What is “Livability”?

Put simply “livability” measures how suitable a defined area is for human living. There are many factors to take into consideration when determining livability and each individual will have a different set of priorities. With this in mind, general factors that impact livability are:

    • Access

This is the basics - good schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. Then add amenities like parks, gathering places, farmers markets, and arts and culture. Finally, access to and through the built environment, as well as access to the natural environment, are a vital consideration – particularly in the Pacific Northwest.

    • Affordability

Affordability is about more than just cost and income – a series of variables across broad categories like housing, transportation, health care and food all feed into affordability and ensure livability isn’t a luxury, but the norm.

    • Choice

The more options a city can offer, the more it can be livable for everyone. This can include flexibility in options for transportation (car, bus, train), service providers (internet, phone, cable), and cultural enrichment (theater, museums, music).

    • Utilization

Finally, having all of these great things is important, but so is using them.

What is zoning?

Zoning is a device of land-use planning used by local governments for designating permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one set of land uses from another. Zoning may be use-based (regulating how the land may be used, such as farming or industrial), and/or it may regulate building height, lot coverage (density), and other design characteristics.

What is the Downtown Bellevue Livability Initiative?

The Downtown Bellevue Livability Initiative is a targeted review of specific regulations that guide downtown development and land use activity. The objectives of this work are to: better achieve the vision for downtown as a vibrant, mixed-use center; enhance the pedestrian environment; improve the area as a residential setting; and enhance the identity and character of downtown neighborhoods. 

What regulations are being analyzed as part of the Livability Initiative?

In the fall of 2012, the City Council provided initial direction on specific downtown zoning and development regulations to be analyzed, including:

  • Amenity incentive system
  • Building form and height
  • Design guidelines
  • Pedestrian corridor
  • Light rail interface
  • Downtown parking
  • Vision for strip of land between 112th Ave NE & I-405
  • Downtown signage
  • Sidewalk widths and landscaping standards
  • Maintenance standards for vacant sites and buildings
  • Screening of mechanical equipment
  • Recycling and solid waste facilities
  • Vendor carts
  • Range of permitted uses

How does the Livability Initiative process work?

The public process for the Downtown Livability Initiative began in 2012 when the Bellevue City Council appointed members to an independent Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC). The CAC’s work was completed at the June 18th, 2014 public meeting; in the summer of 2015 the CAC’s recommendations were reviewed by City Council and passed along to the  Planning Commission where further analysis of those recommendations was conducted during the Planning Commission’s regular meetings. Upon completion of the Planning Commission’s analysis, a proposed set of zoning codes was be submitted to the City Council for further review, discussion, input and adoption. The City Council approved the new zoning and land use codes on Monday, October 16, 2017. 

How can I receive updates?

Fortin Group values and encourages participation through the public process and as such endeavors to provide up-to-date information on meetings and events related to the Livability Initiative through the News and Downtown Livability sections of our website.

Additionally, CLICK HERE to sign-up for email updates from the City of Bellevue.

When is Fortin Group going to develop their properties?

Fortin Group does not currently have plans for redevelopment.

Our property analysis and master plan is in response to, and in conjunction with, the City’s Livability Initiative so that we may better understand how our site may contribute to the long-term goals and needs of residents, employers and City staff.

Why is Fortin Group involved in the Livability Initiative?

The current zoning regulating development in Downtown Bellevue was adopted in 1981; once the Livability Initiative is complete it could well be another 30 years before zoning in downtown is analyzed again. Therefore we are taking the opportunity the City has provided to speak up now on behalf of smart, considerate and well managed growth.

What is FAR and how does it relate to building height?

FAR, or floor to area ratio, is a measure of density on a building site, which is generated by dividing the building area by the parcel area it sits on. For example, if  a plot of land is 2 acres (87,120 sqft) and has a maximum allowable FAR of 4 then the building square footage cannot exceed 348,480 sqft (87,120 x 4). How this relates to height: if you have a maximum allowable height of 65 feet, the buildings will be short, fat and built to the edge of the property line creating a wall. If the maximum allowable height is 200 feet, instead of being short and fat, the buildings can be tall and skinny with generous public spaces, such as parks, plazas and landscaping between buildings.  There can also be a substantial setback from the property line leaving room for wider sidewalks, open space and through-block pedestrian connections (i.e. buildings don’t span sidewalk to sidewalk), similar to what is seen in Vancouver, BC and Portland.


How is transportation in the Northwest Village district impacted by the proposed zoning changes?

    • A summary of the Trasportation Benefits accoring to the Fortin Group master plan is available HERE.

What is a Development Agreement?

    • A development agreement is a contract between a City and a land owner wihtin the City.
    • The purpose of a development agreement is to set out standards and conditions that will govern the development of a property.
    • The development agreement process provides for input from the community during public meetings.
    • Development agreements are tied to the land and provide predictability to residents, neightborhoods, the City, and the land owner.
    • Development agreements provide assurances that the development regulations that apply to a project will not change during the term of the agreement.
    • Development agreements are authorized by state law.