Sammamish Chamber VP calls for denser development, taller buildings

By Miki Mullor

A Sammamish Chamber of Commerce vice president this week called for denser development and taller buildings in a piece containing scathing criticism of the city council published on the chamber’s website.

Julio Richburg

Tossing aside long-standing claims that the chamber doesn’t endorse candidates for city council, Julio Richburg called on Sammamish voters to elect candidates who do not support the policies set by the current council.

The chamber did not disclose Richburg is its vice president.

The president of the chamber, Karen McKnight, is running against incumbent Mayor Christie Malchow, who is seeking a second term.

We need more density, building higher 

“We need to be building more density, building higher, and stop clearing all the land for more houses,” Richburg said.

“The City would not get a good grade — I’d give them an F — for not providing transportation options. There are no places to shop, housing is unaffordable and that’s only going to get worse. We’re not bringing in any commercial revenue to the city; we’re stifling it. Property tax is the only tax.”

According to the City’s recent budget, the City brings about $14.8 million local sales tax every two years.

(Source: City of Sammamish, Washington 2019-2020 Budget in Brief.)

Against a building moratorium 

Richburg also took aim at a building moratorium that was enacted in 2017 while the city reviewed and revised the traffic concurrency system. The moratorium was adopted on a unanimous vote of the previous city council and supported by all the candidates running for election in November 2017.

A bitter split later developed between the current council members over retaining the moratorium.

The moratorium was lifted on Dec. 4, 2018.

“[The moratorium is] shortsighted and serving a special purpose, but none of them are coming out and admitting it,” Richburg said. “It’s morally bankrupt. Playing on the fear of development is making the situation even worse, without having the vision to plan for proper development. I think the people in Sammamish generally don’t have any idea how it works and how bad it is. Having some way to explain it and why it’s bad is important.

“Projects like the town center and similar proposals would relieve the very issue about which they have concern.  Certain individuals on the City Council have an agenda and they aren’t honest about that agenda. The average citizen doesn’t realize that the complete lack of action will just make the problems worse.” 

Transportation solutions

Richburg believes Sammamish is capable or should be capable of effectively tackling transportation issues without a moratorium.

“Absolutely, the moratorium hurts the transportation issue. We’ve had people from Sound Transit reach out to us and say they’d like to make this a model city for transit.” 

[Update] Rachelle Cunningham, Public Information Officer for Sound Transit said Sound Transit can’t confirm that anyone from Sound Transit said this.

City councils nearly since the inception of Sammamish in 1999 have been trying, with minimal success, to get Sound Transit and Metro Transit to increase bus service to the city.

Sound Transit’s ST3 $27 billion tax plan for a $54 billion transportation program actually reduces bus service to Sammamish. A $20 million park and ride is planned for Sammamish, however.

Tossing neutrality aside

Richburg tossed aside any pretense of chamber neutrality in the election.

“A lot really depends on the upcoming election. It is critical that residents of Sammamish really investigate the candidates on these issues and vote accordingly.  If we continue the same course, I believe the situation will only get worse.”

The chamber is sponsoring a candidates’ forum Oct. 7. Chamber member Art Finkelstein is the moderator. He has donated to McKnight’s campaign, as has chamber board member Jason Ritchie. Ritchie, elected to the city council in 2017 (and who supported the moratorium as a candidate), is a bitter political opponent of Malchow.

These factors raised concerns from Malchow and candidates Ken Gamblin and Kent Treen, seen as Malchow allies, over the fairness and the appearance of fairness of Finkelstein’s moderating role. The chamber’s CEO, Deborah Sogge, has rejected these concerns.

Richburg’s comments increase the appearance of bias of the Oct. 7 forum.

 “Sammamish Comment is propaganda”

Richburg’s unprecedented attacks on the city council were not isolated. He took on Sammamish Comment as well.

“I don’t think people are getting local news, just a lot of rumor mill, word of mouth. Neighborhood web sites are rumor mill central. Sammamish Comment, from what I’ve seen and heard from others, it’s even worse than misrepresentation, it’s propaganda,” said Richburg.  

In his piece, Richburg cites no sources or evidence to any of the claims made in it. 

Deb Sogge

The Comment reached out to Sogge, the Chamber CEO, on whether the Chamber shares Richburg view of The Comment:

“These views shared by Julio are his own.  We did not censor his comments. The Chamber’s view of Sammamish Comment has always been that it is a blog and as such we take things as opinions there, not news.“


Reference: PDF copy of Richburg’s opinion

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10 thoughts on “Sammamish Chamber VP calls for denser development, taller buildings

  1. I do agree with Mr. Richburg’s comments on not clearing the land for more housing. The city absolutely needs a better development and more targeted development plan. We should concentrate development in a smaller area and make it higher density. We should have more commercial development. Right now, Sammamish is just a giant suburb with lack of shops, services, schools, and other infrastructure. Plenty of development was going on throughout the moratorium. Land continued to be stripped and more houses put up with lack of regard for infrastructure, services, and overcrowding. Concentrating development in a town center is a good idea IF we could stop the development in other areas of Sammamish. But that is a big IF. I don’t see that happening in this city. There was a definite lack of will to prevent the sprawl from occurring and unfortunately the damage has already been done.

