Citizens wait to speak at the public hearing for a citizen-proposed amendment to the comprehensive plan asking to establish a “Vision Zero for Gun Safety” program. The commission denied the proposal in a 4-2 vote. Evan Pappas/Staff Photo

Citizens wait to speak at the public hearing for a citizen-proposed amendment to the comprehensive plan asking to establish a “Vision Zero for Gun Safety” program. The commission denied the proposal in a 4-2 vote. Evan Pappas/Staff Photo

Gun safety program rejected by Bellevue Planning Commission

The Bellevue Planning Commission rejected a citizen’s proposal to create “Vision Zero for Gun Safety.”

The Bellevue planning commission rejected a citizen’s proposal to add a comprehensive plan amendment creating a “Vision Zero for Gun Safety” program at its May 22 meeting.

The commission followed the staff recommendation to reject the application because it did not meet Land Use Code (LUC) decision criteria. If approved for threshold review, the application would have been set for further study and research before coming back to the commission for a recommendation to council.

The application itself proposes public health policy amendments to the human services element of the comprehensive plan. As part of the annual comprehensive plan amendment process, citizens can propose their own amendments for consideration.

The “Vision Zero for Gun Safety” application was a request for the city to implement policies and take action to reduce gun-related deaths and injuries. The application proposes partnerships with neighbors in the region to create and implement best practices focusing on safety, education and data-driven employment policies.

The application is not formally part of the Vision Zero Network, which is an international traffic safety program originating from Sweden. The “Vision Zero” terminology in the application is based on Bellevue’s traffic-centric Vision Zero program. In 2016, the city council adopted amendments as part of the Vision Zero program, setting commitments to reduce traffic deaths and injuries to zero by 2030.

The planning commission held a public hearing for the amendment at its meeting as city code allows the public to propose comprehensive plan amendments. The commission examines these applications in a threshold review to determine if the application meets a variety of LUC criteria for final review.

The public hearing was well attended, with eight of speakers voicing their support for the proposal and only one person speaking against it. Supporters universally called for policy to explicitly commit to increasing the priority of gun safety measures in the city.

While the application met some of the criteria, it did not meet enough for staff to recommend approval. Nicholas Matz, senior planner at the city, explained the evaluation process by summarizing each of the criteria and how the application did or did not meet them.

Some of the criteria not met were that the application raises issues outside of the annual comprehensive amendment process and couldn’t be “reasonably reviewed” with the city’s available resources and time in the amendment work program for 2019. Staff also does not have enough information to determine if the proposal was consistent with any countywide planning policies, Washington Administrative Code, or state and federal laws.

Commissioner Aaron Laing said that gaps in information left by the application and the lack of resources available to fill those information gaps are why he voted to reject the proposal. Commissioner Anne Morisseau was empathetic to the supporters of the gun safety proposal, but agreed with the staff recommendation citing the framework and criteria the commission must work within.

Opposing the staff recommendation were commissioners Mohammad Malakoutian and Radhika Moolgavkar. Malakoutian said that if they did not have enough information the commission should approve the threshold review so more study and research could be completed. At that point the commissioners would be able to recommend or not recommend the proposal to the city council.

“(The other comment saying that) because we don’t have information we should stop, I think that’s the whole portion after threshold,” he said. “If we pass that… then city staff give us more information. So because we don’t have information we should not talk about that or pass that… doesn’t make sense to me.”

The commission accepted the staff recommendation to not advance the application in a 4-2 vote with commissioners Malakoutian and Moolgavkar dissenting.

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