New Bellevue Land Use Code Changes Could Delay East Link

Overlay transition areas – click for staff presentation

Over the weekend, Bellevue rolled out new changes (.pdf) to its land use code amendments in response to the NIMBYs that swarmed the City’s public hearing last week. From what we’ve heard, the changes are a last ditch-effort that could end up delaying East Link by months, maybe even years. Sound Transit is so concerned with the new amendments that they even sent East Link’s project director to testify against them at the council’s meeting Tuesday night.

Among the changes are three technical code revisions, any combination of which could end up having some negative impact to East Link:

  • Height restrictions that could be determined by a lengthy regulatory process
  • A 30-foot setback from the edge of the alignment to residential property lines
  • A 60-foot setback from the edge of the alignment to residential building structures

The height limit provision would require Sound Transit to prove the height of all East Link facilities to be the “minimum necessary for effective functioning,” either through a development agreement or a conditional use permit (CUP). While Bellevue has yet to make the call on which permitting path it wants to use, things could get messy if East Link were subject to a CUP. Just imagine: determining whether certain segments of East Link are the appropriate height alone would have its own review process!

The new setback provisions would apply in what the City is calling residential “transition zones” along the south Bellevue alignment. These are buffers that would effectively shield nearby residents from Link — 30 feet for a landscape buffer plus an additional 30 feet to a structure, making a grand total of 60 feet from the edge of the alignment to the nearest house. Although 60 feet seems inconsequential, the new setbacks could easily chew up more properties that Sound Transit would have to condemn and pay for.

The worst code change would restrict Sound Transit’s ability to apply for city permits. Under the new provision, they would have to wait until after negotiating with property owners and initiating the formal condemnation process before applying. That could leave the entire East Link schedule to the whim of one or more homeowners, many of whom have already pledged to fight Sound Transit tooth and nail. By city staff’s own admission, the restriction is so out of the ordinary that it’s something Bellevue is unwilling to impose on even its own projects!

Voters have waited too long for regional rail expansion to deal with Bellevue’s antics. If you’re interested at all in keeping East Link moving forward, urge the City Council to vote against the new land use code changes. But do so before Monday, when they’re expected to adopt the entire package of code amendments.




Comments

    • Nathanael says

      There’s a reason the 19th century federal railroad laws allowed railroads to ignore all local regulations. Bellevue is making a strong case for a state version of that in Washington — a state law exempting Sound Transit from all municipal regulations would get rid of this garbage.

  1. Bellinghammer says

    ” they would have to wait until after negotiating with property owners and initiating the formal condemnation process before applying. That could leave the entire East Link schedule to the whim of one or more homeowners, many of whom have already pledged to fight Sound Transit tooth and nail.”

    This is incredible. Giving a single property owner the unprecedented ability to hold up a multi-billion dollar light rail line, either through refusal or by demanding enormous sums? Would there ever be a breaking point at which ST would drop the project? Or will ST pay whatever it takes for as long as it takes?

    • Bernie says

      This whole section of the code is in response to ST’s penchant for partial takes. If they want to run tracks through your back yard they determine the value of your land and then pay you only for the percentage they take. Then the owner is then left holding the bag with a property nobody would want to live in. Owners of property along the alignment have been held hostage by this for years. What’s going to happen is the City is going to buy out the property owners in full and then credit the portion of that cost toward the $160 million pledged in the MOU toward the cost of the DT tunnel.

      • William says

        Then what about the further delays this will introduce, and how Bellevue admits in its own presentation that an “Unwilling property owner may control timing of permit application”?

      • Mike Orr says

        So would the city please just buy up the properties right now? There’s no reason to leave it in limbo for years.

      • Chris E. says

        I’d live in it. So clearly SOMEBODY would want to live in it. You seem to think that light rail is equivalent to a tactical nuclear weapon that destroys houses.

      • d.p. says

        I don’t really have any problem with ST and the city of Bellevue buying out property owners in full, Bernie. In the scheme of the project, it’s a drop in the bucket.

        But the idea of making it impossible to even start the permitting process until every taking’s “i” is dotted and “t” is crossed… that’s insipid and insane.

