Bellevue is a larger and more ethnically diverse city now than it was a decade ago, according to numbers released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
People of Asian descent made up 27.6 percent of Bellevue population in 2010, an increase from 17.4 percent in 2000.
While a majority of Bellevue residents marked their race as white – 62.6 percent – that population actually dropped by 6 percent – or nearly 5,000 people between 2000 and 2010. However, there was an increase in Bellevue’s population as a whole. Bellevue grew 11.7 percent between 2000 and 2010, and remains the fifth largest city in the state.
The difference was the increase in the number of Bellevue residents of Asian descent in Bellevue, which grew by a greater number than the population of Bellevue as a whole. Other minority groups – with the largest being “other” – also increased in number.
Bellevue’s technology industries and employers such as Microsoft have increased the number of residents from Asian countries, including India and China, which has contributed to the growth spurt in that racial designation.
Bellevue Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee said that while the demands of the city’s population haven’t changed—everyone wants water, schools and basic services -- what’s changed is the city’s focus on communicating the resources to different minority groups, such as translating city information into Chinese, Korean, Russian and Spanish.
“I personally feel that language is the key,” said Lee, who was born in China and raised in Hong Kong. “The needs don’t change. But it’s how to make it accessible in different languages.”
Kevin Henry, the city’s Cultural Diversity Program Coordinator, said that multiple departments have made efforts to translate into other languages and to reach out to different ethnic communities.
For example, Mini-City Hall, city customer service center in Crossroads Bellevue shopping center, translators are scheduled to help people with their bills, permits and other city services. The fire department has translated its videos into multiple languages, he added.
“I’ve seen meetings between the police and various communities, and there is usually someone from the Russian community, and two or three different Asian communities,” he said.
Bellevue has one of the highest proportions in the state of residents who are racial minorities, said Gwen Rousseau, a city official in the planning and community development department. Rousseau’s analysis showed that Bellevue is the city with the fourth highest proportion of racial minorities, of cities with more than 50,000 people, beating out Seattle and Tacoma. The large cities that have a higher proportion than Bellevue are Renton, Kent and Federal Way, she said.
Bellevue also outpaces Seattle in the proportion of residents of Asian descent, according to the Census numbers. Seattle’s residents of Asian descent made up 13.8 percent of its population, though the number is greater because of Seattle’s larger population.
Lee said that the Bellevue’s population trend might show that the city needs to consider bringing services to the city that more traditionally have been seen in Seattle – such as mental health services that address the differences in Asian cultures.
“Asian cultures are adaptable and flexible and they’ll go to Seattle where the service is,” he said. “Maybe we don’t make it convenient enough. Instead of having some of these services in Seattle, we should have them in Bellevue.”