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April 27, 2011 | | Comments 33

Helicopter Flights May Land in Downtown Bellevue

helicopter-bellevue_PlaceBellevue City Council members are expected to finalize a decision regarding helicopter landings on top of the 21-story Bank of America Building on Northeast 8th Street at an upcoming meeting.

Kemper Development Company has applied for a conditional-use permit that will allow up to 5 helicopter landings and takeoffs each week, with up to 4 taking place at 9am-6pm Monday-Friday, and 1 at 10am-5pm Saturday. The flight path will be limited to freeways and Northeast 8th Street, according to a statement from the City of Bellevue.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, council members voiced their concerns about helicopter noise and the impact on downtown residents. The council wants to ensure that the helicopters follow the designated flight path and that reviews are conducted on a regular basis to make sure the permit conditions are being followed, according to the statement.

City staff will incorporate the council’s concerns into an ordinance that will approve Kemper Development’s application and also deny an appeal by another downtown developer, John Su, and a group of downtown residents. The council is expected to finalize the decision on May 16.

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About the Author: Lauren is a freelance journalist who lives in Bellevue, Washington.

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  1. Who and why??

  2. Kemper Freeman’s fight against the masses continues. He is against light rail into downtown Bellevue but wants to be allowed to fly in helicopters.

    Downtown Seattle doesn’t allow them, why should downtown Bellevue?

  3. After all he’s done Kemper Freeman deserves to travel by helicopter a few days a week if. In other parts of the world it is a common means of transportation in city settings. I used to live by KOMO in Seattle and when the helicopter takes off and lands it is quieter and shorter than you would think.

  4. So Kemper doesn’t want light rail in Bellevue because they are too loud but flying helicopters 200 feet above the street are fine?

    How can we get rid of this fool?

  5. I find it ironic that everyone bashes Kemper Freeman for being such a horrible person, yet without his foresight and business acumen downtown Bellevue would not be as lovely as it is today. They all still shop at his malls and use his parking. Yes, he is clearly a fool.

    Kemper has done a lot for the community, including making better and lovelier shopping than downtown Seattle. Downtown Seattle also charges how astronomical parking rates (which go up every time someone breathes), is over-run with homeless people who consistently harass shoppers, businesses and employees and is well, Seattle.

    I prefer a community in which everyone’s private property use decisions are not left to the discretion of the people who seem bitter at success. I for one fully endorse any private citizen or business’ ability what they will with their own private property. I only wish I could afford to have a building in which I could a helicopter on.

  6. What’s the problem again?

    It isn’t like there would be a constant stream of helicopters coming in at ungodly hours. There are plenty of them already along 405 earlier in the morning than the conditional permit that’s being requested.

  7. As someone who lives literally accross the street from the BofA building (Avalon Towers), I fail to see the issue as well.

  8. I have no problems with helicopters downtown. What I have a problem with is Kemper’s kettle logic

    Kemper: Trains are too loud for Bellevue, but I want to fly helicopters through downtown.

    Again, I don’t really have a problem with the noise, I have a problem with Kemper presenting false arguments to cover up his true problem with rail: he doesn’t want “those” sorts of people coming into “his” city.

    It’s fine if he has that position, but he should own it, not try to hide behind the false argument of “noise”

    …and JMH, he might not be a fool, but he sure is playing one.

  9. I don’t know much about the guy, and I’m not trying to defend him, but I know that, from a personal standpoint, I’d be OK with helicopters 5 times a week, 9Am-6PM, but not OK with trains every half an hour, 6AM-10PM (I’m extrapolating the times here, based on the buses the line would replace).

    Although, I’m definitely not anti-rail. I used to live in the SF Bay Area, and I loved the BART (the light rail system there). I would be more than happy for my taxes to go up to set up a similar system between Lynnwood, Bellevue, Renton, and Seattle.

  10. The City of Bellevue is pro-Commercial and forgets there are at least 5,000 people that call Downtown Bellevue “home”. The COB allows almost anything that has a wealthy persons name behind it.

    Also, please remember that Kemper Freeman (father of Junior) had the “foresight” of what Bellevue should be. His son, Junior, seems to forget the personal touches his father was known for.

