Washington state community to give free parking to people living in vehicles

Bellevue City Council approved $450,000 to implement the pilot program as part of the city’s homelessness response.

Updated: January 16, 2023 - 2:49pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The City of Bellevue is looking to increase access to safe parking for its residents that reside in their vehicles.

The Bellevue City Council approved an annual budget allocation of $450,000 to implement the pilot program as part of the city’s homelessness response efforts.

The city’s goal for the pilot program is to provide a clean and safe parking area that is off-street. The Lincoln Center in Bellevue is the set location for the program, with 37,000 square feet of parking space. Notably, the city council staff said that the area is expected to hold 20 vehicles of any size. That is roughly 24% of the most recent count of Bellevue residents living in their cars, which was 83 in 2021.

Bellevue Councilmember Jennifer Robertson said she understood that the pilot program is the first step to providing a safe place for residents living in their vehicles but emphasized that the program’s goal should meet the demand for safe parking access.

“People who are living in cars are often different from the people who are living on the street – they are more often to be employed [and] more often to have children,” Robertson said at a council meeting on Jan. 9. “I think it’s really important that we help them.”

City staff reached out to a number of vehicular residents in Bellevue to ask if they would reside in a designated-safe parking area. Only one person responded “no,” while specifying that they wanted to continue their trajectory towards stable housing rather than living in their vehicle.

The next steps for the safe parking pilot program are to release a request for proposals for an operator of the program, choose a program operator and complete the environmental and land use review within the first quarter of 2023.

The pilot program is expected to be launched sometime in the second quarter of 2023.