I was cleaning out some old photos the other day and came across one that is perhaps as representative as any of how Sammamish changed in the last 20 years.
I moved here in May 1996, from Dallas. I had come home for lunch one day and found a huge, open field behind my house marked by surveyors. I decided then and there to move away from what looked like planned development. Having been to the Seattle area and the San Juan Islands a short time before, I decided to move here for a lifestyle change.
I chose what was then unincorporated King County because it was near mountains and water, and in the winter, snow (at least then, this was true). I chose SE 8th St. because it was a small country road with few houses.
Little did I know.
Some time after I moved into 23410 SE 8th St., at the bottom of the hill east of Skyline High School, I learned King County was processing applications for what at the time was 1,500 homes to the east. SE 8th was to become a three lane road–an arterial in road-building parlance. The entire Plateau was designated an Urban Growth Area (UGA), inside the far eastern edge of the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), where growth would be directed from designated rural areas. A year or two later, I learned that the Plateau was under consideration to become a “receiving” area for Transfer Development Rights (TDRs) for those sold in the North Bend area.
I approached King County to ask that traffic calming be installed on SE 8th as it was developed to slow traffic that inevitably would pick up speed down the hill and accelerate up the hill–on either side of my house–as cars went west to 228th Ave. King County told me to no, it didn’t do that with arterials.
It was then that I filed my first appeal, against a project called the Greens at Beaver Crest. All I wanted was traffic calming. The County said no. This bull-headed position would lead to big changes for the County, for what would become Sammamish, and for me.
After the appeal was filed on Greens at Beaver Crest, the developer, Murray Franklyn, obtained the County approval for a companion project, which I also appealed. One day after these appeals were filed, I came home to find a book of documents on my doorstep. Someone whom I did not know, Tom Harmon, had dropped off information about appealing development at King County. It was through Harmon that I became acquainted with a civic group called SHOUT, Sammamish Home Owners United Together. SHOUT was led by David Irons Sr. and his family. It was dedicated to stopping growth on the Plateau, a utopian goal but one that was destined to failure because of state laws and property rights. Still, SHOUT would succeed in slowing growth a bit–but in its calls for a building moratorium and incorporation, spurred developers to file as many applications for development as possible to vest to County code and get projects started before a moratorium might be implemented.
These appeals would proceed for nearly 18 months. The principal issues were traffic, though there were some environmental issues involved as well. The traffic issues were the Achilles heel of the County’s project approvals.
By Scott Hamilton
A subsequent post will detail the traffic issues and how King County manipulated the “black box.” Periodically I will post reminiscences and history of Sammamish in the 20 years that I’ve been here. These are from my perspective and not intended to be completely objective recollections. Nonetheless, these historical musings may be of interest.