Bellevue Mayor and Deputy Mayor share state of the city conference progress
Bellevue has tackled a host of social and economic issues over the past year, including reviewing policing policies, laying the groundwork for more affordable housing, improving transportation, and preparing for significant growth. , while struggling to cope with the pandemic’s effects on businesses, communities and government, two city leaders said on Tuesday during a “state of the city” presentation.
“It’s been tough, there have been a lot, but we’re just about to get through it and very optimistic about Bellevue and we’ll come out of it stronger than ever,” Deputy Mayor Jared Nieuwenhuis said after an hour of review of the past year. Mayor Lynne Robinson answered questions from Bellevue Downtown Association (BDA) President Patrick Bannon as part of the BDA’s Downtown Talks series.
A link to the presentation can be found on the BDA website.
Asked about the major challenges of the pandemic and looking to the future, Robinson said: “I think the biggest challenge is going to be working with families and businesses that were struggling before COVID”, which has exacerbated those challenges .
“Fortunately, we live in a city that has invested every extra penny it has in social services, in supporting small businesses, and our big employers have joined us in doing that, so we’re just trying to keep the money going. people afloat all the way here. and really hoping that we don’t lose families when this moratorium (eviction) (by the state) ends and we don’t lose any more small businesses, ”she said, estimating the loss of business at more than 400.
Robinson thanked City staff and Council for their work, as well as the community for their involvement in finding solutions.
“If a city can come out of this and win, it will be Bellevue,” she said.
Nieuwenhuis pointed to improving economic indicators in Bellevue, including an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent which is “good enough” compared to towns of similar size regionally or nationally. The current hotel occupancy rate – 34% – is on the rise over the past 12 months, “So we’re getting there and there is growth there.” Bellevue also has 9 million square feet of office space, 90% of which is already pre-released, “so Bellevue is really about to take off, almost a V-shaped recovery, at least that’s what we hope and what a lot of the economic indicators point to them too. “
More than 6,000 companies in Bellevue have received around $ 900 million in PPP loans, Nieuwenhuis said. Bellevue has distributed more than $ 600,000 in direct relief grants to 122 businesses and business support organizations, he said. Nieuwenhuis also cited the al fresco dining program; Amazon and Facebook’s optimism on the city with their downtown and Spring District office investments, respectively; and the recent update of its economic development plan by the City with areas of interest such as tourism, small businesses and the creative economy.
Robinson said the city is working hard to encourage more affordable housing.
“There is a huge need for affordable housing in Bellevue,” she said. Only 10 percent of the city’s housing is affordable for a family of four earning $ 80,000 a year or less, “so it’s a lot of people who work in Bellevue who can’t afford to live here.” she says.
According to her, only 10% of the people who work at Bellevue live in the city, which has an impact on traffic and the environment.
“We need to create this full spectrum of affordability, which equates to a regional median income of zero to 120%.”
Bellevue City Council put forward affordable housing policies and on Monday revamped its multi-family property tax exemption, which was a compromise between developers and affordable housing advocates that should encourage the development of more affordable housing in housing across the country. market rate, she said. Robinson expects to see many more homes built at all levels of affordability over the next two years thanks to this initiative and others.
Asked by BDA’s Bannon on how she would define success on the housing issue, Robinson said, “If I see 50% of the people working in the downtown area living in Bellevue, I’ll call it success.
Robinson and Nieuwenhuis highlighted other efforts. City officials reviewed police use of force policies following the murder of George Floyd and hired a consultant who reviewed police department policies. The consultant made recommendations adopted by the police, including the use of body cameras, the ban on cable ties and the codification of de-escalation policies. Robinson and Nieuwenhuis also discussed a communities of color program to advance racial equity; efforts to advance the “Grand Connection” from Meydenbauer Bay to Wilburton; progress on the Eastrail pedestrian cycle path which is now approximately 95% complete; road improvements; and more.
City council recently reviewed its priorities, Robinson noting that equity and inclusion permeated the work. There is interest in an intercultural center in Bellevue and the city has hired a consultant to look at building a center or renovating an existing building to support cultural programming, she said, also citing a renewed attention to art and its link with culture. Affordable housing and multimodal transportation are also priorities, she said.