By Miki Mullor
- The bill would require high density development within ¼ mile from schools, parks and commercial areas.
- The bill also limits parking spaces to one space per four high density housing units.
- Sammamish Council Members Jason Ritchie and Pam Stuart opposes the bill’s mandate to upzone; Ramiro Valderrama is silent.
Forced Massive Upzone
A state senate bill proposed by Democrat Guy Palumbo would require Sammamish to upzone 76% of the city to R-6 and even higher density in those areas in proximity to schools, parks and commercial centers.
Palumbo, of Maltby north of Redmond in the First Legislative District, proposes all cities within the Urban Growth Boundary line (which includes Sammamish) be subject to the upzoning. The bill does not address any infrastructure needs.
Effect on Sammamish
During Sammamish City Council Legislative Committee discussion Palumbo’s pending Senate bill, staff revealed the impact it will have on the city:
- 76% of the city, currently zoned R-1 and R-4, would be upzoned to R-6.
- 44% of the land which is within ¼ mile from parks, schools and commercial centers would be upzoned to high density development, such as cottage housing, courtyard, apartments, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhouses, manufactured homes and single room occupancies.
- The bill also requires no more than one parking spot for each 4 high density units.
Staff prepared an estimated map of areas that would be affected by the required high density:
Brown areas: forced high density areas
What this means
With the exception of the greater commercial areas of Sammamish, which has high density zoning (about 3% of the City), and some key areas zoned R-6 more recently developed, most established residential neighborhoods are zoned R-4, or four units per acre.
Areas in Western Sammamish, including Rock Meadows, Loree Estates and the plateau of down-slopes overlooking East Lake Sammamish Parkway, are currently zoned R-1 for environmental reasons, principally being erosion hazard, landslide and steep slope areas.
Upzoning Sammamish would mean:
- Potential harm to the environment.
- Dramatically increased population.
- Dramatically increased traffic.
- Requirements to expand and widen roads to accommodate traffic, at a large cost.
- Increased real estate taxes on all properties upzoned to a “higher” use.
Staff recommends to push back
Staff recommended that the city push back on mandating upzoning, but rather “incentivize” upzoning. Among the reasons staff gave were Sammamish’s backlog of updating the rural infrastructure the city inherited from King County in 1999 and Sammamish’s unique, environmentally sensitive areas (such as wetlands, landslide hazard and erosion areas).
King County zoned these areas R-1 before Sammamish was incorporated. The city retained this zoning after incorporation.
According to staff, upzoning large portions of Sammamish could exacerbate the infrastructure deficiencies and blanket upzoning can potentially harm the sensitive areas.
Some cities oppose, some secretly support
The city’s lobbyist shared with the committee that some cities oppose this bill while a few unidentified cities secretly support it. Those cities purportedly would like to upzone to higher densities, but facing a negative public opinion, they would prefer the state to “impose” it on them.
In a recording of the meeting, (at 29:00) Council Member Pam Stuart said she opposes the bill. Council Member Jason Ritchie said he is on Palumbo’s side but also supports the city’s feedback. He acknowledged that upzoning to R6, will alter the character of the city but at the same time Sammamish needs to take its share of growth.
Only three council members are on the legislative committee – the rest of the council has yet had a chance to weigh in on the subject.
Palumbo thinks Sammamish is a bad actor
Council Member Ramiro Valderrama shared that in discussions he had with Palumbo he heard that this bill is being proposed because there are number of cities who aren’t doing what they should be doing and he doesn’t believe that local authorities are going to move, hence why he wants the heavy hammer.
Valderrama added that he heard from Palumbo that Sammamish is fallen into this “bad actor categories” for him.
Reached for comments, Palumbo had none to make.
Contacts for reader comments:
This is Senate Bill 5769.
Sammamish Comment created the following email to send your comments to the nine legislators who represent Sammamish:
State representative for the 5th, 41st and 45th legislative districts covering Sammamish. The 5th is the greater Klahanie area. The 41st is the southern half of the city, roughly along SE 8th St. The 45th is the northern half of the city along SE 8th.
The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Guy Palumbo.
Palumbo is a former Snohomish County Planning Commissioner who is on record wanting the UGBs to accept growth in lieu of rural areas.