    **Anti-Rail and Pro-”personal” helicopter???*

  11. As someone who lives in Washington Square who will almost definitely hear the helicopter, I don’t see any problems with 5 flights a week. (But no more than 5 please…)

    Especially if the ultra rich guy in the helicopter can drop like 100K shopping spree in downtown and help me reduce my property tax a tiny bit. =)

    This is a non-issue, and it’s not relevant to the Light Rail issue at all. Some anti-Kemper passive-aggressive people, who probably live in Seattle and hate Bellevue anyway, just want to seize on it and attack Kemper.

  12. Kevin asking for helicopters permission for the rich while being anti-poor / transit stirs up the Robin Hood in many of us.

    We don’t have a single bike lane in DT Bellevue for those of us who live here! We have sections of sidewalks DT that don’t allow handicap access! But heck let’s allow Kemper to impress his associates when in town.

  13. Justin, the points about the bike lanes and handicap access sidewalk are good points, but they’re not really issues within Kemper’s control. I’m assuming that they’re for the City of Bellevue to figure out. And I don’t see the helipad impeding on these issues either…

    Unless Kemper also lobbied against handicap access and bike lanes, I think these are red herring issues.

  14. @Vincent
    Excellent points Vincent.

    @justin
    I think you might be better served in moving to Seattle I think. If you happen to miss the news, the current Seattle mayor is extremely bicycle-friendly, to the chagrin to the majority of Seattle residents.

    When budgeting for public projects, cost vs benefit analysis is extremely important. And if for the lack of bicycle lanes, we will have better roads and better parks, then so be it. 99% of Bellevue residents don’t care about bicycle lanes at all.

  15. Facts in blogs always get lost.
    First, Kemper did not request the helipad for his personal use. Kemper requested the helipad because tenants (Bellevue residents) asked for it. It is open to any helicopter that abides by the safety rules. Kemper does not even own a helicopter. And he is not charging to use the helipad. it is an amenity for downtown residents and businesses to use.

    Secondly, Kemper does not like light rail simply because it does not do enough to relieve congestion and we are spending all of our transportation dollars on this system that does very little (per ST’s own numbers ridership will be less than 10%). His view on light rail has nothing to do with race or poor people. Anyone who thinks this has not met Kemper and does not know Kemper.

  16. Kevin you might change your mind about bike lanes when gas is nearing $5 a gallon this summer. The city spends 10′s of millions on car infrastructure projects, some not even wanted or needed by residents (see 4th street extension).

    Since we are making up numbers I say 99% of DT residents would take bike lanes instead of the 4th street project…

  17. Pat nothing will relieve congestion. Having 405 be 12 lanes would not do it! The point is to have an alternative to congestion.

  18. Justin, not true. There are all kinds of things that will reduce congestion. Adding a few lanes would help. But ultimately what would reduce congestion the most is creating a transit system that people actually use. Improving our bus system is a start – bus rapid transit, adding a few HOV connections where buses currently get stuck in traffic, adding real time GPS tracking to bus stations so we know where our bus is at all times, making the buses free for all users – are just a few options that will increase ridership more than spending all our money on two rail lines that are ultimately completely reliant on our current crappy bus system (that is going broke because we spent all the money on the rail lines).

  19. I do agree about widening 405 not being sufficient to relieve congestion. And I still would love to see light rail!

    Now, onto bike lanes…

    Downtown Bellevue is, whether we like it or not, mall territory (full disclosure: I love it!). It’s basically built around it. A pretty hefty part of the traffic is mall and restaurants traffic, and, in general, people just don’t bike to the mall or to the restaurant. Adding a bike lane would most certainly mean reducing car throughput, and make it more difficult for people to go to the mall. Make it just a tad bit too difficult, and people will just pick another mall to go to (we have plenty of them around here). That would definitely be bad news for downtown Bellevue.

    Also, I don’t live in a tiny apartment, but I’d be hard pressed to fit a bike in there, let alone two (one for me, and one for my wife). I don’t seem to be alone. I have literally never (and I’m not one to use “literally” to mean “figuratively”) seen anyone enter or leave our apartment building with a bike.

    Out of self-interest, downtown Bellevue decided against bike lanes. It just makes financial, and practical sense for downtown Bellevue as well as a great majority of its residents and businesses. Not all areas benefit from bike lanes. Downtown Bellevue is an area for which the costs bike lanes would greatly outweigh the benefits. It’s not like the lack of bike lanes sneaks up on people after they’ve moved in (or decide to accept a job here).

    Moving to downtown Bellevue and complaining about the lack of bike lanes is like moving to a small town in the Midwest and complain about the lack of decent sushi places.

