A Split City Council Votes to Oppose Sen. Palumbo’s “Minimum Density” Bill

Miki Mullor

In a 4/3 split vote, Sammamish City Council voted to officially oppose Sen. Palumbo’s bill to mandate upzoning in areas within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).   

Council member Chris Ross said:

“I am very strongly against ceding control over our community… to allow the state to take over our planning and treating an urban rural suburb [Sammamish] the same as core urban city like Seattle is completely irresponsible”.

Council Member Chris Ross

We reported earlier in the week on Palumbo’s push to mandate upzoning cities to a minimum of 6 units per acres and require high density development within ¼ mile from parks and schools. The story generated strong negative reaction to the bill from residents on social media .

On Tuesday night Mayor Christie Malchow, Deputy Mayor Karen Moran and Council Members Tom Hornish and Chris Ross strongly opposed the bill and voted to adopt the following as the City’s formal position:

1. The City opposes removal of local control over its land use decisions. The City suggests revising the draft to incentivize – rather than mandate – minimum density.

2. The blanket application of standards and lack of flexibility does not take into account the unique situations that exist in each city.

For example:

a. As one of the most recently incorporated cities in Washington (1999), Sammamish is still updating a backlog of rural infrastructure inherited from King County. Upzoning large portions of Sammamish could exacerbate infrastructure deficiencies.

b. Sammamish is home to many environmentally sensitive areas (erosion and landslide hazards, wetlands, lakes and rivers). Current zoning rules were developed with these areas in mind. Blanket application of denser zoning does not consider the potential harm to sensitive areas.

3. It is unclear why Section 2 of this version ties the denser housing requirements to parks, as they are often located in environmentally sensitive areas with limited infrastructure and limited access to transit.

4. Limiting the number of parking spaces per unit may work in more urban areas; however, Sammamish residents have very limited access to transit and rely heavily on personal transportation to get around. Reducing spaces will likely result in these residents parking in less favorable locations than in a designated parking facility.

Council Members Ramiro Valderrama, Jason Ritchie and Pam Stuart voted against the motion, even though just a few days ago during a committee meeting both Stuart and Ritchie voiced opposition to the senate bill.

The council concluded with a vote to change the title of the action from “feedback” to “city position” – that was passed 7-0.

A video clip of the voting:

The entire discussion of the motion that preceded this vote, almost 15 mins long, starts here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLdLHguZ1Z4&t=10374s

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20 thoughts on “A Split City Council Votes to Oppose Sen. Palumbo’s “Minimum Density” Bill

  1. I agree with the vote of the Council. The bill is a sledge hammer attempt at excessive State control over municipal land use planning. Last year Senator Palumbo talked about reintroducing his bill limiting high density requirements to within a quarter mile of transit corridors and he implied that 228th in Sammamish couldn’t be considered a transit corridor. In any case, refinements to the Growth Management Act should be an iterative process with all impacted parties at the table.

  2. It is important that our City Council speak with one voice on fundamental matters that affect our governance. A 4-3 vote in this matter is a weak response, especially to those outside of our City.

    In the interest of transparency, City Council should take steps to find out why we have a split vote on this matter.

  3. My interpretation as to what transpired at the Council meeting last night is that there was a split vote on what points should be included in a letter to the Association of Washington Cities opposing Senator Palumbo’s bill. However, once the points to be included in the letter were finalized, the vote to send the letter, as amended, was 7 – 0.

      • As I said this morning on another comment thread, that meeting is a testament to how sad the current state of affairs is on the council.

        I don’t care if you hate growth or think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. This group wouldn’t be able to agree that the sky is blue much less have some coherent vision for the city.

        I had plenty of negative things to say about Don Gerend on the council but I’ll be the first to admit that I was completely wrong. I didn’t agree with a lot of his policy positions, but he was a leader and had a vision. He had the ability to compromise. He was cordial towards everyone he met and worked with, and respectful towards people who disagreed with him.

        Now it’s like watching a reality show, waiting to see who’s allied with who, and which councilmember won the immunity idol for the week. People yell and snipe at one another instead of discussing differences and finding common ground.

        I have some requests to each member of the council – be respectful to each other. Don’t question the motives of the others. Have actual conversations with each other and get to know each other outside of contentious political meetings. Find common ground and pass some easy resolutions on things like parks or celebrations around the 20th anniversary of the city to try to build momentum into something that might represent significant policy on a hot button issue like growth.

        As it stands right now, I am worried that the dysfunction threatens to derail the parts of the city that are actually functional. Snow removal for instance was excellent during the last storm… someone should get credit for that.

