We’ve just received a copy of a letter (PDF) dated today, signed by all these and several others, politely letting Bellevue City Council know that they need to get on with it. They go so far as to say East Link and 520 replacement are “equally critical,” very strong language for a transit project, especially on the eastside.

This is a strong message not only to Bellevue City Council, but also to Kemper Freeman, and the small group attacking light rail construction: Business community leaders and the largest employers on the eastside are all sick of the quixotic attacks on East Link. We need regional mass transit now.

Good show to all those who signed. I hope to see other employers add their voices to this message.

67 Replies to “Microsoft, Boeing, T-Mobile, Bellevue College, Group Health to Bellevue City Council: Stop Arguing With Sound Transit And Build East Link”

    1. He’ll care when it affects his bottom line. Which it will, if he goes head to head with Microsoft, one of his largest tenants.

      1. Ben,
        I sincerely hope that you are correct. But, having grown up in “friendly Kirkland”, and seeing this guy in action for longer than you have been alive, I have my doubts.

      2. Obviously no-one is going to renegotiate anything, Bernie, in the next ten years, as East Link won’t be built for another 12 or so.

      3. Exactly, at which point Kempers acceptance or denial of light rail is meaningless. Kemper was born in 1941 so he’ll be 81 if East Link opens on schedule and has indicated he’s looking to retire. Then again, Warren Buffet is 80 and he just bought himself a railroad so who knows.

      4. Presumably Kemper will want to cash out or bequeath his worldly goods to someone at some point. Depressing the future value of his assets is going to to hurt his bottom line at some point, whether he’s actively managing his portfolio or not in ten to fifteen years.

      5. Bernie, only one of Microsoft’s buildings is Kemper as far as I’m aware. I don’t think he owns Bravern.

      6. That was my initial though reading your comment. They’re not one of his biggest tenants but they do have space in Lincoln Square. Microsoft does however suck up a lot of office space and a low vacancy rate is good for every developer/owner. So, your point is pretty mute, Kemper’s support or opposition to light rail won’t have any effect since his opposition has done nothing to dissuade Microsoft from making DT Bellevue their “home away from home.”

      7. Kemper Freeman is no Warren Buffet. Warren Buffet has serious money, Kemper Freeman owns a mall, and some adjoining, mostly empty, properties. A mall/etc that, without Microsoft, would still be looking to rent the old Frederick & Nelson anchor store.

        Or, to put it in Kemper’s terms: If Warren Buffet is Bellevue Square, Kemper Freeman is a strip mall two miles south of the Tacoma Mall that is wondering how they will fill the Dollar General space.

      8. I think this is just the first shot across the bow from the Eastside business community. They are indicating East Link is just as important to them as the 520 rebuild. If putting pressure on the Bellevue City Council doesn’t work look for them to fund their own candidates and for them to fund the re-election of current pro-rail members.

        Face it the same coalition of Freeman/Wallace/NIMBYs who lead to the current anti-rail majority in 2009 was almost certainly looking to replace Balducci, Chelminiak, and Derringer in 2011. I susupect one of the things we’ll see happen is the business community donating to the re-election of the pro-rail members.

        I don’t remember if Robinson is facing re-election in 2011 but if she is I expect she’ll find she’s facing a well funded pro-rail opponent.

      9. Schnitzer West owns the Bravern. They are generally pro-transit and specifically want a light rail stop next to the Bravern.

      10. Bernie, Microsoft is probably Kemper’s second biggest tenant, after the hotel next door. Hell, they might even be the biggest.

    2. I think 2011 will be the year we all look back at and pinpoint as the year in which Kemper was cast aside from the rest of the Bellevue and Eastside business world. Bellevue’s business world is growing, but not with people like Kemper, but with people that understand that transit is a key to Bellevue’s continued growth and prosperity.

      1. Hopefully, his spell on Bellevue will be diminished. But, I will believe that when I see it. I am not so sure you “youngters” realize how deep the right wing, crazy conservatism, thrives in Bellevue Land. You can cite a “progressive” now and then, but, you fail to realize, there are extreme right-wingers at most corners! I am not paranoid! I grew up on the Eastside!

