Sammamish City Council voted to set a higher housing target for the city by 2044 as part of King County’s overall growth management planning.
At the March 1 regular council meeting, the six council members clashed on growth options as they worked to revise the Growth Target Plan. By a 4-2 vote, the council decided to increase Sammamish’s net new housing target to 2,007 units over the next 22 years.
The Growth Target Plan determines the number of new homes Sammamish must build and job opportunities it must create to accommodate for expected population growth.
The revision was made after King County rejected Sammamish’s initial proposal of 700 housing units, which was submitted last June. Sammamish justified the low target by citing sewer capacity issues during a time when Sammamish Plateau Water had a development moratorium in place. Since then, the moratorium has been lifted. As a result, King County remanded the target back to the city for upward revision.
With the council now evenly split between sustainable growth and anti-growth factions, the body, for the first time, opted for a more moderate growth target, rather than the lowest one. But it took some contentious wrangling.
The city uses market factor, or the percentage of buildable land that is unlikely to be developed, as a proxy for housing and job estimates. The city staff splits market factor into three levels — high, medium, and low — where high market factor corresponds to the lowest targets for housing and jobs.
The council previously selected a high market factor for both residential units and commercial units inside and outside of the Town Center. This time, the motion for the medium market factor passed.
During the debate, it was apparent that some council members wanted to limit growth as much as possible, whereas others were concerned about underestimating housing demand.
Councilmembers Amy Lam and Karen Howe preferred the medium market factor for development outside of the Town Center and low market factor inside Town Center.
“We hear from a lot of residents that we want the character of Sammamish to remain the way it is, and I do believe that keeping that character means we do move much of that growth toward the Town Center,” said Howe.
The first motion to switch single-family residential housing units to a medium market factor failed on a 3-3 vote. Mayor Christie Malchow and council members Karen Moran and Kent Treen voted against it.
“We have come in and taken an awful lot of growth for awful lot of years,” said Moran. “We ought to grab the time frame [King County has] given us and work on our infrastructure and keep our numbers at a reasonable amount, and actually try to get our infrastructure under control.”
A second motion by Treen to go with the highest market factor — 1,697 housing units — also failed with a split vote.
If the city cannot agree on a new target, King County will intervene. So, Malchow decided to change her vote to keep King County out of this decision after two failed motions.
“I’d rather us be charting these waters than having the county or GMPC potentially apply their mindset to our jurisdiction,” said Malchow. “If it means having a medium market factor for both outside and inside Town Center, I think that would be a better strategy.”
With Malchow as the swing vote, the motion for medium market factor passed 4-2.
The updated Growth Target Plan will add 1,173 single-family residential units and 274 multi-family and mixed-use residential housing units outside of the Town Center, and 560 residential housing units inside the Town Center, by 2044. The Growth Target Plan does not include potential bonus units that developers could build by applying the Sammamish Development Code successfully. It is only the minimum number of housing units, so the actual growth by 2044 will likely be more than the official target.