      • Bernie says

        Potential delay to timing of permit application with associated increased project costs” (pg 9) and defines that as “4-6 month period after Board action” (pg 10). East Link construction isn’t scheduled to start until 2015 and it’s still scheduled to be completed in 2023. Any delay to that schedule would be entirely the fault of ST failing to pursue property acquisitions in a timely mannor. Remember that home owners along the proposed ROW have already been held hostage for years by the uncertainty of what land will be affected and what compensation they can expect.

      • Bernie says

        But the idea of making it impossible to even start the permitting process until every taking’s “i” is dotted and “t” is crossed… that’s insipid and insane.

        Actually it’s standard operating procedure. A developer can’t get a permit to build a new hotel until they’ve bought the property. Why would you want to apply for a permit, which is always granted with a limited time frame, until you’re ready to move on construction? The Council really wants to get this taking of property issue behind them and is trying to motivate ST to get it done. ST is finacially motivated to delay any out of pocket expense as long as possible which leaves the property owners chained to a home that’s basically unsaleable.

      • Bernie says

        I’d live in it. So clearly SOMEBODY would want to live in it.

        Got the half million it would be worth were it not for ST’s plan to take part of the property? If so there are any number of people along the ROW that are eager to do business. The last time any of the affected properties sold on the open market was 2006. One property that was sold as part of an estate settlement in 2011 went for $255k when the County assessed value was $357k. At the height of the market it was taxed at $456K.

      • Matthew Johnson says

        Hmm… I seem to recall something happening between 2006 and 2011 that had to do with real estate prices… what was it?

      • Bernie says

        So would the city please just buy up the properties right now? There’s no reason to leave it in limbo for years.

        I agree the owners need to be compensated but Bellevue is legally prevented from paying more than market rate for a property. And why should the city have to pay for ST’s sin of partial takes? Part of the Overlay’s purpose is to kick start the ST board into a settlement. The specter of condemnation by ST has devalued each of these homes by hundreds of thousands of dollars effectively freezing the bulk of the owners net worth. Now that it’s clear what properties are affected it’s time for ST to crack open the piggy bank and pay up.

      • Bernie says

        Hmm… I seem to recall something happening between 2006 and 2011

        The property values peaked in 2008. Market churn was at a peak between 2006-2008. I guess the silver lining is that none of the affected people were able to sell and buy up at the peak of the bubble. Post crash someone could still sell a house they’d bought back in 2006 for more than they’d paid for it and the lower price of any home you’d be buying would offset the paper loses post bubble. Even better were those that sold in 2009 and then jumped back in when prices declined another 5-10%. The people trapped by the bubble were those that bought at the peak and found themselves underwater. That’s not the case with any of these homes.

      • Zed says

        They do partial takes because of FTA rules on grant money usage. The additional money for full takes where they are not necessary would have to come from local taxpayers.

      • Bernie says

        I don’t doubt that but it doesn’t prevent ST from buying full properties. There is no FTA grant money involved with East Link at this point and ST buys lots of property before it even has any clear use for it. Case in point would be the RR ROW south of Lakewood. When they are dealing with large corporations like International Paper they offer generous market rate contracts for the entire property with the blessing of the Feds before doing a stitch of design work on the maintenance facility. When it comes to individuals that don’t have legions of lawyers working for them they cheap out. CoB is standing up to the bully where Tukwila just rolled over.

      • Mike Orr says

        It’s hard to be sympathetic to twenty homeowners when they’re conversely holding tens of thousands of people hostage from the first good transit solution the Eastside has ever had.

  2. William says

    I’m afraid the link to email the city council (which I plan to do soon) is broken.

    Is there any theory under which Sound Transit, with a referendum-approved plan in place, could override this Council decision?

  3. Dave says

    This is a perfect example of why its almost impossible to get anything built in the Seattle Metro area.

    • Mike Orr says

      University Link and North Link are doing just fine, thank you. And South/Airport Link was built. East Link is the only one having this much obstruction. Lynnwood and Federal Way are eagerly asking for Link as soon as possible. Roosevelt got it rerouted into their neighborhood center.