        Where did George W. Bush visit on his lovely travels to Washington State? Ever hear of the McCaw family?? Hint: He did not visit West Seattle, or Capitol Hill. Or Wallingford.

        The last I checked, Reichert was still the Congressman from Bellevue. Eh?

        Wishful thinking is fun, but, Bellevue is still right-wingsville. And Rob McKenna will win in Bellevue. And Rob McKenna is NOT a Progressive.
        You people think expanding the AMTRAK Cascades frequency is high on McKenna’s list???? Or transit funding? LOL

      2. Hold on, our State Represenatives from the 48th are Deb Eddy and Ross Hunter (good guy), our State Senator is Rodney Tom. You’re saying we only elect right wing nuts?

      3. Um, Bernie, citing Rodney Tom or Deb Eddy as examples of the 48th NOT electing right-wing nuts rings somewhat hollow…

      4. @Northern Pacific

        Just because we might be under 30 doesn’t mean we are naive. Bellevue has always and will always be more conservative than Seattle but it isn’t an “extremely right-wing” crowed, they are business friendly, traditional fiscal conservative crowed. I’ll take them over over the crazy teabag crowd any day.

      5. To be fair, Bellevue voted 55% for Dow Constantine in 2009 for Executive. His county-wide total was 57%.

        Congressman Reichert lives in Auburn or Kent, Darcy Burner and Suzan DelBene won Bellevue; they lost Pierce badly.

        Bellevue has money, so President Bush came here. Michelle Obama came here for a fundraiser too.

        Representative Eddy is not as conservative as you make her seem….

        And Northern Pacific, I am (currently) growing up on the Eastside and watching the city change before our eyes. The Seattle stereotypes aren’t helping.

      6. @Nortern Pacific,

        Not all those who lean right are anti transit. I know this because I am one of them.

      7. Tom is a conservative democrat, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing if he represents the interests of his district well. Conservative or not he doesn’t deny a role for government in providing infrastructure, education, social services, or economic development. This is far better than the teabag crowd who seems to think we can cut taxes to 0, fire all public employees, and run everything on unicorn farts.

        I don’t always agree with Eddy, but I strongly respect her. She is at least willing to engage the general public on-line which is more than I can say for most elected officials. She’s given me some real insights into how the sausage is really made down in Olympia.

        Bellevue has people like Balducci, Chelminiak, and Degginger on the city council too. If any of them should choose to run for higher office they would have my support (though we need them on the Bellevue Council at least until the East Link alignment is finalized).

        Strictly on a numbers basis East King County isn’t very conservative either, simply look at the numbers Kerry, Obama, Murray, Cantwell, Burner, and Gregiore got in Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Newcastle, and even Issaquah.

  1. Kemper Freeman is like the Newt Gingrich of Puget Sound only in reverse. While the National Republican party has gone off the deep end of radicalism, the Republicans of Puget Sound have become more pragmatic and transit friendly than Freeman, dare I say Progressive?

    1. Wait until Rob McKenna gets the governorship! You will eat those words!

      1. You know I doubt Rep. Jay Inslee is going to let Rob have a cakewalk.

        Beyond that Rob McKenna has some real problems with important segments of the republican base. To the extent I know some Republican PCO’s who are prepared to support Inslee.

      2. We just need to get the Downtown Bellevue route locked in in some way before McKenna gets in, if he does.

      3. Cynic: That’s my second biggest goal this year, after killing the tunnel.

  2. This whole thing highlights an ever growing amount of evidence that Bellevue needs full-time city council members. You can’t afford to have part-time members with conflicted interests damage the fate of the entire region.

    I know not all of them have conflicted interests, but in this case one clearly does, and that’s just not defensible.

    1. Bellevue should also have a strong mayor system, in my opinion. A strong executive can be a good counterbalance to the city council.

  3. If they really want to see things get done, they should push to get Bob Hasegawa’s HB2100 — A Tax on Assets — passed in the Washington State legislature.

    Not only would it be able to contribute to funding transit, but it could reduce the need for business taxes, and the high sales tax, which affects people disproportionately from the services they receive.

