Local residents push Sammamish to take action on climate change
In 2020, Kirkland adopted a Climate Sustainability Master Plan with more than 200 goals set for energy emissions, natural environment recovery, and more.
In 2021, Issaquah adopted a Climate Action Plan, with specific targets for emissions reduction, as well as strong stormwater management policies.
Like both of these cities, Sammamish is part of King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C), a partnership dedicated to helping cities across the county accelerate climate action. But unlike Kirkland and Issaquah, to this day, Sammamish has not adopted an action plan. Out of the 22 members in K4C, Sammamish is one of only four cities that has not created a plan.
Local environmental groups have noticed, with three in particular – Sammamish Youth Board, Sustainability Ambassadors, and Sammamish Stewards – taking their advocacy directly to city council members.
The Sammamish Youth Board, an organization made up of middle and high schoolers appointed by the city council, began focusing on climate change action as far back as 2021, under the guidance of chairman Maanit Goel, 16, a junior at Eastlake High School.
They have recently ramped up their efforts in anticipation of the city’s Comprehensive Plan community feedback sessions in November.
“[The comprehensive plan] is a very important document… If we’re able to get the climate action plan implemented in the comprehensive plan, it’ll basically secure it as a priority for the next twenty years,” Goel said.
So in October, during city council public comment, Goel and a few other students presented a self-written letter to the council members urging the city to take action. Working with the council, they were able to determine how much of the city’s budget would need to be set aside to create a climate action plan.
Goel hopes the climate action plan will help track and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, he just wants the city to be more transparent on their progress.
“Right now, it’s difficult to keep tabs on the city. We don’t know if they’re meeting their goals… But if the city creates concrete actions and goals, we can keep them accountable,” Goel said.
Sustainability Ambassadors, an organization led by students in the greater Puget Sound area, has also been clamoring for Sammamish to do more for the environment.
In August, they spoke at city council meetings to call for specific action items that they felt Sammamish could easily implement. They proposed ideas such as tracking greenhouse gas emissions and publicly recording them.
Rishi Hazra, 18, a Skyline High School student and team leader of Sammamish Sustainability Ambassadors, described the process.
“We had a total of seven to eight students provide a testimony over two to three city council meetings and urge the city to adopt a climate action plan for Sammamish. Parallelly, we’ve been working to develop our own climate action plan… [which is] largely modeled after the Issaquah Climate Action Plan,” Hazra said.
Sammamish Stewards, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Sammamish’s natural environment, believes that Sammamish can approach climate change in additional ways.
Sharon Steinbis, who is in her 70s and oversees the Stewards’ stormwater restoration and wildlife habitat committees, wants high-speed internet available for all homes.
“One of our goals is to get cars off the road. As more people have been able to work from home, they’ve begun to need more high-speed internet. So, if [the city] can provide 5G internet to everyone, we’ll be able to reduce pollution from cars,” Steinbis said.
Danver Hartop, 53, a steward who also manages the stormwater restoration, hopes to see more environmentally friendly trails built, which support e-bikes, pedestrians, and other greener transportation methods.
As various local groups continue to pressure the city on climate change, the council has begun to take steps forward.
In an interview with the Sammamish Independent, Councilmember Pam Stuart admitted that the city does not yet have a firm timeline to take action.
“The goal is to complete [the action plan] next year, but I don’t have anything more specific at this time,” Stuart said.
On Nov. 15, the council passed a budget and work plan, which included a provision to get a climate action plan adopted either in late 2023, or in 2024 as part of the Comprehensive Plan update.
In an email with the Sammamish Independent, Director of Community Development David Pyle said that the city also added a new full-time Natural Resources and Sustainability Coordinator position for 2023 and 2024.
Local advocacy groups have recognized that, if the council does not create a climate action plan before the 2023 elections, climate change might once again get deprioritized.
Goel, of the Sammamish Youth Board, urges the city to get this work done.
“Climate change is the number one threat to our generation. Anyone who… fails to prioritize strong climate action has failed to act in the interests of our community… I urge the city council to recognize the urgency of this issue and take the appropriate steps,” Goel said.
CORRECTION (Nov. 22, 2022)
In the original article, we wrote that the council has not committed to formulating a climate action plan. This has been corrected to the city not having adopted an action plan and the council’s actions on Nov. 15 have been added.