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Sound Transit station proposal making things difficult for Bellevue homeless shelter

(File, AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Bellevue is looking to use a plot of city-owned land in the BelRed neighborhood to build a permanent mens’ shelter. It’s a move that moves the shelter out of its deteriorating building and into a safe space, and also keeps it removed from the city’s more residential areas.

The problem? Sound Transit has plans to build its light rail maintenance facility on the same plot of land — and they don’t appear to be budging anytime soon.

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Councilmember Kevin Wallace, a liaison to the transportation commission that represents Bellevue, spoke with 770 KTTH’s Todd Herman about the dispute between Sound Transit and the city.

“Our parcel kind of sticks into their parcel like a key into a lock,” Wallace said of the building proposals.

Homelessness on the Eastside is frequently handled by nonprofits, and the city is working with one operator called Congregations for the Homeless (CFH). CFH had previously used a facility in BelRed as shelter housing, but according to Wallace, Sound Transit condemned the property to make room for a light rail maintenance facility. The city moved the occupants of the shelter to a building near downtown Bellevue, but that building has since deteriorated and is no longer code-compliant. A plot of county-owned property in Eastgate is a potential option for relocation, but it’s near a residential area and families there are hesitant about the shelter’s placement.

This led Wallace to his current decision — the one that has led to this year’s dispute.

“The opportunity I discovered was the in this maintenance facility property area back in BelRed where the shelter was,” Wallace said. “Bellevue actually has this one-acre piece of property where we could put the shelter on Bellevue’s property, and then we just have a two-party deal between Bellevue and Congregations for the Homeless to build the shelter. But what it requires is that we adjust the boundaries between Sound Transit’s property and Bellevue’s property to make enough room for both the shelter and for Sound Transit’s maintenance facility.”

According to the Bellevue Reporter, the agreement Sound Transit made with the city two years prior is non-legally binding. However, Sound Transit delivered a design concept for its facility in June that was not only on the BelRed property but encroached on Bellevue’s plan for the shelter.

It remains to be seen whether Sound Transit will collaborate with the city to try to make sure all sides are met. Wallace appears to remain optimistic, but also knows how difficult the conversation can be.

“They, at times, have shown a spirit of collaboration, and those times are rare.”

Wallace told Todd the decision may ultimately come down to the November election since the council won’t make a decision until next year and this is Wallace’s last year serving.

“Basically what it’s going to come down to is the election in November. Bellevue council’s action on this won’t come up until next year, and if there’s a majority of the council that says it has to go there, you have to do this boundary adjustment, I think it has to happen because Sound Transit needs that boundary line adjustment to happen in order to make their maintenance facility work, too.”

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