  20. Vincent – good points.

    I live in DT Bellevue and I have a bike however I don’t ride it as I can just as easily walk anywhere in the DT area. For an area that’s 1 sq. mile why would you want bike lanes? Also, as far as DT is concerned…optimizing the traffic signals on 8th wouldn’t hurt.

  21. @justin

    I think you just had your fake number busted as you now have 3 out of 3 Bellevue residents completely behind car infrastructure work and completely don’t care about bike lanes.

    While I am on track to hit my 99% target. =)

  22. Lol, it’s true that many people don’t currently care about quality of life issues in DT Bellevue. I am hoping to be part of that change.

    In my condo the old people are anti-bike while the under 40 crowd all have at least one. I am not saying we can turn into Portland biking wise with a few lanes I just want some progress.

    They are always discussing making some one way couplets, this is probably the only way to get bike lanes installed.

  23. I agree with adding some bike lanes in Bellevue. I’ve lived downtown for the past 3 years and have started riding my bike 2 years ago. It’s not like bikers want the center lane down Bellevue Way or NE 8th. It would be nice for Bellevue to have some of the side streets bike friendly and as such would not disrupt traffic. It has been fairly intimidating riding from WA Square to the different trail heads in the area since there is really no space on the side of the road. It feels silly to drive my car to the trail head when the whole point of going out is to get on my bike…

  24. We can’t just call bike lanes a “quality of life” issue, pretending that people would agree to them, if only they weren’t so blind to what’s good for them.

    Bike lanes in downtown Bellevue may add to YOUR quality of life, but they would certainly not add to MY quality of life. Anything that makes car traffic slower/more plugged up actually makes my life worse, as I can’t bike to and from work, and I have to drive through DT Bellevue to get home. Bike lanes would make my commute longer, and add stress to my day.

    Once again, I’m convinced that most people living in, and coming through, Bellevue are drivers (either commuting to and from work, or going to and from the mall/restaurants/cinema), and that adding bike lanes in that area would inconvenience a great majority of the traffic, to cater to a minute amount of the population/visitors. I just does not make practical sense.

    I know I’m coming accross as “anti-bike”, but I’m really not. It’s just that bike lanes *in downtown Bellevue* just don’t make sense (the costs to the many would be extremely disproportionate when compared to the benefits to the few).

  25. @justin

    Your arguments are getting absurd and easily rebuted.

    (1) Not having bike lanes doesn’t equal to bad quality of life.

    Again, a lot of people will choose less congestion, more park space, or more restaurants over bike lanes in measuring their quality of life.

    The city of Bellevue is not yours alone, and the decision should be made collectively instead of based on your personal preference.

    (2) I live in Washington Square, I am under 30 and I think other city projects should take precedence over bike lanes.

    By your logic I guess by your argument, WA Square is not a condo and I am over 40. =)

  26. It’s like some people are going out of their way to prove the stereotypical Bellevue resident is true.

    Vincent would you rather me take the whole lane going 5-14 mph or have me in a bike lane? Which ones causes more congestion for cars? Kevin bike lanes don’t take away from parking, etc.

    Redmond, Kirkland and Seattle have plenty of bike lanes and manage just fine. It’s just absurd to say it couldn’t be done here. My hometown that is the size of bellevue has a bike lane on every major street, it’s not hard to do.

    Many of Bellevue streets have extra wide car lanes, we could add a bike lane to at least one side of the street by just shrinking the lanes a bit.

    Don’t forget that 8th street is SEVEN lanes wide at one point. The dedication to cars here is just crazy. Have you antibike people every visited somewhere that isn’t devoted to the car? People routinely say Old Main street is the most ped friendly place in Bellevue. Note it’s also the only two lane road in DT bellevue.

  27. @Vincent

    So since bikes are not allowed their own lane where do you think they will be riding? They will most likely be riding with traffic. But in riding with traffic they will ultimately slow down traffic for everyone anyways. On top of that it makes the danger of an accident happening that much greater, which will slow down traffic more.

    You’re trying to make it seem like Bellevue would grind to a halt if there were a couple extra bike lanes placed in areas that would make sense.

