A-2 Station, image from KPFF

Last night, Bellevue hosted an open house for its B7-Revised alignment.  There wasn’t a whole lot of new information on the plate so those absent didn’t miss much.  Other than what is already mostly known about the alignment, many of the answers to questions about design elements were more often than not something to the effect of “we haven’t decided yet” or “we’re still working on that part.”  There were three large plots of the alignment and attendees were invited to post sticky-note comments upon concerned areas.

I had an opportunity to speak briefly with pro-B2 councilmember John Chelminiak who was very concerned about B7’s slough crossing.  According to Chelminiak, WSDOT has significant concerns about pile-supported structures in the slough because of unstable peat movement in the bog.  A strong earthquake could easily fracture or take down an elevated light rail guideway along with the I-90 bridges.

Some more of the meeting below the jump.

Amidst other valid concerns and questions residents raised was a lot of the rhetoric that I’ve made clear is displeasing to listen to.  One irate man, the same foul-mouthed gentleman at the Sound Transit public hearing, shouted that Sound Transit is “fascist!” among other ideological attacks as part of his diatribe.

Others were easier to talk to.  At the end of the meeting, I engaged in a stimulating discussion with several B7 supporters, some of whom spoke rationally, others not so much.  While a lot of their argument seemed to be rooted in making light rail a good system, wild irrelevant jabs at Central Link’s ridership and the failure of Roads & Transit made me question the sincerity of wanting to make East Link a truly successful system.

The last B7 supporter I spoke with, a Surrey Downs resident, made an argument which I think reaches one of the lower points of the debate.  He asserted that there are “no homes” along the B7 route, to which I assured him there were plenty of condo-owners along the route.  The stinger came when he scoffed and said something to the effect of “we have homes … with value!”

I have to be clear about this.  It doesn’t matter whether you have 50 homes worth a million a pop or 50 condos worth $100K a pop.  A household is a household, and what matters the most is the relative value that each respective homeowner places on it, not anyone else.  Until we get past that, I don’t see any hope in advancing the conversation beyond the mess that it already is.

16 Replies to “B7-Revised Open House Recap”

  1. Really? They think that monetary value is all that matters? I guess when you have a lot of money, you can afford to not be sensible.

    I’d really hate it if my condo were to be razed in favor of rich folks’ luxurious estates. Even if it’s not worth a million dollars, it’s worth a whole lot more to me in non-monetary ways.

    1. Those houses are far from “rich folks’ luxurious estates”. Would probably be knock-downs in my neighborhood (QA in Seattle). From what I see on Redfin, the price per Sq Ft seems comparable to the condo/townhouses and I suspect more folks live in the condo developments.

  2. All households are equal, but some are more equal than others. I hate to say it, but it does matter. Guess who will have the money and resources to fight the line. Guess who does not. Yeah it sucks for the condo owners, but it’s hard and very expensive to fight a group of people with near unlimited resources. In an ideal world, it does not matter, but we do not live in one. Its a bleak reality.

    I been in many project planning meetings (just us engineers and the client), we had some very interesting discussions on how our projects would effect the rich people and what is the best way to combat their fears and lawyers. It’s just something that has to be done.

    1. I’ve asked before and no-one has been able to explain to me what legal recourse the Surrey Downs / BaBB people have. If ST does the EIS right, what legal grounds do the anti-railers have for a claim against ST? If they don’t have a leg to stand on, the courts will summarily dismiss their claims as frivolous, and the BaBB people will look like the idiots that many of them appear to be.

  3. Some of this rhetoric reeks of a Desperate Housewives plot. I’ve said it before – have any of the property owners in Surrey Downs considered this may positively impact their property values in the future? Would they really rather route this line through a sensitive swamp than an existing, heavily-traveled 4-lane arterial? This is a people-friendly electric train, not a freeway. Enough NIMBYism!

    I know we have to ignore the crazies, but I think most of the pro-B7 folks just aren’t being sufficiently open-minded. They’ve latched onto the ideas that this is a bad thing and its being shoved down their throat.

  4. I dropped in to the meeting last night, asked a couple of questions, but mostly listened to the mood in the room.

    I live in the downtown central business district, and have done so for the last 13 years. I am against the B7 alignment. I’m upset that the Bellevue city council decided to spend $750k on this study.

    The BNSF corridor is currently about 50 feet wide. To put a light rail dual carriageway in the space would require at least 80 feet, and perhaps 100 feet if the trail requirements stand. I thought it interesting that the overdrawn graphics on all of the maps only showed a pair of parallel lines, and they were not much wider than the existing heavy rail track. I understand that these requirements are in effect wherever the line goes, but I think that references to the existing rail corridor gloss over the changes required to that corridor.