      • Bernie says

        Lynnwood and Federal Way are eagerly asking for Link

        Lynnwood is fighting the location of a MF there every bit as hard as Bellevue. They were also successful in routing Link along the freeway rather than through single family neighborhoods or at grade along their busiest streets. I’m sure if Federal Way wrote a nice letter to the ST board saying they are willing to chip in $160 million it would do wonders to accelerate the project.

      • Mike Orr says

        So I guess south Ballard or Interbay will need to site a maintenance base to set a good example for Lynnwood and Bellevue.

      • AP says

        And mind you, the UW fought tooth and nail to make sure that the train didn’t run through their hospital and physics building. They ran it through the stadium parking lot, on the edge of campus.

        Bellevue’s process protected the Bellevue Club tennis courts at the expense of homeowners. There’s a lot of blame to go around here.

      • Mike Orr says

        Isn’t a tennis court a neighborhood amenity? And maybe a nonprofit? Some tennis courts were built due to landowner’s insistence, neighbors’ insistence, or local government insistence. In that case we should think twice about just eliminating them, especially if there’s no comparable place to relocate them to.

      • Mike Orr says

        Not that I want to start any precedent to keep the Jackson Park or Beacon Hill golf courses. There needs to be a balance between giving residents access to golf and more walkable mixed-use near rapid transit stations. Or making it into more environmentally-friendly open space. (Large lawns are thirsty and displace diverse plant species and wildlife.)

      • AP says

        Mike, the Bellevue Club tennis courts are not a “neighborhood amenity” in the general sense. If you happen to be a well-heeled member of the Bellevue Club, then sure, they’re an amenity. But it’s a stretch to claim that a private health club isn’t a big freaking business ordering around your beloved transit agency.

      • Bernie says

        Now it’s a private health club ordering around a public agency with the power to condemn property as an essential public service. Did you consider that it may have been Bellevue’s place for the most “missed connections” section of Craigslist? I mean it wasn’t until a year or so ago that the council gave the OK for Walmart and the new LA Fitness to move in at the old Kmart site. You Seattle snobs just delight in making fun of us poor hicks.

    • Adam Bejan Parast says

      Hehe. I think it goes more to show once you’re a big city you actually have to solve real problems.

  4. Chris E. says

    Unreal. I spent 4 years in Denver. Even a midwestern “cow town” can pull off light rail, what is wrong with Bellevue? I suggested in my rather scathing note to the City Council that proceeding with these amendments would result in me personally supporting ANY candidate who runs for a seat of a member who was in support of this.

    Not really being a political animal, I can’t help but wonder if a local PAC type organization to gather funds to this end might not be a good counterpoint to the monied interests behind this resistance to light rail.

    • Mike Orr says

      It’s the result of having a lot of wealthy people and a mall owner who believes in highway expansion. And because the line goes through a quiet neighborhood built in the 50s that doesn’t like change.

      • Chris E. says

        Mike, precisely. The minority money interests look like they will again trump majority desires. Which is why I am quite serious about finding a way to fund ANY opposition to council members who continue to show themselves as “in a certain pocket.”

        And yes. I should say “Hi Bellevue, yes, I’m back. And yes, the rabble have been roused.”

    • ericn says

      The vast majority of Denver’s light rail runs along the highway or freight rail lines, and is pretty useless if you’re not a commuter. We can complain about Bellevue’s process, but the end result is going to be far more useful than Denver’s system.

  5. Sam says

    I agree with Ben. If only people didn’t have the right to express an opinion other than my own, life would be so much easier.

  6. Stephen F says

    Wow, I feel bad for the Bellevue planners involved in this. They must be wanting rip their insides out. I could not ethically have moved such a proposal forward to Council. I don’t know how they can. Bellevue’s Council majority are shameless in their hate for light rail.

    • CF says

      I agree. If Bellevue is going to obstruct transit at every opportunity, find somewhere else to use the money. I can think of plenty of places in the region that could make good use of the money. If Bellevue wants to continue to be a congested, single-family strip-mall “utopia”, then, by all means, let them. I’m sure they won’t mind when Tacoma and Lynnwood have nice transit alternatives and Bellevue is left with major congestion.

