limit for all non-school zone, residential streets elsewhere in Bellevue. It’s the first neighborhood in Bellevue with a 20 mph speed limit. 

    The new speed limit responds to residents concerned about vehicle traffic in a neighborhood with few sidewalks, many walkers and close proximity to downtown, parks, schools and the future East Main light rail station. The council’s action also supports Bellevue’s Vision Zero effort to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries on Bellevue streets by 2030. Evidence suggests that a lower speed limit increases the likelihood of surviving a crash and reduces the chance of serious injury.

    The cost to implement the new speed limit in Surrey Downs will be approximately $10,000, which includes paying for new signs, new pavement markings and a study to determine the effectiveness of the change. The 20 mph speed limit in Surrey Downs is expected to take effect in late October or November. A dedicated web page has more detailed information on the project including frequently asked questions.

    Arts Commission and Library Board appointments

    Three applicants were unanimously approved by the council to join the city’s Arts Commission and Library Board at the meeting. The City Council appoints residents to boards, commissions and committees that provide detailed study and recommendations on important policy matters.

    Monik Martinez will serve a four-year term expiring on May 31, 2024, on the Arts Commission. Judy Gowdy will serve a partial term on the commission expiring on May 31, 2022.

    James Rusk will serve a four-year term expiring on May 31, 2024, on the Library Board.

    Additional information on Bellevue’s boards and commissions is available on the city website.

    Published on 10/14/2020