    I heard some interesting negative comments about the proposed new park and ride structure that would be right up against existing neighborhoods, without even the buffer of bellevue way that the existing location has.

    I believe that a rail station located at where the existing park and ride is will have a much better walking area than one elevated at I90. I also believe that the existing park and ride location will be a much better transfer station location than one tucked closer into the I90 onramps.

    I was disappointed to not see at least one map of the sound transit preferred option available for comparison purposes.

    I didn’t see or hear anything in last nights open house that would change my opinion.

  5. The BaBB folks sound like the Save Our Valley folks: crackpots. But they appear to be a lot more loutush and ill-behaved.

    In any event, I wish the eastside would get over this idea that they are somehow a special place. There’s some lovely neignborhoods for sure, including Surrey Downs, but this region is full of lovely neighborhoods. Surrey Downs is basically the eastside version of Olympic Manor. Medina is the freshwater version of The Highlands or Ennis Arden. The stores in Bellevue are basically the same store you find in Downtown Seattle or Southcenter. If they want to remain a nice, convenient place to live, they should get over this attitude. Otherwise, they’re just going to turn into a soggy version of the San Fernando Valley.

  6. As I’ve said, based on my recent walk along 112th past Surrey Downs, and what I’ve seen of light rail elsewhere: preferred alignment can do nothing to property values along the line except raise them.

    I wonder how much of the current hysteria is really extortion, either for extra compensation, or for some benefit or remuneration that hasn’t been made public, possibly having nothing to do with LINK?

    Would have made the meeting, but illness prevented. Tell me this: Surrey Downs is a very small place, and I doubt the whole neighborhood shows up for these meetings. Doesn’t anybody in Bellevue like the 112th alignment- including in Surrey Downs?

    Mark Dublin

    1. The core opposition seems genuine. Surrey Downs is the kind of single-family neighborhood that doesn’t want trains or condos or apartments because they’re afraid it’ll degrade their single-family quality of life, lower their property values, and bring undesirables into the neighborhood. I think “property values” is their strongest concern, as in lowering the value of their investment. Of course we can show that rail often raises property values, but NIMBYs don’t believe that until it happens.

      I just don’t see people like that being motivated by what they can get in a settlement. What they want is “No change”. What do they need that they don’t already have? I doubt they’re hoping for new sidewalks or something.

      There are neighborhoods like this all over the Eastside and in Seattle. It has just become acute here because Surrey Downs is the only affluent, single-family, non-transit-oriented neighborhood in Link’s path so far. Rainier Valley was essentially too poor to resist, Roosevelt is pro-transit, and nobody cares in industrial areas. The North Corridor alignment hasn’t been chosen yet so it’s below the NIMBYs’ radar.

      There may be people in the city council or elsewhere who are using this cause to further other agendas, but I don’t think that’s the bulk of the opposition.

      1. “doesn’t want condos”

        Scratch that, I forgot we’re talking about 112th, not 108th as I usually consider Surrey Downs.

      2. “The North Corridor alignment hasn’t been chosen yet so it’s below the NIMBYs’ radar.”

        And considering what sort of places make up Seattle-north-of-Northgate, Shoreline, and Snohomish County, if the I-5 or 15th alignments are chosen (or even Aurora in the case of SnoCo) get ready for Surrey Downs Mark II…

  7. Thanks, Mike. Have to feel for those people, though. What’s happening to Bellevue itself less than a mile north of Surrey Downs has got to be more horrible than light rail. Maybe that’s where the undesirables they’re really afraid of are going to come from when they invade via EastLINK.

    One neighborhood I really would like to see face the approach of a major light rail line is Ballard- which also has a lot of single-family homes. And could really use something faster than the 44 to get to the U-District, let alone our choices for getting Downtown.

    Remember also, the opposition campaign against the Monorail featured pictures of LINK trains on all their publicity, implying that if we voted against monorail we’d get light rail. Of course, maybe the delay is out of fear that undesirables from east of the Lake will start coming to visit the Ballard Locks on trains instead of their SUV’s like they do now.

    Where are John Keister and Tracey Conway when Ballard needs them?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Yes, all those uncouth Microsofties might invade Surrey Downs and buy a house there. And those Microsoft liberals are the sort who would ride light rail, ugh.

      Downtown Bellevue has had a growth plan and skyscrapers for at least fifteen years, so any agitation about that is old hat. I suppose it has crossed their minds that skyscrapers might one day invade Surrey Downs itself, as Manhattan marched steadily up from Wall Street to 110th engulfing villages. I suppose that would be worse than Link.

      The monorail opposition to Link was due to the example of light rail in earlier cities, where it runs mostly on the surface and is subject to traffic lights. Because monorail has to be grade separated, we could guarantee the bean counters wouldn’t put in surface segments that would slow the train down.

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