      • lazarus says

        Well…you can give up on the Eastside (and I’m about ready to), but you still have to spend their money on the Eastside. Subarea Equity wouldn’t let you divert it to Tacoma.

        but you could truncate East Link at the South Bellevue P&R and spend the rest of their ST tax proceeds on diesel buses, then run those buses in circles around Kemper Freeman’s mall…..

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        The voters haven’t approved rail to Issaquah, so ST couldn’t build that. But they could sit on it and take all these delays, or go to court slowly over all of it. In the meantime, Seattle rail would open, and Bellevue would suffer serious economic consequences.

      • Anandakos says

        @Lazarus,

        If you did BRT buses on five minute headways all day long from BTC to Union Station, I bet that would eat up a LOT of EastSide tax revenues. Build nice BRT stations at the places where the Link was going to have surface stations and run down 112th like the train is designed to do. You could probably have a bus-only flyover for the southbound intersection of 112th and Bellevue Way to get to a busway into the South Bellevue P&R. It probably wouldn’t take more than four or five minutes longer from Bellevue TC to South Bellevue.

        It would save a lot of money on track structure, new trains and rebuilding the bridge.

        And who could object to five minute headways? Then you really wouldn’t need a schedule.

        It would of course be necessary to terminate the buses at Union Station to remove them from the streets of downtown Seattle, as Link would have done.

      • Justin Elder says

        Ben, is there an option to engineer and build only to Mercer Island while Bellevue is hemming and hawing? That way at least two new stations and the difficult part of the bridge could be engineered and built and at least THAT part of East Link could get going.

      • Mike Orr says

        “If you did BRT buses on five minute headways all day long from BTC to Union Station, I bet that would eat up a LOT of EastSide tax revenues.”

        So what if it costs almost as much as Link. It’s the Eastside’s money. If it frees ST from the burden of planning a line in a hostile area, maybe ST will have more energy to make the other lines better.

      • Anandakos says

        @Mike,

        That was my point exactly. The East Side can have reasonable BRT between the BTC and Union Station with its higher operating costs for something like 30 years for about what Link would cost over that same time frame. Yes, after that time, the total cost of BRT would be greater than the total cost for Link.

        But the net present value of money and likely inflation makes the difference for planning now irrelevant.

        If one is concerned that petroleum might get too expensive, then articulated ETB’s could be used. Someone has already determined that the reversible lane section on the I-90 bridge can be retrofitted with overhead for the Link’s catenary, so overhead for ETB’s should be no more difficult. Yes, the burgers (misspelled on purpose…) of 112th Avenue might object, but it would make the buses quieter so it might be acceptable to them.

      • David L says

        ETBs have a maximum speed of about 40 mph, even if you gear them taller than Metro’s current ETB fleet. They don’t work on freeway routes.

    • Jason Rogers says

      They can’t because of subarea equity. Sure, they could “loan” East King County’s money to South or any of the other subareas, but it’d have to get paid back eventually, and outside of North King (Seattle) none of the subareas has an ability to do so.

    • Mike Orr says

      At some point ST may have to ditch East Link and upgrade the 550 instead. The anti-rail Bellevuites may like it at first, and the Eastside’s wealth will keep them going for a time even without Link. But the net effect will be to make downtown-Northgate-Lynnwood-Des Moines more attractive to people and businesses than it otherwise would be, and Bellevue-Redmond would get no such boost. Some tech companies have already located in Seattle rather than the expected Eastside. More may follow, whether “tech” as it’s understood now or some future industries. Twenty years after East Link has been decisively scrapped, Eastsiders may wish they’d built it so they’d be “on the spine”, the same way many Seattleites do now about the defeat of the 1972 subway.

      • mdnative says

        Forgive me for the naive (and parochial) question, but if there is no East Link, could a Ballard Spur have more room to join the U link tunnel?

