Unfettered development vs controlling it is the only issue in this election

By Scott Hamilton

Commentary

Sept. 20, 2019: It is now clear that the Sammamish City Council election this year has come down to one issue: unfettered development across the city vs controlling development so it doesn’t further overwhelm the roads and aggravate the congestion that already exists.

All other issues have taken a back seat.

If you support unfettered development, Karen McKnight, Rituja Indapure and Karen Howe are your choices for council.

If you want to control development and moderate traffic congestion, Christie Malchow, Kent Treen and Ken Gamblin are your choices.

Discerning positions of the McK 3

Discerning the positions of the McKnight Three (McK 3) has been difficult though not impossible. None of the three has been forthcoming about their positions.

McKnight

McKnight doesn’t even have a web page. Her Facebook posts have been a series of selfies on the campaign trail and at rallies. She refuses to answer questions from voters on Facebook, claiming she is too busy. McKnight refused to be interviewed by Sammamish Comment from the day she announced her candidacy.

But she’s president of the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, whose CEO, Deb Sogge, constantly testified before the city council against a building moratorium and a tighter traffic concurrency standard that measures traffic. The Chamber has bashed McKnight’s opponent, incumbent council member Malchow while professing neutrality in the election.

Before McKnight became a candidate, she testified on behalf of the Chamber before the council and planning commission on several occasions. These included revealing remarks at times.

In an appearance March 6, 2018, before the city council, McKnight said, “We are currently thought of as a development-friendly city” and she feared the city would lose this reputation if the building moratorium was continued.

In a July 19, 2018, appearance before the planning commission, she boasted she’s “worked half her career with builders and developers.”

Indapure

Unlike McKnight, Indapure has a record. Indapure ran unsuccessfully for council in 2017. She answered a detailed questionnaire from Sammamish Comment then. After she declared her 2019 candidacy, she sat down for an interview with The Comment. She has a website but little in the way of concrete information; it’s filled with campaign platitudes.

This is the vision approved by the Planning Commission. Indapure in a Sept. 5 candidates forum denied the commission approved this and denied voting for this. The city’s video tape of the meeting shows otherwise. She also claimed two “citizens” advanced this concept. It was created by two commissioners with support from the city staff. The plan was presented to the city council. It is known colloquially as the “egg splat” plan.

Like McKnight, Indapure’s Facebook presence consists of campaign selfies. She, too, refuses to answer questions from voters on Facebook.

She’s been on the planning commission, where positions and votes have been recorded. Watching city videos of the commission meetings fills in a picture of an advocate for higher density throughout the city in contrast to her recently stated positions.

At the Sept. 5 candidate’s forum sponsored by the Sahalee and Timberline homeowners associations, Indapure denied supporting a plan that envisions apartments and density scattered throughout the city in mature, single-family neighborhoods. This “egg splat” concept would add 13 dense developments throughout the city.

Indapure’s opponent, Ken Gamblin, called her on it at the Sept. 5 forum. Indapure denied that the commission voted for the concept and said it was put forth by two “citizens.”

In fact, the commission at its July 19, 2018, meeting voted 4-0 for the concept, which was put forth by two other commissioners with full support of the city staff. Indapure was one of the four votes.

At a commission meeting, she previously spoke in favor a high density throughout the city.

Howe

Howe also ran unsuccessfully in 2017 for city council. This left a record that can be applied to 2019, for like McKnight and Indapure, her Facebook posts also consist nothing more than selfies on the campaign trail. She, too, refuses to engage with voters who pose questions to her.

Howe answered a Sammamish Comment questionnaire in 2017 but refused sit for an interview this year. Her website is uninformative on the issues.

Malchow

Malchow, as a council member the last four years, has a well-documented record. She’s been a leader in challenging staff over development. She decided to run for council in 2015 because staff ignored city codes and approved a development adjacent her neighborhood that would have destroyed open space and threatened salmon-bearing Ebright Creek. She and her co-appellants won an appeal to the city hearing examiner and in court.

Malchow led the way in challenging the city’s traffic concurrency model veracity. It was proved data was created to assure there would be no concurrency testing failures by creating artificial road capacity.

The new concurrency model threatened the ability of STCA to pass concurrency for its development of the Town Center, setting off a bitter, long-running battle that is the focus of efforts to defeat her for reelection.

