Editor’s note: This is the inaugural article of occasional Guest Contributor columns from Sammamish residents. See this post for details about contributing to Sammamish Comment.
By Paul Stickney
Article One of Three
Disclosure: I have, since 1997, had an interest in a five-acre parcel on the Plateau with Richard Birgh, who has owned the land since 1968. In 2008, this property became part of the Town Center.
In Sammamish we, as a community, are facing many important issues, including:
- Trees coming down; Loss of tree canopy; Worries over wildlife habitat.
- Tough commutes, traffic congestion and worsening driver experiences.
- Storm water management; Erosion and sediment issues; Kokanee runs.
- Preserving community character and aesthetically displeasing development.
- Housing affordability and options to stay in Sammamish as ones needs change.
- Capital needed to remedy extensive, inherited transportation deficiencies.
- Voter tax fatigue – especially with recent impacts of McCleary and ST3.
- Costs of community desires – Open Space; Parks; Trails; Arts; Human Services.
Several of the above issues are symptoms of two fundamental root ailments.
What are the two ailments?
- Incomplete and Unsustainable Housing Policies.
- Diversion of Transportation Impact Fees and Lack of Capital Spending on Deficient Transportation Projects.
What is the foremost approach to remedy these two ailments?
Internal Housing Balance for Sammamish
Housing Balance will lessen the oversupplies of large single-family housing that exists in 97% of the City, increase smaller and different housing under-supplies in our Centers and create vast ‘4-Sector Wealth’ for our community – Environmentally, Transportation, Financial and Social.
Housing Balance is not “top of mind” for most people; traffic and driver experiences are.
Let’s first talk about transportation issues – then we’ll get back to Housing Balance.
Transportation issues are TEMPORAL – this is a crucial concept to recognize and appreciate.
They span about 60 years past, the here and now, plus recurring 80-year cycles-of life. The solutions for traffic, car use, congestion and driver experience must be holistic, dealing with both the factors that led us to where we are today, plus positively managing the future.
Growth under Sammamish governance is not the primary cause our traffic problems. Diversion of traffic impact fees and low priority in addressing inherited deficiencies are.
This statement will likely trouble many people. The realities and consequences of what has actually happened need to be fully researched and the findings made transparent.
We presently have around 23,000 dwelling units in Sammamish. About 20,500 of them were either permitted by King County before incorporation, or were in the pipeline when we became a city in 1999. Only about 2,500 of our existing units were developed under Sammamish governance.
For this article, here are three poignant questions:
Q1. Out of all the transportation impact fees collected by King County and Sammamish, what percentage of those fees were spent on transportation projects within what is now Sammamish?
Q2. The day Sammamish incorporated there were significant deficiencies in the road network we inherited from King County. What percentage of those deficiencies have been remedied?
Q3. Since the 2,500 dwelling units developed under Sammamish have all paid full traffic impact fees under “growth pays for growth,” how can they be the main cause of our traffic problems?
Root causes of the problems
Our traffic problems are fundamentally due to 1) Traffic funds being diverted, either away from Sammamish, or spent on projects other than transportation within the City. 2) Purposeful decisions to not make inherited, deficient transportation systems a top priority to address and fix. 3) Growth in the entire region that we have very little control over.
It is vital to understand that most of the costs to rectify the transportation deficiencies we inherited at incorporation are squarely on the backs of community taxpayers, not the developers. They pay for the growth that their specific projects create. A considerable tab is looming for Sammamish taxpayers, to remedy the major deficiencies that have existed, since the City incorporated in 1999.
However, there are ways to minimize how much of these past deficiencies we actually have to remedy, as we decide how we manage the “future” portion of transportation issues in Sammamish. Rephrased, we can hold down our community’s costs, by doing only strategic portions of needed projects and yet alleviate a large portion of our traffic issues.
This is where Housing Balance comes back in…and the Wealth it will bring to transportation:
- Keep about 15,000, or more, future car trips a day from even happening.
- Enable several methods to notably lessen overall car use.
- Keep meaningful numbers of car trips within the City, rather than leaving the Plateau.
Solutions to significantly and sustainably lessen transportation issues are an important part of Housing Balance, but they are only one part. Housing Balance has ‘Power and Might’ far above
and beyond its ability to address and lessen traffic congestion and improve driver experiences.
What if there was a way to have our cake and eat it too? That is, to decrease large, single-family home oversupplies and sprawl citywide, thereby eliminating thousands of car trips a day — AND increasing the number of smaller and different housing units in our Town Center to remedy Internal housing deficiencies, without generating car trips beyond those, already rigorously planned for?
Too good to be true, to be able to do both? I have great news for the community. It is true.
As a community we can:
- Lessen what we have too much of (Large, single-family homes in 97% of the City).
- Increase what we have too few of (Smaller and different homes in our Centers).
- Create HUGE wealth for our community (Environment, Transportation, Social, Financial)
Food for thought
Thought-provoking segue-ways before reading Article Two:
- Concurrency, traffic issues and driver experience should limit housing that we have too much of, in relation to our Internal housing ‘Needs and Wants’ over cycles-of-life within our community.
- Concurrency, traffic issues and driver experience should NOT limit housing that we have too little of, in relation to our Internal housing ‘Needs and Wants’ over cycles-of-life within our community.
Paul Stickney grew up in Southern California. Stickney attended the Wilderness Survival School near Georgetown Lake Montana in 1969. He has a Bachelor of Science in Resource Conservation from University of Montana (Missoula) School of Forestry in 1976 and has been a residential real estate broker since 1977. He moved to the Seattle area in 1990, specializing in the Eastside markets.
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of Sammamish Comment. This column was edited for spelling, style and grammar content but otherwise appears as it was submitted. The content and conclusions are solely the product of the author of this column.