      • Mike Orr says

        East Link trains are expected to terminate at Northgate off-peak but be extended to Lynnwood peak hours. That suggests they’ll need those trains peak hours, especially with ST/CT/Metro planning to truncate express buses, and activists trying to eliminate Sounder North. Plus there’s the issue of spare capacity for the next forty years. North King and Lynnwood would get hopping mad if their trains get overcrowded in twenty years because of a Ballard spur.

        There’s also the question of who is paying for East Link trains and their operation: is it solely East King or is it shared with North King? If ST has to buy extra trains anyway due to north-south demand, those costs would shift completely to North King. That might blow a hole in North King’s ST2 budget. On the other hand, if a Ballard spur formally took over those trains, it would be built into North King’s ST3/4 budget.

        Of course, note that ST is building North Link without a spur, and it would be hard to retrofit later without significant expense and possibly shutting down existing lines for construction.

      • Mike Orr says

        It’s entitled to get mad if the capacity expected when it voted for ST2 is diverted to North King.

    • Nathanael says

      If Bellevue doesn’t want rail, raise tolls on the Lake Washington bridges and add tolls to the roads going to the north and south of the lake. No reason they should be allowed to add car traffic to Seattle for free.

  7. BA says

    The condemnation process can be initiated immediately, it doesn’t have to wait for a Owner’s permission (that’s why it’s a condemnation). In fact, a parcel can even be used before a forced sale is completed in certain circumstances.

    After Sound uses the parcel, they can return the balance to private ownership for folks who would want the remainder. If Bellevue says the remaining parcel is too small – then it stays as right of way and the taxes Bellevue would otherwise collect are diminished.

    While if you support transit this all seems like extra friction, if you’re an affected landowner it might seem “fair’.

  8. David Seater says

    How does this affect Bellevue’s responsibilities in the downtown tunnel MOU to provide streamlined/expedited permitting as part of their share of the cost?

    • Bernie says

      That’s exactly what the Overlay does. What Ben’s post left out was the current tangle of permiting, zoning and land use statues which would otherwise have to be used. I suggest people put away the pitch forks and torches and instead read the Revised Draft Light Rail Overlay paying particular attention to the parts in blue labeled “Current Process”.

  9. Anandakos says

    Well, ST should say “reject these changes now or you get no Link”. A lot of problems for ST would immediately be solved by just running articulated BRT buses across the lake in the new bi-directional center lanes.

    I really have to ask why in the world STB folks — who are nearly all from Seattle — want to create a better downtown Bellevue. The people over there do not want it!. Let them eat their own cooking.

    • Anandakos says

      Oh, and make sure that the BRT buses terminate at Union Station. You could call it “UnLink”.

    • Breadbaker says

      The “folks” are not all the folks. Lots of people (one who lives in my very house and shares my surname) use transit to Bellevue every single day. There isn’t enough land on the eastside to build enough roads for their commute if all the people who currently take transit on the eastside were to drive instead. Kemper Freeman notwithstanding.

    • Mike Orr says

      The majority of Bellevue and the Eastside voted for ST2. On the other hand, ST’s patience should be finite, and a plan B shouldn’t be unthinkable.

    • says

      I live in Seattle, but I’m writing this from the office where I work in downtown Bellevue. Crossing the lake twice a day gives me a pretty strong interest in the East Link project. I’d ride it every work day if it were built; instead I’m helping contribute to congestion across I-90. East Link needs to happen and Kemper Freeman can just learn to deal with it.

      • Justin Elder says

        We need a rich, crotchety type who is PRO-rail to counter Mr. Freeman’s unduly large influence on this project.

      • Bernie says

        Wright Runstad has had far more influence on the East Link project than Kemper Development. We’re buying them their very own station in the Muffler District even though they’ve yet to even apply for a building permit.

  10. Gordon Werner says

    lets just stop and put the money towards linking West Seattle and Ballard/Fremont/Queen Anne instead

    • Anandakos says

      Subarea equity forbids it. The East Side’s money has to be spent on or for the East Side.

      That doesn’t mean it has to be spent efficiently……

      • John Bailo says

        Hah…what could be more inefficient than the 15 years it took to build the first LINK! At least Bellevue is making its needs and desires clear from the get go.