Malchow actively engages with voters on Facebook and on her Facebook election page. Her website is a landing page which in largely uninformative but links to her Facebook and other pages where she details her positions through engagements with voters.

Treen

Treen is a newcomer to politics, although his wife, Debbie, served on the Bothell city council and as mayor when they lived there.

Treen is active on Facebook, answering voter questions and stating his positions. He aligns with Malchow on issues of controlling growth, tightening development requirements and protecting the environment.

Gamblin

After Malchow, Gamblin is the most prolific candidate on Facebook, engaging with voters on a regular basis. His website is unusually blunt, avoiding the meaningless platitudes that usually afflict campaign websites.

Gamblin advocates for controlling growth and improving roads before major new growth occurs. He points to the impact growth has on schools and trees.

Squaring off

Malchow’s dedicated deep dive into development regulations and traffic concurrency modeling earned her the enmity of STCA (the Town Center developer), the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce and the “V-3”—fellow council members Ramiro Valderrama, Pam Stuart and Jason Ritchie.

Stuart and Ritchie are overtly and actively opposing Malchow’s reelection, and by extension, the election of Treen and Gamblin.

The Chamber of Commerce, while professing neutrality in the council races, has been anything but. It’s president, McKnight, is running against Malchow while retaining her position on the Chamber. Ritchie is a board member on the Chamber and contributed to McKnight’s campaign. The Chamber moderator of the Chamber’s planned Oct. 7 candidates forum contributed to McKnight’s campaign and appeared with her at a campaign event.

The Chamber launched a blog, promoting it as “Providing Accurate Accounts on Local Issues.” In fact, it is an overtly anti-Malchow vehicle.

The Chamber leadership initially refused to guarantee it would not change Malchow’s responses to its questionnaire.

The Chamber responded to Malchow’s concerns that it didn’t “want” to edit the remarks.

“We don’t want to edit,” CEO Deb Sogge wrote to Malchow in an email. “I am all for posting what is.  Like our perspectives that we don’t censor, I don’t want to change anything a candidate says.  We don’t want to twist anything.”

Malchow replied, “You don’t want to edit or you will not edit?  I’d like to understand with complete clarity if the potential exists for editing my responses to your questions as your response below leaves that hazy.  Please let me know, thank you.”

Malchow had to email Sogge two more over three days to get a guarantee her responses would not be edited.

But that wasn’t Malchow’s only concern.

Because her opponent, McKnight, is the Chamber’s president, Malchow was worried McKnight would see her responses. In the end, Malchow’s responses to the Chamber instead directed readers to her Facebook page.

Whispering campaign turning partisan

In a series of low blows, Malchow’s opponents began telling people, and posting on Facebook, that Malchow voted for Donald Trump and attended his inauguration.

The latter is demonstrably false: she was at the city council annual retreat in Tacoma when Trump was inaugurated. Malchow vehemently denied supporting or voting for Trump.

This whispering campaign with made-up assertions demonstrates the depths to which her opponents will go.

But this pales to the next step.

In a series of Facebook post, opponents took Malchow to task for hosting a events for local Republican legislators who represent Sammamish and who, by today’s standards, are Republicans In Name Only (RINOs).

Sammamish voters, these opponents urged, should support the Democrats running for council.

These efforts are attempting to turn the non-partisan city council races into partisan ones.

The problem: this latest tactic was unveiled after Malchow flew out of state to be with her mother, who underwent emergency surgery for brain cancer.

This is a truly low blow.

The irony

There is a huge irony in the partisan effort.

In the upside down of partisan politics, it is the Democratic politicians in Sammamish who are hell bent on unconstrained growth: council members Pam Stuart and Jason Ritchie and candidates Karen McKnightKaren Howe and Rituja Indapure.

It is the Republicans (though in reality they are RINOS) who are for controlling growth: Christie Malchow (in her case, she’s actually an independent)Chris RossTom Hornish and Karen Moran.

The city’s leading environmentalist, Wally Pererya, is backing Malchow, Kent Treen and Ken Gamblin.

Substance vs Selfies

Malchow, Treen and Gamblin are discussing the issues with voters on Facebook. McKnight, Indapure and Howe don’t and rely on campaign selfies for their presence.