  4. Good on MS for signing the letter, but if we really wanted to make a difference, locating those 15000 seats in Seattle instead of Bellevue would been far more effective. And would have made a bunch of us Seattle-based softies a lot more immune to job offers in town.

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised to see lots of new Microsoft office space in Seattle over the next few years. I don’t think Downtown Bellevue is going to be able to absorb all of the overflow from main campus. Not to mention that there is a fair bit of class A office space in Seattle looking for tenants.

      If I was Wright-Runstad or Opus I’d be trying to convince MS to take some of the space vacated by Amazon’s move to SLU.

      1. Microsoft is trying to consolidate on or near their main campus. Good luck trying to lease them the PacMed building:

        Commercial real-estate brokers say the building presents both unusual challenges and unusual opportunities. For many prospective tenants, “the location is subpar relative to being in the [downtown] core,” said Kip Spencer, co-founder of real-estate database

        But the tower’s prominence could appeal to a company or organization “that wants to have a building that’s branded as their building,” said Oscar Oliveira, managing director at Seattle brokerage Broderick Group.

        Amazon is growing but people beating their chest about all the development in South Lake Union overlook the huge craters left behind. Wright-Runstad has a burn rate of about $4 million a year with that building empty without even accounting for the loss of income. And I don’t see how Beacon can avoid default on the Columbia Tower with short term notes coming due and a 40% vacancy rate.

    2. It’s sad that large corporations routinely choose the suburbs for their corporate campuses. But the blame really falls on the tax code. There are all kinds of tax breaks you get from building in the suburbs. For instance, buildings can only be depreciated over 39 years, whereas parking lots, landscaping, sidewalks, curbs and gutters can be depreciated over only 15 years. For a large campus this can be a huge tax break.

      (in writing this comment I found a great primer on accelerated depreciation – a tax loophole that created much of our sprawl, and is the reason modern office campuses are built to last only 15 years rather than centuries)

    3. There’s constant pressure inside MS for office space in Seattle — MS has a LOT of Seattle-based employees and many would prefer to work in Seattle. But it never seems to come to pass.

    4. Microsoft is not going to base its office locations on whether the building owner has the right attitude on light rail. There are a lot of other considerations in choosing office locations, such as the impact on its employees, customers, business visitors, consolidating locations (downtown Bellevue is right between Seattle and Redmond), the cost of the rent vs the value received, etc.

      I’m happy that Microsoft has made a move away from far-flung office parks to city centers; that is more important overall than whether MS has de facto “rewarded” Kemper for his position on light rail.

  5. “We need regional mass transit now.”

    Oh really? I’m surprised the whole region isn’t screaming this phrase right about now as it seems everyday, whenever I see a bus, it’s stuck in gridlock traffic and can’t budge, or its waiting for an elderly person to crawl aboard on their wobbly walking stick fiddling through their purse/pockets for cash or someone is having conversation problems with the driver asking for directions. I hate buses, they’re painfully slow, unreliable and terribly uncomfortable riding over potholes and curbs making reading a book nauseating and writing/doing homework impossible.

    So I’m sick of the bus, I’m going to ride the subway/lrt this weekend. Read my itinerary:

    I need to ride the light-rail (though it looks more like a subway) on Saturday from Kenmore Station on the Red “Lk.Wash.Loop” Line south to Fremont Station as it winds it way underground Lake City Way intersecting the Yellow “Central” north-south Line. Then I was hoping after having lunch near the Ballard Locks I’d hop back on the subway south to King Street Central Station to transfer onto the Red “Lk.Wash.Loop” Line southwest to West Seattle for a stroll along Alki Beach. I’d then like to return home on the Orange “Cascades” east-west Line running from Ballard to Eastside across 520 bridge splitting directions at Clyde Hill, branching north to Kirklandd parallel to Lk.Wash.Loop with the other branch heading southeast to Issaquah via downtown Bellevue and Bellevue College. At Kirkland I’ll grab some bakery items for the morning and transfer to the Red “Lk.Wash.Loop” Line to eng my journey back home in Kenmore-Bothell area.