      • Mike Orr says

        All subways take ten or more years to build, at least in the current US environment, when you have to build a new right of way rather than slapping a train on existing tracks. Portland would not have done it in one year.

      • David L says

        You mean “a few reactionary Bellevue homeowners and Kemper Freeman are making their desires clear from the get-go.”

      • John Bailo says

        Well remember what people (way back when) signed up for was speedy transit, not density. I am not arguing pro/con (for now at least) but it is one thing to say yeah, I want to get to work fast from my house, and another to assent to completely rebuilding my neighborhood into a place where I would not want to live. Bait and switch?

      • David L says

        If a set of tracks on the edge of your neighborhood , which doesn’t change anything except on the edge, makes your neighborhood into a place where you wouldn’t want to live, you’re a crazy reactionary.

        Note: I’m not talking about the few homeowners whose property will be cut in half by the line. ST should buy those few out. I’m talking about the rest of the neighborhood, whose fantasies of doom are just silly.

      • John Bailo says

        @DavidL

        But that’s not what the stipulations address:

        Height restrictions that could be determined by a lengthy regulatory process

        Once again…why not. They voted for transit, not density.

        A 30-foot setback from the edge of the alignment to residential property lines

        Is this not a reasonable requirement for noise and safety?

        A 60-foot setback from the edge of the alignment to residential building structures

        Same reason as previous. Having these restrictions in place will insure that any “fantasy of doom” will not come true.

        However, if you think otherwise, you’re admitting to an Agenda far and above simple transportation.

      • John Bailo says

        Of course if you were some kind of Machiavellian Frank Underwood, having that 60 ft buffer might make it easier to turn that into multi story apartments some day.

      • Nathanael says

        Incidentally, Bernie, there’s some funny features of this land use code.

        It could be argued, and I would do so, that by creating these moronic and idiotic “setbacks”, the CITY COUNCIL is diminishing the value of the land adjacent to the tracks. Why, it can no longer be built on, when it could before!

        This REDUCES THE PROPERTY VALUE of any houses already in the area. I would argue that if the Bellevue code amendments go through, that Sound Transit is only required to pay vacant lot costs for the houses within 60 feet, because Bellevue (not Sound Transit) made the lots unbuildable.

        That’s probably not what the people writing the code amendment were going for, but if I were Sound Transit I’d go with it, because it’s probably correct legally.

  11. eddiew says

    Ben, if East Link gets in real big trouble, by a two-thirds vote, the ST Board could redeploy the funds to different East King County projects. After the 2008 vote in 2011, several projects were indefinitely deferred by such a vote. After the 1996 vote, several projects were changed or dropped: the bus routes between NTC and Lynnwood and between West Seattle and Pioneer Square; the NE 45th Street, South Graham, and South 200th Street Link stations; the I-90 busway; the NE 85th Street cener access ramp on I-405; and, north Sounder became one-way instead of two-way with fewer trips.

  12. AlexKven says

    Are the NIMBYs in any way affiliated with car dealers? Come on, they have already flushed Pierce County down the toilet, haven’t they had enough? Are they so selfish and inconsiderate that they will just use their voice to mislead people into taking away an important community resource? This disgusts me. Why don’t they mind their own business?

  13. mic says

    The setback requirements of 60′ from the edge of the guideway to the nearest residential building seems to preclude any elevated lines from being build in developed areas without massive takings.
    In effect, the guideway footprint would have to be 60+60 (both sides) + another 30′ for the guideway itself, for a total of 150 feet. That’s wider than our biggest boulevards around here.
    Does anyone know if commercial MF bldgs (Apts) are exempt, and just wondering out loud, does Seattle have anything that precludes building another elevated guideway close to apartment buildings? This could impact the Westlake/Ballard line if similar restrictions are put in place.

    • Bernie says

      The setbacks being discussed in the Overlay apply only to the portion of East Link south of downtown. In Bel-Red the limiting factor is the minimum width of the street allowed by the fire department. Issues there are pretty minimal and limited to driveway access of a few buildings where the line turns north. In reality the discussion will most likely be about rezoning for different use by the time East Link is operational.

