Sammamish Incorporates

Sammamish Map

The boundaries for the proposed City of Sammamish were drawn to reflect the County’s Urban Growth Boundary on the East, to avoid costly repairs to Sahalee Way to the North (there had been a slide a few years before) and Providence Point, a 55+ year old residential community that was viewed to be anti-incoporation. Klahanie was excluded because of the view the area favored annexation to Issaquah.

The decision on the Greens appeals was issued in favor of the appellant in October 1998. A vote on whether to incorporate the City of Sammamish was scheduled just a few weeks later, on Election Day in November 1998.

The big driver toward incorporation was the unbridled growth King County had been approving for years on what was then known as the Issaquah and Redmond plateaus.

The area was in potential annexation areas (PAA) for Redmond, north of SE 8th St., and Issaquah, South of SE 8th. The options open to residents at the time were to incorporate, stay unincorporated, or hopes for annexation on the North to Redmond and on the South t Issaquah. Neither city was prepared at that time to annex, nor was there any indication from them when annexation might be considered. So the only true options were incorporate or remain with King County.

Momentum to incorporate

There was great momentum for incorporation. Residents were tired, and alarmed, at all the white billboards going up all over the Plateau announcing development applications. (King County used white signs for this purpose; later, Sammamish would use blue signs.)

Despite all the growth, the County wasn’t investing in roads or parks to accommodate the growth. The rural, two-lane roads were becoming overwhelmed. The Plateau was split among two County Council Districts. One seat, to the North of NE 8th/Inglewood Hill Road, was held by Louise Miller. Her District went to Woodinville and the North end of the Plateau held few votes and was largely ignored by Miller, who was viewed as pro-development.

To the South of Inglewood, the District seat was held by Brian Derdowski, an environmentalist, who was anti-growth. Derdowski held the belief that if roads weren’t improved, it would stop development (the concurrency theory outlined previously), so he actively fought any money allocation for the Plateau for road improvements. This was fine with County officials, who were pressed for money anyway, and were more than happy to allocate money elsewhere.

The problem with Derdowski’s theory was that development came here anyway.

With offensive growth, County policies that crammed growth into the Plateau, no infrastructure to support the growth and deaf ears of County government and our local representatives, the momentum to incorporate picked up steam.

The Greens decision, stopping development of the two projects over traffic issues, added to this momentum.

Rival Groups, and developer opposition

There were two citizen groups promoting incorporation, and they were bitter rivals. One was SHOUT, Sammamish Home Owners United Together. The logo was a cartoon character shouting into a megaphone. From a branding standpoint (something that wasn’t really considering in the true marketing sense), the name and logo were offensive, but it was what it was.

The other group was called SING, which if memory serves, stood for Sammamish Incorporation Neighborhood Group, or something like that. SING was a better brand than SHOUT, but depending on your perspective, the SHOUT people were more idealistic and the SING people were more ruthless. SHOUT tended to be Democrats and SING were Republicans. SHOUT were viewed as the slow-or-no growth environmentalists and SING, although not strictly pro-development, were viewed as such because of their general political affiliations with the GOP.

(The GOP of then was far different than the GOP of today. The SING GOPers would be view today as RINOs, Republicans in Name Only.)

A developers group called WAIT opposed incorporation. WAIT was largely funded by Murray Franklyn, the largest developer of the Plateau.

WAIT received $50,000 in funds to oppose incorporation. There was a pro-incorporation political action committee formed, which raised $18,000.

Fueled by anti-growth, anti-King County sentiment boosted by the Greens victory, incorporation won with about 66% of the vote in November.

Organizing the city and becoming official came next. A new City Council had to be elected. Ordinances had to be adopted. A comprehensive plan had to be written. And a building moratorium had to be imposed.

The next year began the hard work of creating a new city. The first step was electing the first City Council.

It would be the bitterest election in Sammamish history, filled with a counterfeit newsletter, phony political action committees and amateurs against professionals.

6 thoughts on “Sammamish Incorporates

  1. Your statements about Brian Derdowski are not accurate, and I should know because that’s me! I did not oppose road improvements for the Sammamish Plateau. I did oppose, along with my colleague Councilmember Larry Phillips and others, a new freeway through the Plateau, nicknamed “Reams Road” after my predecessor, Bill Reams. We killed that freeway that would have devastated the quality of life on the Plateau.