    Am I able to make this trip this weekend? If not, then I’m confused as to why Seattle has wasted so much time arguing and bickering for over a century, refraining from investing in a subway system that EVERY major city worldwide seems to have… except for Seattle and it’s pathetic & primitive infrastructure.

    1. That’s nice, but the rail infrastructure you describe befits a major city, like Paris or London or NYC; it would cost a fortune. Seattle is a small city. I do wish people on here would temper their demands with an appreciation of what’s reasonably affordable.

      1. Seattle is the 12th largest television market in the country, which suggests we are at least a medium sized city.

        Cities like London, NYC, and Paris have to be places in their own category above “large.” They are all mega cities.

      2. Cities like London, NYC, and Paris have to be places in their own category above “large.” They are all mega cities.

        That’s a good point. It’s sort of like t-shirt sizes. There are somethings that are clearly not t-shirts, somethings that are children’s t-shirts (spokane), some that are small t-shirts (portland), some that are medium (Seattle), some that are large (Boston) some that are extra large (Los Angeles), and some that are so large it’s bewildering.

      3. I agree we need to stay focused on what can reasonably built and funded within the next generation or so. Right now that means building ST2. Looking forward it means what projects off of the PSRC, ST, and City long range plans should be the next ones to begin real planning and be a part of things like ST3.

    2. Haven’t you figured it out yet? Seattle is a very special place, a delicate little flower of a city that would suffocate if it were choked by rail lines. Just look at how those light rail lines choked the life out of Portland and Sacramento!

      No, Seattle needs highways to breathe free. And forget about trains. Buses are good enough for Seattle.

  6. Sure, maybe all those companies should fund a little extra for East Link perhaps?

    1. Microsoft paid for almost half of the 36th street overpass (was originally supposed to be 70%). How much are they kicking in for the two light rail stations that bookend their corporate headquarters?

      1. Only one station is really close to MSFT buildings. But I’m pretty sure it’s MS employees paying the sales taxes to build East Link, so I’m not too worried about it. They’re good allies without demanding money directly. They do contribute to campaigns.

      1. It’s a better investment to leverage your money toward campaigns that promote a wide tax base to support projects that benefit Microsoft than to cough up the money directly like the City of Redmond demand as in a 70% contribution to infrastructure costs in exchange for development. It’s no surprise MS would sign a letter like this. Bring us light rail so yuppies can work here and live in Seattle and we don’t have to pay for it. What’s not to like.

  7. Bellevue is looking out for what’s best for Bellevue. That’s what they’re supposed to do. Calling Bellevue examining all the angles “arguing with Sound Transit” is mischaracterizing the process. I applaud Bellevue. Measure twice, cut once, I say. Let’s get this right. Let’s not mess up another alignment like ST did with Central Link. “We need regional mass transit now” is wrong. We need smartly aligned regional mass transit.

    1. Up until now you may be right. But now Bellevue is at a crossroads. Any more delay will cause the opening date to slip further into the future. That is why you see this letter now. The city has no plan to pay for the at least $140 million delta between the B2 alignment and their B7R alignment. And the cost is likely higher because King County owns the rights and plans to build a critically needed regional bike trail on the BNSF corridor. Bellevue’s lame study assumes they don’t need to accommodate the trail. Another loss for commuting options in addition to an alignment with poor transit connections and less ridership.

      What do you find wrong with Central Link? That it goes through the Rainier Valley? You would save five minutes by taking a freeway route and nobody would use it because no one lives there.

      Your tone illustrates the attitude of Kemper and Kevin Wallace. Light rail should go where it avoids impacting people, rather than putting it where it serves people.

      1. a critically needed regional bike trail on the BNSF corridor.

        In this time of budget cutbacks your priority is a “critically needed” bike trail? Ironically, B7 in any flavor would be the only alignment that puts money toward this “critial need”, yet you oppose it.

      2. NOTHING about a bike trail is “critically needed.”

        That ROW is needed for a future N/S rail line for the eastside. Less land to buy when the time comes.

        If a trail can be incorporated alongside it, great. If not, then oh well. But it certainly is not “critical.”