      • Nathanael says

        Setbacks need to be banned. There is never any reason for them.

        But as long as we’ve got them, it’s worth noting that there is a strong legal argument that the setback law reduces the value of properties next to the rail line — and it’s an action taken by Bellevue, not by Sound Transit — thus reducing what Sound Transit needs to pay for them. I’m sure this isn’t what the jerk NIMBYs though they were doing.

      • Bernie says

        Your off your rocker, as usual. Studies in Portland showed land adjacent to light rail lost value. The increase in value associated with light rail peaked at 300′ from the line. Close enough to get value but far enough to not be directly impacted.

  14. Lack Thereof says

    These seem like pretty extreme setbacks to me. Freight rail or freeways can be practically on the property line, snuggled up to structures.

  15. Bill Popp says

    There are several themes that seem to drive this blog — Schiendelman’s reference to the NIMBY swarm; Orr’s — “It’s the result of having a lot of wealthy people and a mall owner who believes in highway expansion. And because the line goes through a quiet neighborhood built in the 50s that doesn’t like change.”; and a number of other unflattering references to Kemper Freeman.

    NIMBY has always sounded selfish, unless it is your backyard. 30ft (ST’s goal) is one-half the width of a typical suburban single family lot. Imagine for a moment a train every 3.5 minutes plus a permanent industrial looking catenary superstructure that far from the edge of your lot — not too pretty and not very quiet. Then imagine that ST has purchased a slice of your lot to within 30 feet of your dwelling, or even 60 ft. Not pleasant and certainly devaluing.

    To be fair to Bellevue residents in this ongoing lopsided blog discussion one might note that almost the entire length of North Link is in tunnel and exposes almost no residential dwelling unit to its trains. Also one must take note of the expensive residential noise retrofits Sound Transit is conducting in the Rainier valley on single family homes some of which are 200 to 300 ft from the rail line. That is why we are not talking about a handful of homeowners but rather hundreds of home owners that will be negatively impacted.

    But why do we even have to have this conversation when there are other feasible alignments? Because, as a Sound Transit senior staffer told the community some 4 years ago, the alternative favored by the neighborhoods and the City Council (I-90/BNSF/I-405) would not support “tranit oriented development”. TOD translation — ultimate conversion to multi-family dwellings or high employment density within 1/2 mile of all stations. Make no mistake — this is a major regional planning objective supported by a federal funding grant to the PSRC. And thus Sound Transit has stubbornly promoted an environmentally damaging and neighborhood depressing alignment through a series of actions some of which border on fraudulent.

    Did you know for instance that the DEIS depicting the controversial Bellevue Way -112th Ave preferred alignment was available months before the 2008 election, but was not released? Did you know that the official plan depiction in the voter literature suggested a line paralleling I-90 and I-405 along with a planned extension to Issaquah? Do you think that the Bellevue leaders and voters would have supported this alignment once knowledge of the preferred alignment was widespread?

    Unfortunately Shiendelman and this so-called transit rag have been compromised by Sound Transit monetary and collegial support and prefer to lay the blame on Kemper Freeman and Bellevue NIMBY’s for these self inflicted wounds on the part of Sound Transit. The agency is not without blemish.

    So rather than calling for the uninformed to demand the council go easy on Sound Transit and rough on the Bellevue residents (these are not high end homes), he should call on the troops to demand a bored tunnel for a truly rapid rail solution for the eastside. Then this controversy will evaporate overnight.

    • Mike Orr says

      By the way, I grew up in Bellevue and have relatives there. My junior high was co-located at Bellevue High School and our PE classes were at Surrey Down Elementary. My neighborhood was single-family like Surrey Downs and had an hourly bus, although in high school I lived in apartments all along Bellevue Way. I got very sick of slow, infrequent buses. I would love to have had an elevated train crossing my yard to make it easier for both me and my family and other people to get around without a car. Yes, Link has noise problems and the property owners should be fairly compensated, but this train is necessary for the future well-being of Bellevue and should have been built in 1972 when we had the opportunity.

