Bellevue's Spring District, a hub for transit oriented development
Bellevue's Spring District, a hub for transit oriented development (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Four promis­ing ideas for cat­alyz­ing tran­sit ori­ent­ed devel­op­ment in the City of Belle­vue enjoy broad and deep sup­port among res­i­dents of Wash­ing­ton’s fifth largest city, a sur­vey con­duct­ed a few weeks ago for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and the Belle­vue Hous­ing Research Coali­tion has found.

Aver­age sup­port for the four ideas we asked about totaled 75.75%, or more than three-fourths of respon­dents. Aver­age oppo­si­tion totaled just 18.75%.

The Belle­vue Hous­ing Research Coali­tion — a project of NPI, Com­plete Streets Belle­vue, the Sight­line Insti­tuteEast­side For All, and the Hous­ing Devel­op­ment Con­sor­tium (HDC) — set out this past sum­mer to gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how peo­ple in Belle­vue feel about the local hous­ing mar­ket and pro­pos­als being stud­ied by city staff and the Belle­vue City Coun­cil to make it eas­i­er for peo­ple in Washington’s fifth largest city to find attain­able and afford­able homes.

We released our ini­tial find­ings on Sep­tem­ber 12th and a sec­ond set of find­ings at the end of the monthOn Octo­ber 3rd, we released a third set of find­ings, and last week, we released a fourth set of find­ings.

As Octo­ber draws to a close, we have more heart­en­ing data to share.

Here’s the TOD ideas ques­tion we asked and the respons­es we received:

QUESTION: Please indi­cate whether you sup­port or oppose each of the fol­low­ing ideas about tran­sit-ori­ent­ed devel­op­ment in the City of Bellevue.


Allow mixed use devel­op­ment (like apart­ments with stores and doc­tor’s offices under­neath) any­where in the city with good tran­sit access

Sup­port: 89%Oppose: 9%Not sure:

Autho­rize the con­struc­tion of duplex­es, triplex­es and quad­plex­es – includ­ing a mech­a­nism for sep­a­rate own­er­ship – near all major tran­sit hubs

Sup­port: 79%Oppose: 14%Not sure:

Acquire prop­er­ty near light rail sta­tions for hous­ing projects with pub­lic funds and part­ner with afford­abil­i­ty-focused devel­op­ers to build new homes there

Sup­port: 71%Oppose: 21%Not sure:

Let devel­op­ers exceed nor­mal build­ing height lim­its near all major tran­sit hubs

Sup­port: 64%Oppose: 31%Not sure:

Our hous­ing-focused sur­vey of 475 Belle­vue city res­i­dents was in the field from Mon­day, August 15th, through Fri­day, August 19th, 2022.

The poll was con­duct­ed entire­ly online for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and its part­ners by Change Research. It has a mod­eled mar­gin of error of 5.2%.

Fol­low this link if you’re inter­est­ed in a detailed primer on the survey’s method­ol­o­gy along with infor­ma­tion about who took the poll.

Since 2008, Belle­vue has been get­ting ready for a huge trans­porta­tion shift that will reshape trav­el to and from the East­side as well as with­in it: the open­ing of Sound Tran­sit’s East Link / Line 2 light rail line. Most of the con­struc­tion on Line 2 is now fin­ished, and the agency has begun test­ing out trains on the tracks, as you can see in these real­ly cool videos that we record­ed ear­li­er this year.

Line 2 will pro­vide fast, fre­quent, reli­able, high capac­i­ty tran­sit ser­vice between many neigh­bor­hoods in Belle­vue. It will link the city togeth­er with Seat­tle, Mer­cer Island, Red­mond, and points beyond. Neigh­bor­hoods direct­ly served by the line include Sur­rey Downs, Down­town, Wilbur­ton, the Spring Dis­trict, Bel-Red, and Over­lake. The Spring Dis­trict and Over­lake in par­tic­u­lar have expe­ri­enced con­struc­tion booms in recent years as devel­op­ers have seized the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate hous­ing, retail, and com­mer­cial office space near future light rail stations.

Despite this progress, afford­able and attain­able hous­ing in Belle­vue remains out of reach for many res­i­dents. The City Coun­cil and city staff have been pon­der­ing how to address the urgent need for more hous­ing by study­ing a range of ideas for updat­ing the city’s hous­ing strat­e­gy. Our research shows that tak­ing addi­tion­al steps to encour­age tran­sit ori­ent­ed devel­op­ment would be wel­comed by res­i­dents. Even the least pop­u­lar of the ideas we test­ed — let­ting builders exceed nor­mal build­ing height lim­its near all major tran­sit hubs — had 64% support.

In a pre­vi­ous open-end­ed ques­tion that pre­ced­ed this and our oth­er ideas ques­tions (What do you think the Belle­vue City Coun­cil should do to make hous­ing more afford­able?), we received a few com­ments about tran­sit ori­ent­ed devel­op­ment from res­i­dents who are eager to see the city invest in hous­ing options that are paired with free­dom of mobil­i­ty as well as bet­ter transit.

“Con­tin­ue to endorse ADU’s, mixed used devel­op­ment (hous­ing & com­mer­cial). High­er den­si­ty along bus routes,” said a North­west Belle­vue homeowner.

Bellevue's Spring District, a hub for transit oriented development
Belle­vue’s Spring Dis­trict, a hub for tran­sit ori­ent­ed devel­op­ment (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“Change zon­ing to allow high den­si­ty next to light rail and tran­sit lines,” said a Lake Hills homeowner. 

A West Lake Sam­mamish home­own­er added: “Make tran­sit eas­i­er for non-res­i­dents to com­mute into Belle­vue for work.”

More afford­able hous­ing apart­ments in city cen­ter and bet­ter trans­porta­tion to sub­urbs,” said a North­east Belle­vue renter who pre­sum­ably is refer­ring to the city’s out­ly­ing neigh­bor­hoods in addi­tion to neigh­bor­ing cities like Redmond.

“Allow DADUs and make it eas­i­er for res­i­dents to pro­vide long term rentals for young pro­fes­sion­als at rea­son­able cost. Incen­tivize devel­op­ers and iron out red tape to build low­er cost rental hous­ing near trans­porta­tion hubs and shop­ping cen­ters,” said a Bri­dle Trails homeowner.

“Allow upzon­ing, apply rent con­trol, invest in pub­lic trans­porta­tion,” said a down­town renter.

We were par­tic­u­lar­ly hap­py to see that more sev­en in ten respon­dents react­ed pos­i­tive­ly to the idea of acquir­ing prop­er­ty near light rail sta­tions for hous­ing projects with pub­lic funds and part­ner­ing with afford­abil­i­ty-focused devel­op­ers to build new homes there. In Seat­tle, the Cedar Cross­ing project adja­cent to the Roo­sevelt light rail sta­tion (toured by NPI staff while it was under con­struc­tion) built 254 afford­able apart­ments that have max­i­mum income thresh­olds.

Cedar Cross­ing by Bell­wether Hous­ing is an exam­ple of the kinds of projects that our respon­dents have indi­cat­ed they def­i­nite­ly want to see in Bellevue.

Because the mar­ket is not deliv­er­ing enough afford­able homes, res­i­dents want the city to step up and take a greater “hands on” role in ensur­ing that there are hous­ing options for peo­ple in every income bracket.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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