Canditates seeking Position 7 on the Bellevue City Council are James Bible, an attorney and small business owner, and Jennifer Robertson, the incumbent.
How will you support affordable housing for Bellevue residents?
James Bible: Developing and maintaining strategies that create affordable housing options is critical to Bellevue’s long-term success. We cannot afford to ignore a harsh reality. Many of our senior citizens, educators and service workers are having a hard time affording housing in Bellevue. Addressing our housing affordability challenges requires a multifaceted approach. First, I would work to create incentives for the development of mixed-use housing that include housing for people that found themselves in lower income brackets. Second, I would work toward the creation of a system of rent controls that support renters and landowners alike. Third, I would work to promote protections for our senior citizens that are having a difficult time affording housing in Bellevue. It is also critical that we work with our public and private partners to develop innovative strategies that can help us effectively address this critical issue. Finally, the city of Bellevue has an affordable housing plan that is already outdated and was never implemented. It is critical that a new plan be established and implemented.
Jennifer Robertson: During my 10 years on the city council, I have worked with my council colleagues to create more affordable housing in a variety of ways.
We’ve adopted an affordable housing plan to create 2,500 new units of affordable housing over a 10-year period. The city is on track to exceed this goal by 11 percent.
We’ve created incentives in the land-use code for our growth corridors (like Downtown and Bellevue-Redmond) to encourage the development of affordable units. When affordable units are built under the incentive system, they are required to remain affordable for 50 years. We are adding this incentive to more areas of the city over time. We have adopted a multi-family tax exemption that provides property tax relief for new affordable units. I am advocating to expand this effective program to all commercial zones in Bellevue.
We provide funding for affordable housing. During my time on the council, we have significantly increased this funding, more than tripling this investment from $500,000 per year to $1.64 million per year today.
We are using city surplus land to create more affordable housing. The city recently partnered with Sound Transit to create more affordable housing. The city’s contribution will net 80 new units which are affordable to people with an income level of 60 percent of area median income. Even better, Sound Transit will match this with another 80 units, for a total of 160 new units on the site.
We are working with partner agencies, like King County, ARCH, the state and the federal government as well as a number of nonprofits to both build and retain more affordable housing. This past week a new project with 300 units of affordable workforce housing and 80 units of homeless transition housing was announced for the Eastgate area.
We have rezoned church properties upon request so churches can provide affordable housing on their excess land.
How will you support services for the unhoused in the city?
Bible: Homelessness is an issue that must be addressed in Bellevue. It is estimated that there are 300 students in Bellevue public schools that are experiencing homelessness. We have families and individuals in our community that desperately need our support. First, we need to continue to support the building of homeless shelters that provide wraparound services for those who are in need. Second, we need to work with our public and private partners to develop programs that help people to go from unhoused to housed. Third, we need to work closely with our public schools and the school board to support those children that are experiencing homelessness in Bellevue. By creating additional supports for our children who are experiencing homelessness we can take significant steps toward creating better opportunities for our young people who are experiencing remarkable economic disadvantages. As a former foster parent, I have a distinct understanding of the need to provide disadvantaged children with economic and emotional supports. It is also imperative that we work with our neighboring cities and regional partners to develop programs that effectively support individuals that are unhoused.
Robertson: Everyone deserves to sleep indoors, so I have voted to fund services for people who are homeless, through the Sophia Way and Congregations for the Homeless. Last summer I initiated action to expand the winter men’s shelter and day center to year-round operations. I am proud that we have now achieved this goal. We also have hired a new homeless outreach manager who will help those unhoused in Bellevue find services. Providing the emergency services along with expanding affordable housing will help protect our most vulnerable. Providing these services will also help us maintain order in our city, including enforcing our “no camping” ordinances and keeping our city clean and safe.
How do you intend to foster transportation availability and accessibility around the city?
Bible: Maintaining and promoting an effective transportation system requires consistent analysis of traffic patterns and community needs. It is important that we develop a multifaceted approach to this issue. First, it is critical that we work with King County Metro to expand service throughout Bellevue and increase the frequency of bus routes in Bellevue. Second, it is important to continue to expand light rail. Light rail can be used to quickly and efficiently move a significant number of people to strategically selected areas. Third, we will need to make sure that other modes of transportation are well coordinated with light rail. Fourth, it is imperative that we reward carpooling. Carpooling incentives would decrease the number of vehicles on the road and serve to decrease some of the congestion that is being experienced in our region. Fifth, it is imperative that we work with our neighboring cities to promote, create, and coordinate public transportation that allows for residents to move easily throughout the area. It is also important that we do what we can to make Bellevue more walkable. There are many neighborhoods in Bellevue that lack sidewalks.
Robertson: Transportation is a complex issue that needs to be addressed from many angles. To keep people moving you must do three things: Use the roadways more effectively; expand system capacity; reduce people driving alone so that more people can be moved through the system. In Bellevue, we do all of these things. First, we have increased the efficiency of our roadways by making every traffic light in Bellevue an “adaptive” signal. This has been as effective as adding a new roadway lane on every Bellevue street. We are continuing to use emerging technology to improve mobility and are on the leading edge nationally for transportation technology. We are also working with the state to increase mobility on our freeways, which is the most important thing we can do to improve mobility. Second, we are adding new roadway lanes, bus lanes, bike lanes and pedestrian facilities to Bellevue to serve our city’s growth. We are also fixing problematic intersections to make them work better and increase safety. Finally, we are working to increase options for transit, bicyclists and pedestrians to get around efficiently and effectively. We are working with our transit partners to provide better and more frequent transit service to Bellevue. When light rail opens in a few years, we will be even more connected. We also work with employers to encourage van pool, car pool, transit or private transit “connect” vehicles to keep our traffic moving.
How do you strike a balance between development and nurturing what already makes Bellevue unique?
Bible: Bellevue has traditionally been known as a vibrant and innovative city with unique neighborhoods. I first moved to Bellevue in 1986 and have witnessed the dramatic demographic changes in this city first hand. It is no longer simply a suburb of Seattle. Bellevue is now a diverse city with a significant business presence. I believe that it is possible to maintain the uniqueness of our neighborhoods while continuing to develop our business sectors. First, it is important that we allow for growth that is consistent with the current make up of Bellevue’s various areas. Second, it is critical that we listen to the needs of those that work and live in Bellevue. Community input is critical to maintain that which is special about Bellevue. Third, it is important that we continue to maintain and even expand the number of parks in Bellevue. Part of what is really special about Bellevue is our green spaces.
Robertson: Bellevue is successful and growing rapidly. We are becoming more urban but we still enjoy our close-knit neighborhoods and abundant parks and open space. By focusing growth into the growth corridors (like Downtown and BelRed), we can control growth in more residential areas of the city. This is good for development and for maintaining safe, stable neighborhoods. In addition, the impacts of growth can be met and mitigated by funding services that make our city livable, such as parks, open space, recreation facilities, strong public safety services and transportation infrastructure to reduce gridlock. My background as a municipal and land use attorney coupled with my long record of service to Bellevue on land use and transportation issues means that I can be an effective advocate for maintaining this balance.