      I wouldn’t object to moving the line to 405/BNSF as long as the main station remains at the transit center. But if south Bellevue homeowners had been more cooperative and pro-active rather than trying to push the train away or block it, maybe they could have gotten more mitigation from ST, and the construction schedule wouldn’t have slipped a year which affects us riders. ST was also offering a station at SE 8th, which I would have jumped at but the neighborhood didn’t and lost it. Too bad my family hadn’t moved to Surrey Downs in the first place, then more people who like the train would already be living there.

      • Bernie says

        but this train is necessary for the future well-being of Bellevue and should have been built in 1972 when we had the opportunity.

        Would you have put it on the bridge that sank or the one we’re now spending a billion dollars to replace? Trains on sinking bridges; I guess we’ll never learn.

    • Nathanael says

      “Imagine for a moment a train every 3.5 minutes plus a permanent industrial looking catenary superstructure that far from the edge of your lot ”

      I don’t have to imagine, I’ve been there in the past. It’s pretty and nice to have nearby. Ask anyone who actually lives near a passenger train line.

      [Ad hom]

  16. William says

    So what happened with this? Did they vote on it today like they were expected to?

    I wrote the Bellevue City Council over the weekend and got back a polite mostly-nonanswer saying most of the provisions were copied from the Seattle code, and that most of the delay was Sound Transit’s fault (and the rest was a fair balance with the residents’ need to get out of limbo).

    • Bernie says

      The Bellevue City Council is a part time gig. The council meetings are always in the evening so that members can go to their day job. What you got back is a concise summary of what’s going on. Sorry if you don’t like the answer.

  17. Bill Popp says

    A few responses to Mike Orr:
    “I lived in apartments all along Bellevue Way. I got very sick of slow, infrequent buses.” In the peaks the bus frequencies on Bellevue Way are now less than 10 minutes. The 550 offers service almost as frequent as rail.

    “I would love to have had an elevated train crossing my yard to make it easier for both me and my family and other people to get around without a car” Laudable goal but crossing your yard doesn’t give you access. Of course only the station does that and it could be up to 1/2 mile away.

    “if south Bellevue homeowners had been more cooperative and pro-active rather than trying to push the train away or block it, maybe they could have gotten more mitigation from ST” They were practically unanimous in their opposition to the route choice and in favor of the BNSF location. ST would not do the latter as it did not support TOD. More mitigation, other than a bored tunnel, does little for the residents since the wet, peaty soils along the route force the alignment to surface operation. The “more mitigation” effort is now even uglier with the freeway type raising of 112th Ave to cross over the rails in the vicinity of Bellefield Park condominiums. And it is even getting worse with a serious proposal to put the rails at street level along Bellevue Way and move the road 42 feet into the hillside with huge retaining walls.

    “ST was also offering a station at SE 8th, which I would have jumped at but the neighborhood didn’t and lost it” That station did offer better access for the neighborhood but it required an at-grade crossing of SE 8th street which not even ST really liked and along with that came the bell noises 18 hours/day.

    • Mike Orr says

      “The 550 offers service almost as frequent as rail.”

      Not evenings and Sundays, which if you read this blog regularly you’ll know I’ve brought up repeatedly. I personally would be willing to fall back to the 550 if its infrequency is addressed, and if it gets reverse-commute HOV lanes which I understand are coming. The most significant benefit Link will have is north-south on the west side. But if Eastsiders in general are ready to support east-west rapid transit, I have to support it too, because it would be better in terms of facilitating non-automobile circulation. Train-to-train transfers are inevitably more convenient than train-to-bus or bus-to-bus transfers.

      “crossing your yard doesn’t give you access”

      Yes, of course. Thus my support for the SE 8th station.

      “ST would not do the [BNSF alignment] as it did not support TOD.”

      My understanding is the main issue was cost and impacting the Mercer Slough wetland. I have not heard TOD mentioned much for south Bellevue. It’s pretty much a given that Surrey Downs will remain residential and changing it would raise too much opposition, so it will remain a low-density place. I’d like to see the office park and isolated businesses made more pedestrian, and TOD in the P&R site itself, but I have not heard ST or other officials ready to consider this yet.

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