    I really appreciate all that Kemper has done to Bellevue with regards to growth but what do you think will happen in 10 years when Bellevue’s Downtown residential/business population grows by 20-30% or more? The roads will now become new parking lots (they would also be free thanks to Kemper… haha). Kemper’s car utopian dream was a good idea when population density and limited road space is not considered. Bellevue seriously needs to consider other forms of getting in, out, and around the city since you can only pass a certain amount of cars down a fixed road in a minute. I’m not saying that we should all be riding out bikes to work… that will never happen. But I think Bellevue needs to get over it’s focus on cars. Anything that will give the Bellevue residents reason to get out of their car is a good thing in my mind…

  28. The issue of bikes impeding on traffic by taking general use lanes is really moot in downtown Bellevue, as there are virtually no bikes around. The bike to car ratio would have to be hudreds of times what it is for bike lanes to make practical sense.
    I know that making it easier for bikes to go around would probably somewhat increase bike traffic, but not enough for it to be worth it (practically and financially).

    It seems that it doesn’t matter how logical I try to make my arguments, I’ll still just be the raging anti-bike guy to some. I looks like the bike lanes issue, as it pertains to downtown Bellevue, is not a traffic or feasability issue, it’s an ideological issue (see: “Have you antibike people every visited somewhere that isn’t devoted to the car?”, “car utopian dream”, “Anything that will give the Bellevue residents reason to get out of their car is a good thing in my mind…”)

    Don’t get me wrong: I hate cars, and I hate driving. That’s partly why I’d be against bike lanes in downtown Bellevue. It would mean I’d have to spend more of my time in my car, driving. When I’m going around town, I NEVER drive. I walk everywhere, even to the grocery store.

  29. @John

    If you think people will be riding bikes into downtown Bellevue, you should take a ride around town to see the reality.

    Pro-bicycle crowd always like to hijack the conversation around the future of gas-powered cars, while their proposed solution is ridiculous at best.

    Yes we all don’t like fume-spurring cars, and the amount of energy wasted on each one of us driving a 2-ton car is sinful, and the age of cheap oil is certainly coming to an end.

    But, bicycle is not part of the solution, especially in this part of the country where we have hills. Justin, I dare you to ride up NE 4th St from I405 into downtown everyday.

    The amount of traffic in downtown is 95% from traffic commuting to work or shopping… In order to solve that problem, improve public transportation? Maybe. Add more bicycle lanes? LOL… you have gotta be kidding.

  30. This is amusing. I’m not saying we should never have bike lanes, but why on earth would we focus on building them before addressing all of the other transit problems we face? What a distraction, just like this helicopter nonsense. If anything, bike lanes would make the commute worse for the majority of dowtown residents. And what would even be the point? Our city is tiny. A septuagenarian can walk anywhere in downtown in 15 minutes tops. If you want to bike that distance, you’ll spend more time getting in and out of the weird spandex body suit.

  31. KD FTW!

  32. Kevin my personal commute does involve climbing from 405 to DT. It sucks!

    I still bike sometimes but I bought a motorcycle because of lack of bike lanes / ahole drivers.

  33. I want to make this clear that I’m not a hippie bike nut who uses my leftover oil to fuel my car. I’m probably as far from that as you can imagine. I used to hate having bikes on the roads because they slowed down traffic and would not let me get by. But last year I started training for the one day STP (which I completed!) and I needed to get on my bike. After you are on the street alongside cars flying by you, your perspective changes from damn bikers, to damn cars. I live in downtown Bellevue and work in downtown Seattle, I could ride my bike into work, but it’s just not realistic for me to do everyday and I don’t expect that adding a few bike lanes through Bellevue will change my perspective, instead I take the bus. But I don’t see how adding some to non-packed streets can hurt. I’m a realistic person that has seen Bellevue traffic get worse and worse each year. Like I said “I’m not saying that we should all be riding out bikes to work… that will never happen. But I think Bellevue needs to get over it’s focus on cars.” I’m eagerly awaiting light rail coming to Bellevue as well as improved bus service. If Bellevue were to add bike lanes I don’t think it should be on 8th, 4th or Bellevue way, that would not make any sense since they are packed already. But if the city added access across 6th, whenever it gets built, that would be a good thing. Allowing people a means of getting into the city with a bike is a start. I agree with KD “…why on earth would we focus on building them (bike lanes) before addressing all of the other transit problems we face?” I think there are more important transit issues out there that would have a lot bigger impact but adding some bike lanes can’t costs much. In the end it really doesn’t matter what I think since the political power in Bellevue is focused on cars, but maybe if some speak out an idea can be planted.

    Hope you all have a good week.

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