    I am skeptical of Mr. Richburg’s motivations. I doubt he or the Chamber of Commerce truly cares about preserving open space or the environment. Two years ago when we elected Ms. Malchow, the city started moving in a better direction. Maybe it is the wrong approach to stop the town center development, but the idea was to prevent all new development from occurring until at least some of the infrastructure issues were dealt with. The previous city council (and some current members and candidates) with their strong ties to big development and conflicts of interest was and is a great concern to many of us who live here.

  2. The name of the organization says it all: Chamber of Commerce -$$$$$$. They are only interested in money, not our livability.

    The plateau does not need more density; it needs more livability. The plateau does not need taller, soviet-style buildings; it needs livability. The plateau does not need 10000 more cars on its roads; it needs livability.

    As someone who has lived up here since 1984, density has only meant one thing: lack of livability. I can do without 50 more stores and 10,000 more Apartments, along with the resulting increase taxes, crowded roads, crowded School rooms, strained services. What I can’t do without are the trees, the ability to see the stars in the sky, and quality of life.

    These people are only out to line their pockets, and it’s time we all realize that. The builders, the developers, & the Commerce Giants have all had their way and have left us to pay the price….. enough is enough.

    Go down to Redmond –you’ve already ruined that. Go to Ballard —you’ve already ruined that. Go down to Issaquah— you’ve already ruined that. Leave us alone.

    • Deb: You were afforded ample opportunity to comment on Richburg’s posting. You wrote:

      “These views shared by Julio are his own.”

      The fact is he is a VP of the Chamber (a fact not disclosed in the introductory Biography). If there was concern that his statements might be misconstrued, the time for disclaimers was (1) as part of the introduction about who is is (including his position with the Chamber) or (2) when you were asked for response prior to publication.

      It is telling Richburg has not made any clarification, outreach, disclaimer, clarification or retraction.

      This is damage control for the Richburg’s political gaffe.

      Wikipedia: “a political gaffe reveals some truth that a politician did not intend to admit. … The term gaffe may be used to describe an inadvertent statement by a politician that the politician believes is true while the politician has not fully analyzed the consequences of publicly stating it.”

    • Thanks, Deb, for pointing that out. As a result or earlier posts I did a little personal research on the CoC since I had no idea of what purpose they served. I’m still not sure how their process works, but I’ve come to form the opinion that they are not a force to improve our way of life here on the Plateau. Not suprisingly, it would seem their mission is to promote further growth and interests of commercial activities. To what advantage, other than either lining their own pockets or earning merit badges of some sort, they seem like an anachronism to me, especially thanks to the internet, Amazon and increasingly more and more commercial interests that will deliver – often at competitive pricing – whatever one could need. Even Pizza. Granted it’s not a service well applied to hair stylists or my dentist, but we seem to have no shortage of those professionals. I can’t help but think the chamber really adds no real value so far as I can see, to our daily routine. Heck, we can even buy groceries on line and as the trend in commerce continues to grow and improve, the Chamber might think more about becoming a social group like the Elks or The Eagles. Perhaps they might look forward to concentrating their efforts more toward things that people will actually leave their homes to patronize. Like Bars and resturaunts.

      Now, to be fair and to confess I might not understand what a CoC does in an internet environment maybe they can explain it to us. Those additional developed properties and high ride buildings might help offset our outrageous property taxes, provided they can somebody to occupy the space and pay rent.

      You know, a really tall building above Metropolitan Market, where apparently we all gather to meet should be even taller so we can watch Seattle and Bellevue continue to decline in livability through telescopes.

      I’ll admit I’m a bit of an agnostic. Maybe that’s why I get nervous when those door-to-door solicitors remind me a little of what I’ve learned about the chamber. They would’;t be seemingly so passionate about further development in Platuepia if there wasn’t something in it for them.

      Just sayin’

  3. I live in Montage (off of 212th). Today I had to drive to Swedish hospital for a doctor appt. I left at 9:25 am for a 10 am appt. it is 7 miles from my house.

    Low and behold it took me 35 minutes.

    Before Sammamish allows 419 homes to be bulilt with 800 adults and 800 children, fix the infrastructure, build roads and schools to accomplish date these people.

    Use some common sense. No votes from me for anyone serving now.

    • Mickey – what you are asking for is precisely what I am trying to accomplish as a Councilmember. On Oct we 3, 2017 it was me that made the motion to put a moratorium in place so that Council could tackle our congestion issues by way of concurrency ( how we measure the impact of new trips on existing infrastructure). It takes a long time to turn a ship around that has been going in the same direction for 20 years. We are turning the ship, but it does takes time. I ask you to please look at my voting record & my website and Facebook page to know that I am fighting the very battle you want to win. Stick with me, because if we lose the majority for managing this growth, things will get worse: more cars on the roads, more kids in the schools.

  4. Pingback: Three candidates to skip a Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum; two cite bias | Sammamish Comment

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