• Council Roundup: East Main briefing

    Plus, economic development update and residential minimum parking public hearing

    The City Council Monday considered the first of three topic areas, “Streets and Blocks,” related to a Land Use Code amendment for the East Main Station Area. The East Main Station Area is approximately 60 acres near the southeast corner of downtown, bordering the East Main light rail station and Surrey Downs neighborhood to the west, Interstate 405 to the east and Mercer Slough to the south.

    The discussion focused on the adopted vision and policies to establish a small, walkable block pattern and create a vibrant, people-oriented district near the transit station, distinct yet complementary to downtown. The goal is to leverage Bellevue’s investment in East Link and provide easy access to a variety of transportation options. The provisions of the “Streets and Blocks” topic area within the new district are foundational to achieving the adopted vision that will shape the future neighborhood. 

    Councilmembers gave their input in response to the presentation. Staff will incorporate council’s feedback into the proposed amendment being developed. The full discussion can be viewed on Bellevue Television.

    Monthly study sessions for each of the topic areas will take place from July through October, with a public hearing and final council action anticipated in November and December.

    Economic development and draft plan update

    The council received an update on the city’s Economic Development Plan, with a specific focus on the efforts to support businesses, arts organizations and workers as they navigate and recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19. The briefing highlighted the specific impacts of the virus, the response by the city and its partners, and proposed recovery strategies.

    Unemployment in Bellevue is over 10 percent, with particular impacts in retail, accommodation and food service. Recommended workforce recovery strategies include providing information and resources for unemployed individuals, fostering retraining for in-demand careers after pandemic recovery, and diversity-focused workforce solutions.

    More than half of businesses in East King County reported a need for layoffs or a drop in staff hours. Small business support has been a key focus of city efforts to respond to COVID-19. Ongoing strategy goals for small businesses include providing more virtual support resources, supporting resiliency by developing and promoting best practices, and streamlining the ability to resolve technical issues.

    Nearly half of King County’s arts and entertainment workers lost employment due to COVID impacts. The creative sector is expected to have lasting structural impacts from the pandemic. Recovery strategies being explored include enhancing Bellevue’s leading position in the digital creative sector and linking that to the traditional creative sector, as well as positioning local arts districts as major destinations.

    The report also highlighted a desired focus to help businesses adapt and create new models for success through the transition back to growth, including in retail and tourism.

    The economic development team plans to return to the council in the fall with a new draft plan incorporating the latest status of these sectors. A final updated version of the Economic Development Plan could be adopted by the council as early as this year. 

    Residential minimum parking public hearing

    Finally, the meeting included a public hearing on an interim official control ordinance setting minimum parking standards for certain housing developments near frequent transit service. Four people gave public comment during the public hearing and several others provided written comment. 

    Following the hearing, the council unanimously passed a motion directing the Planning Commission to process a permanent Land Use Code Amendment (LUCA) related to these parking standards. Councilmembers also asked the commission to consider the distance requirement for eligibility as a transit-oriented area (currently within one-quarter mile of frequent transit service); streamlining of the review process for requests to further vary from the required parking through a parking study; the appropriateness of the Downtown visitor parking requirement; and whether there are other incentives that could further encourage affordable housing development.

    Development of the permanent LUCA will involve engaging stakeholders and the community and reviewing and researching related studies. More information, including a map of potentially eligible areas for the LUCA, is in the meeting agenda item.

    Published on 07/09/2020