Bellevue City Council candidates seeking position 5 are incumbent Janice Zahn and JD Yu, a principal engineer system architect.
How will you support affordable housing for Bellevue residents?
Janice Zahn: Affordable housing stock helps people live and work in Bellevue, reduces commute time and air pollution and improves quality of life. I support Bellevue’s affordable housing strategy to preserve existing affordable housing and at the same time create a broad spectrum of new housing. We must build more housing in the places where we can densify, where there are transit and options for folks to get around. We also need to assess existing city codes to identify changes needed to build affordable housing effectively. On the Association of Washington Cities Legislative Committee, I’ve advocated for more state funding to build affordable housing. The time is now to build partnerships with developers, nonprofit housing providers and our communities to address this serious problem. We have an opportunity to leverage Microsoft grants to build both low-income and middle-income housing. Let’s do it.
JD Yu: Bellevue is in need of more affordable housing. We need to increase the supply of affordable housing. Bellevue can adopt regulations to increase density, streamline and shorten permitting process to make it easy for developers to build. Bellevue can also provide an incentive to developers and lower development cost which will be tied to affordable housing supply. Encourage mixed-use development around transit station areas. Upzone some areas to allow denser residence. Bellevue can also provide direct funding to the relevant programs. Tax assistance can be used to support affordable housing residents. Bellevue can enact vacant land ordinance and allow accessory dwelling units. Conduct affordable housing design contest to find creative and innovative solutions.
How will you support services for the unhoused in the city?
Zahn: I believe the city must adopt a homelessness strategic plan that looks at the issues from a regional lens and adopt solutions that address our local needs. Emergency shelter beds along with essential day services on site are essential to keep our neighborhoods safe while providing a pathway out of homelessness for the most vulnerable in our community. Specifically in Bellevue, it will take all of us working together to ensure that the men’s shelter is properly designed, the operating conditions appropriately defined and necessary services funded to be successful. I also support the regional response from the Eastside communities to address the root causes of homelessness and keep people housed: Issues like lack of affordable housing, drug treatment centers and mental health care services. Lastly, I fully support the city’s multi-pronged approach to compassionate enforcement, of providing facilities and services for those experiencing homelessness while enforcing the city’s codes for public safety.
Yu: Helping the unhoused to have a place to stay is important, but more importantly we need to help them to move out of the homeless situation and ensure they can support themselves and reintegrate into the community. The funding can be provided to currently existing shelter programs while the focus is put on how to fix the main causes of homelessness, i.e. drug addiction and mental illness. These causes prevent people from living a normal life and going to work. We need to conduct an expert study to find the best practice, which should make sure drug addiction is stopped and mental illness is cured, and effective and cost-efficient solution is provided. At the same time, we must ensure that neighborhood safety is not compromised while supporting the homeless. The goal is not just providing food and beds to the homeless but to truly help them to be able to stand on their own. This requires collective efforts by the government, neighborhoods, non-profit organizations, communities, business and the homeless people themselves and their families and friends. Responsibility and accountability of every stakeholder are important in addressing the homelessness issue. We must have compassion for the homeless, and we must have solutions that will work in the long run.
How do you intend to foster transportation availability and accessibility around the city?
Zahn: The key is transportation mobility choices and partnerships both regionally and at the state level for funding Interstate 405 improvements, transit and multi-modal projects. During my time as chair of the transportation commission, we developed new criteria to measure congestion along roadway corridors which resulted in two roadway improvement projects along 148th/150th to reduce traffic congestion. As a civil engineer with public policy expertise, I continue to be a strong voice on council to ensure we make data-driven common-sense decisions for smart transportation and mobility. As liaison to the Eastside Transportation Partnership and 405/167 Executive Advisory Group, I have partnered with other local and state legislators to make sure Bellevue has a voice at the table when important planning and funding decisions are made. As your Bellevue voice, I will continue to advocate for state and federal funding to build much-needed infrastructure. When it comes to transportation availability and access, experience matters.
Yu: Bellevue’s rapid growth is placing heavy demand on the transportation system. Traffic congestion is an important issue that I feel strongly about. It is more important than ever that city infrastructure keeps up with the growth. The transportation infrastructure provides a variety of options to get you to where you need to go, e.g., driving, ride-share, walking and public transit. It is essential that we have a balanced multimodal system. We must change our transportation model to improve traffic congestion. We need to have a creative and disruptive solution to greatly improve transportation availability and accessibility. In addition to the current light rail and transit systems, deploying a comprehensive and smart transportation system is key. Building a new wireless network by using 5G technology is a critical step to connect the elements of smart transportation. Autonomous electric vehicles and shared cars are deployed to connect the single-family house neighborhoods to commute between home and work, and they also serve as the first and last mile connection to the main transit stations. Mobile applications will be largely used in smart transportation. With greatly enhanced convenience, flexibility and affordability, people can rely on the new smart transportation and mobility will become a service called Mobility as a Service (MAAS), which will reduce the need for people to own a car. By having fewer cars on the roadway, traffic congestion and parking problems will be greatly mitigated, and the emission will be significantly reduced.
How do you strike a balance between development and nurturing what already makes Bellevue unique?
Zahn: Working together in collaboration, open two-way communication and partnerships are key to ensure that Bellevue retains its unique neighborhoods’ character while we develop the necessary infrastructure and housing for our continued growth. Bellevue is an award-winning city, with a thriving economy, excellent schools and high quality of life. However, our growth has pushed our infrastructure to capacity and jeopardizes the reasons we have all chosen to call Bellevue home. I want to continue to put my years of experience solving complex problems to work for Bellevue to address traffic congestion, rising housing costs and tensions between livability and economic vitality. All this while reducing our environmental impacts and building our tree canopy for our future generations.
I believe we can do even better to be inclusive and to celebrate the diversity of our residents and neighborhoods. On the city council, I work hard to create and enhance our existing partnerships. I have also driven the city to improve engagement and transparency so that together, we can create an even better, more welcoming Bellevue where all can thrive.
Yu: Bellevue is a city in a park, which makes Bellevue so unique and provides a high quality of life to residents. Bellevue’s economy has seen fast and steady growth these past years. The growth and new development bring prosperity to Bellevue and also attract talents from the world. At the same time, we see the challenges to transportation, affordable housing, schools and safety. Bellevue’s growing business and neighborhoods require good plans drawn up well in advance. To accommodate more residents, the council must consider increasing housing supply, preserving neighborhood character and maintaining the quality of life Bellevue residents have come to expect. Consideration should include residents’ access to grocery stores, restaurants, shops, essential services and walkability. I believe there is still much room for residential growth. When it gets to the point where upzoning becomes necessary, the public benefit must be an important part of the change. People’s quality of life should always be prioritized when managing economic growth. We should encourage growth, but should also ensure the new development is able to integrate with the existing environment and communities.
The General Election is Nov. 5.