      3. As a rail corridor, the BNSF is underwhelming. It avoids most density on the Eastside, especially south of Bellevue. As a bike trail it is an important trunk line that can carry thousands of commuters a day. A bike shed is much larger than a walk shed.

        And Bernie, read the study. Bellevue’s assumptions are that the trail is not built. If they want to build B7R and the trail, then they need to tell us how they will come up with the $140 million plus the millions more to accommodate the trail.

      4. A bike trail, as worthy as it may be, is not funded with ST2 money. B2M doesn’t build the trail either so why you think a B7 alignment should??? Use of rail banked land requires that it not preclude freight use in the future. The Arup suggestion is to leave ROW reserved for freight use in the future for a trail which is exactly the same situation as the Burke Gilman and East Lake Sammamish, the Centenial Trail, etc. There is zero chance that freight rail will ever be reestablished on any of these. If there was any case for rail on this corridor BNSF wouldn’t have agreed to let WSDOT remove the Wilburton Tunnel and abandon the line.

      5. @reality,

        The density comment might be true now, but wouldn’t necessarily be true in the future after it is constructed.

        The alignment itself is positioned in a way that it can serve many of the towns on the corridor, as well as provide a very good trunk route for other areas. Not having to compete with major thoroughfares is also a major advantage.

    2. Bellevue isn’t looking out for Bellevue’s interests—if they were, they’d stop dicking around with B7R and start making sure they had the cash to fund their portion of C9T. No, Bellevue is looking out for Kevin Wallace’s interests and the interests of a few affluent residents of Surrey Downs.

      As was demonstrated by Arup at the last meeting, B7R is a terrible alignment. It costs $150MM more for the same ridership numbers and higher risk, with the added bonus of mandatory residential and commercial takings and a gigantic P&R structure in Enatai that encourages continued automobile-based sprawl in South Bellevue.

      This entire B7R study process was designed to enrich Kevin Wallace and GNP at the expense of Bellevue taxpayers.

      1. “few affluent residents of Surrey Downs”.

        [ad hom]. Surrey Downs is not by any means affluent.

      2. Moderators, thanks for the [ad hom.] edit! I came back to apologize for that, and see you’ve already taken it out.

        I should have noted that Kyle S. is incorrect, and is possibly confusing Surrey Downs with Medina or Enatai. Surrey Downs is heavily populated by retirees who are the original owners of their 1100-square foot homes. There are increasingly more people (like myself) who are second or third owners and actually have some money to invest in our neighborhood.

        Surrey Downs is NOT a haven of Bellevue mega mansions populated by the overly wealthy. I can’t afford to live in the tony neighborhoods of ViewCrest or Clyde Hill (or Magnolia, for that matter.) I have a modest home in Surrey Downs and I object firmly to being lumped in with the prevailing stereotype of the Bellevue elite.

        I’ll go further and conjecture that Sound Transit favors going down 112th instead of going down Bellevue Way precisely because Surrey Downs is filled with small, relatively inexpensive homes. The corridor surrounding Bellevue Way is FAR more populated than the corridor surrounding 112th (that is pretty much just 405 to the east). If Sound Transit was honest about finding the highest potential ridership they’d stick EastLink right down Bellevue Way and take down the new skyscraper condominiums.

    3. “Bellevue is looking out for what’s best for Bellevue. ”

      Really? As a long-time resident of Bellevue who does not happen to live in Surrey Downs, I do not agree with that statement. Rather I feel that a relatively small number of extremely vocal and well-organized group have hijacked the entire process.

  8. I have been reading this blog for a while. I am an avid transit supporter and I find the shenanigans in Bellevue to be unacceptable. Obviously, major employers feel similarly. Perhaps people better connected to the blog can bolster this opposition towards further studying the B7R alternative that is far too cost prohibitive to be a realistic option. What can we do?

      1. Thank you for your thoughts and advice. I am not a resident of Bellevue. However, I do reside in on the Eastside in the Bel-Red/Overlake area of Redmond. So the decisions Bellevue makes will directly impact me. I will look into how I can support Move Bellevue Forward.

  9. This letter makes perfect sense: Light rail is simply corporate welfare.

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