Vocal group pushes City to diversify housing options
With the City of Sammamish preparing to make changes to its Comprehensive Plan this year, a small but vocal group has emerged to pressure City Hall to change the way it develops land for a more sustainable future.
The proposal from this group, dubbed “Enrich & Sustain,” calls for more optimized land use in the Comprehensive Plan to alleviate imbalances in housing, economics and transportation. In particular, the group is advocating for reducing the number of new large single-family homes in Sammamish, and increasing more diverse housing options such as condos and townhomes. The plan also promotes more office space, services and amenities to support the local economy, as well as more mass transportation to help reduce traffic.
The group’s pressure campaign came out during a Dec. 1 Sammamish City Council public hearing. Seven out of ten comments submitted to the hearing called on the City to consider Enrich & Sustain as the better alternative to City Council’s current anti-development posture of using moratoriums to block all housing development from taking place.
Paul Stickney, a local resident and main proponent of “Enrich & Sustain,” has called on the City to consider this proposal from local residents.
“Council majorities, with insufficient information and less than wholly informed public input, have been making growth decisions for Sammamish,” Stickney said in an interview. “It’s time to alter that. It’s time to let sufficient information and wholly informed public opinion be the guiding light that then councils decide from.”
Over the last year, Stickney has been constantly petitioning the City during public comment and promoting Enrich & Sustain to the community. So far, he has recruited nearly 50 people who support the plan. Some of the proponents have been repeatedly making public comments as well, including the seven who turned up on Dec. 1.
The need for more diverse housing options appealed to Jan Bird, 70, who has been a Sammamish resident for more than 20 years. Bird knows she will eventually be looking to downsize from her current home to something that is one-story without a yard, since mobility will be a challenge as she gets older. But she has trouble finding what she needs in Sammamish.
“A friend of mine who also lives in Sammamish says everybody on her street is just about widowed. A lot of them are in their seventies,” said Bird. “I keep thinking wouldn’t it be nice to have a couple of clusters of small one-story homes. Maybe they will be clustered together so they will have a common area for a backyard.”
Karen Howe, 65, an environmentalist and a long-time Sammamish resident, said one of the problems of Sammamish is that it developed as a series of separate neighborhoods that do not interconnect, and the community lacks a natural gathering place for people to socialize besides the grocery store.
“Higher-density neighborhoods have a strong sense of community and connectedness,” Howe said. “Higher-density housing…puts less demand on schools and other public services than low-density housing…and requires less extensive infrastructure to support it.”
Bird mentioned in her Dec. 1 public hearing comment that since July, 35 out of 53 public comments have been in support for diverse housing as an alternative to the City’s current plan. But none have received a direct response from the City.
“The City considers many proposals, Enrich and Sustain being just one of them,” said Celia Wu, the City’s communications director, in a statement after receiving an inquiry from the Sammamish Independent, without offering any further details.
Bird has felt dismayed at the current lack of progress on housing from the City.
“I’d like to feel that there is a place for me as I get older here,” she said. “Right now, I am not sure there is.”