  4. This is another gross misrepresentation of the Council’s position on density. Omitted from the Sammamish Comment’s article is the fact that the Legislative Committee, comprised of Stuart, Richie and myself, drafted a detailed statement of absolute opposition to the proposed density. We brought this statement to the full Council for a vote. The entire Council opposes the proposed density. The only difference is that the members of the Legislative Committee wanted to include the second point in the recommendation–that if density were required, that it could only be taken if investment in transit was made. For the Comment and its Editorial Board to omit this fact is a disservice to the readers of both the Comment and also those who view the article shared on Facebook. Unfortunately, in the absence of a professional news organization in Sammamish, citizens may be relying on the opinions and misrepresentations contained in this blog. All of the Council was opposed to density being mandated

    • Here is the video of the vote

      The readers can see for themselves the vote on the motion (the third vote, 4-3) and can even hear Valderama and Malchow declaring so by reference

  5. This plan is something that will ruin Sammamish as it currently exists. Virtually everyone who lives here does so to enjoy the attributes currently offered by this community with its trees, many public parks, and natural reserves. Most of us moved here to get away from urban congestion and cheek-by-jowl development so characteristic of some of our more densely populated areas.

    Senator Palumbo’s plan might more readily apply to more densely populated areas that are not next to the Urban Growth Area boundary but does not work for one that is already geographically challenged by major elevation changes, wetlands and other environmentally sensitive features, and which is lacking in roadway and public transportation infrastructure.

    One should look at Sodo, plus the Northgate, Totem Lake, and Redmond’s failing malls as high tensity development sites as they already come with fully developed surface transportation infrastructure. Sammamish does not currently have this (the reason for our building moratorium) and will not for the foreseeable future.

    Despite the efforts of former Council Members Huckabay, Vance, Keller, Gerend, and myself, Metro is not about to provide any significant relief in the form of additional public transportation. I spent my 8 years on the Sammamish Council attempting to improve our service without major success and the others I listed have also done so without any significant success.

    Fixing our current roadway inadequacies is already an extremely expensive proposition without compounding the problem by going down the path being pushed by Sen. Palumbo.

    Tom Odell
    Former Council Member and Former Mayor

    • I fully endorse and compliment former Council Member O’dell regarding his comments and opinion on this subject. It would be unconscionable for any council member to endorse or support the senseless shotgun approach to land use planning being proposed by Senator Palumbo. Senator Palumbo’s proposal for blanket up zoning in all urban areas regardless of infrastructure or environmental considerations is an irresponsible political move that should be strongly opposed by our Council and City.

  6. I’m disgusted that those elected to supposedly protect our way of life here have severely undermined it by even considering the state’s proposal much less voting in favor of it. I hope the citizens of Sammamish are following this closely and will, with unprecedented unity in the next election, vote to remove those who are so arrogant and selfish in their determination to destroy this community and the reason so many of us moved here in the first place.

  7. At this moment, Friday February 8th at 2 p.m., Southeast 4th, the alleged spine of the Town Center, is covered in snow and blocked by trucks and cars that can’t make it up the hill and the ones that got about halfway up are now actually sliding backwards down towards 228th. If the city can’t keep that Hill flowing when there is virtually no development completed, what the heck is it going to look like when you cram 500 new people in there? It’s getting insane…..

  8. It’s now about 2:41, and I when I called the city to inform them of the Southeast 4th blockage (above), I was told that it is not a priority Street for plowing…..

      • Finally got 1 lane partially plowed on 2/13, after contacting public works & neighbors shovelling the street. If hundreds more units and even more developments with roads are added, we will certainly be waiting even longer for essential services…..

  9. This is so wrong – not to mention suspicious. Sammamish is already crowded enough. Further development suggests perhaps some members of the City Council may have interior motives. One might think further development might spread property taxes across a broader base. That hasn’t;t been my experience since we moved here 40 years ago. My annual property taxes, amortized monthly, are higher than our original total house payment. We are seniors, on a pension and we’d like to remain here. Can somebody explain to me what the City Government feels compelled to allow further development?

    Please advise me as to what I’m missing.

  10. It’s gratifying to see Mr. Odell and Mr. Gerend expressing their opposition to the efforts by King County to shove these ridiculous mandates down Sammamish’s throat. As both of these gentlemen amply demonstrated during their tenure on the City Council, we’re perfectly able to overdevelop without external interference.

    • [Editor: If it passes moderation, can you change “King County” to “the State Legislature”? Posted a little too quickly, sorry. Can’t edit it myself.]

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