    The reason for the traffic problems on the Plateau during the nineties and later were because the 1992 Comprehensive Plan’s “triggers” for upzones was eliminated by a pro-development Council led by Councilmember Cynthia Sullivan, a Seattle Democrat. Effectively, this meant that the zoning was no longer restrained by the necessary road improvements. Larry Phillips called that vote “the worst vote he ever took” and stated that “had the Council listened to Derdowski the traffic problems in Sammamish would never have happened”.

    It’s true that I am an Environmentalist, and I’m proud of that, but I was never anti-growth….just anti-irresponsible growth. Councilmember Phillips, by the way, was a good friend and ally of the Plateau. Together we protected large tracts of open space and environmentally sensitive areas on the Plateau. Contrary to the myths perpetuated by developers, my District fared far better than any other district in the competition for County funding and services, and that included road improvements! I would be happy to continue this dialogue with readers, and cite sources for accurate information. Brian Derdowski, 206-290-7134,

    • Even as a strong supporter of Brian during his term and reelection campaign for the County Council, I beg to differ with Brian’s self-defense statements.

      King County approved thousands of homes for development here, yet never funded improvements to Issaquah-Fall City Road–which the City of Sammamish now assumes. We’ll be lucky if this costs only $25m for road improvements the County was supposed to make in connection with approving Klahanie, Trossachs and more. The County isn’t contributing a dime to this project.

      Only a small section of 228th Ave. SE was improved by the County, and only after we voted to incorporate.

      244th wasn’t improved and put through–it had to be done by Sammamish.

      All of these projects, and more, were related to growth approved by King County, yet none was funded and undertaken.

      Our parks were neglected. That WW II-style Quonset Hut that became our library was an embarrassment. (To be sure, it was in Louise Miller’s district, but across the street from Brian’s.)

      Since incorporation, Sammamish has invested $250m in infrastructure, parks and facilities–much of which was due to the neglect of the Sammamish area by the County. We are still dealing with the neglect by the County.

      As one of our two County Council representatives, Brian has to bear some of the responsibility for this. Brian was a solid advocate for the environment, and for this he deserves full credit. But toward the end of his term, the World Trade Organization (an issue on which he was actually right) seemed to become more important than looking out after his constituents. Brian lost his way, his focus and his reelection to a doofus.

  2. Well, my friend Scott is right that the City of Sammamish had a backlog in road projects to contend with. The issue I raised was the cause, and it wasn’t because of neglect. All of King County had a backlog in road funding at the time. What happened in Sammamish was that the zoning plan that I helped shepherd through was overturned a year later in 1992 when the King County Council majority tilted in favor of the developers as Democrat Cynthia Sullivan shifted her votes.

    That meant that the “growth phasing” plan that timed upzones to road improvements was tossed out, in favor of project by project concurrency. That failed since the County’s concurrency regulations were not properly applied by the Executive. (Readers may wish to read about a Federal Court Case brought by County whistleblowers about this subject I supported this successful effort after I left office).

    As to parks, along with Councilmember Phillips I led the effort to purchase section 18 and other park properties. I also initiated a 100 ball-field program that was eventually picked up by Executive Sims. When Sammamish incorporated there was a push among my colleagues to reallocate capital funding to other parts of the County. I vigorously opposed that effort, resulting in part with retaining the money for 228th that had already been programmed.

    As to the library, Councilmember Miller went along with the proposal to cede authority to the Library District Director, who had a penchant for utilitarian, if aesthetically lacking, buildings. In Issaquah, I was the chairman of the Board that built the library and I refused to turn the project over to the Library District. I caught a lot of flack for that, but the result was a beautiful facility. Local energy and accountable elected officials did what an appointed, non accountable bureaucrat could never do.

    As to the WTO…..well that will require another posting. Suffice to say that most of my work happened after the voters had decided to let me move on. As a County Official I was alarmed at the WTO’s infringements on local government and our federal system…matters that directly impacted my constituents.

    It is important that we get our history right, since that guides us in the future. The public is rarely aware of what goes on behind the scenes because they are ill-served by much of our media and misled by special interests. Kudos to Scott and the others who are trying to shed some light on Sammamish’s history.

  3. Pingback: History of Sammamish resumes today | Sammamish Comment

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