Voters have a choice between unfettered development supported by the Selfie Slate or controlled growth supported by three candidates who deal in substance and detail.

It’s really this simple.

 

 

22 thoughts on “Unfettered development vs controlling it is the only issue in this election

  1. I believe that your claim that the Democrats want unfettered growth is an example of how our politics have evolved on local and national stages. It is a simple way to try to convince voters who are too lazy to research issues to vote your way.

    No one wants unfettered growth but some of us want some development to occur and not be manipulated by folks who make up phony infrastructure numbers (V/C).

    Town Center was approved long ago but I guess the Mayor news better? I don’t want Malchow and her friends deciding after the fact that her idea for the city is the correct one
    and the voters be damned.

    You should change the name of this website to “biased comment”.

    • David: I was on the planning commission that created the Town Center and know this better than anyone on the council or staff except Karen Moran, who was also on the commission at the time the Town Center was created. I was involved in the incorporation vote in 1999, when growth was the driving issue, and every election since, many of which were over growth. I know it when I see it: Ritchie, Stuart, and the Selfie Slate are for unfettered growth.

      Also: this article was labeled “Commentary.” To help you understand:

      com·men·tar·y
      /ˈkämənˌterē/
      noun
      noun: commentary; plural noun: commentaries

      an expression of opinions or offering of explanations explanations about an event or situation.
      “an editorial commentary”

      • Scott. unfettered growth is a myth. There are many ways growth is limited and city councils, past and present, have elected to use them as much as possible. Puget Sound regional planning allocates growth targets to cities. Sammamish has lobbied for limits on these allocations. Zoning limits growth. Required set backs, tree retention, etc. etc. there are many ways that growth is limited. Town Center has growth limits. By framing the debate in terms of unfettered growth and no growth until we can reduce traffic congestion is an unproductive and sensational either or conflict. I assume you understand that we can’t build our way out of traffic congestion. We need to develop multi-modal transportation plans and not limit the debate to auto traffic. Our Town Center plan that you had a hand in clearly provides evidence based techniques for managing growth, creating transportation options, reducing trips on and off the hill, creating a city center to support public transport, providing housing choices for our increasingly diverse population. Scott, instead of limiting the public debate to two artificial, opposing extremes I would like to see you using your knowledge and expertise to broaden the public discussion to include many other critical and related issues. Stating that Ritchie and Stuart are for unfettered growth is not accurate and not productive. Concerning “commentaries” we need more than opinions, most everyone has an opinion relatively few have knowledge, experience and wisdom. The former are frequently biased and over simplified. The later demands moral courage and intellectual vigor. Lets broaden the election debate.

      • John, this is a thoughtful reply. It assumes some facts not in evidence, but that’s ok.

        Ritchie and Stuart advocate “directing” growth into the Town Center and reducing it outside the Town Center. Neither has put forward concepts about how this would work–because it won’t, unless you down-zone outside the Town Center. Imagine if your property had been on 244th instead of in the Town Center and you wanted to develop it. I know you, John: you’d be howling at a “taking”, and I wouldn’t blame you.

        Ritchie and Stuart are being at best disingenuous when they advocate as described above and at worst naive. Any upzoning of the Town Center as they (and the Selfie Slate) advocate will not come at the expense of the rest of the city: it will be added density. STCA already has been down this path and the 2016/17 council (the one that preceded the current one) put a kibosh on that.

        Inadapure, despite her false claim the egg splat concept didn’t pass the planning commission (she voted for it), is on record wanting higher density. McKnight boasts about half her career working with builders and developers and wants Sammamish to be known as a developer-friendly city. Howe is aligned with them, Ritchie and Stuart.

        The record is clear: If the Selfie Slate gets elected, coupled with Ritchie and Stuart, growth will be unfettered.

        Hamilton

      • Selfie Slate. Now I get it. Why the name calling Mr. Hamilton? It cheapens your otherwise thoughtful remarks. That behavior is rather Trumpian IMO. I’m now taking everything you post with a grain of salt.

      • @Guy: Selfie Slate is a short hand for the three candidates who campaign by posting Selfies on Facebook and who do not answer any questions posed to them. No substance, all Selfies. It’s like the V-3 (Valderrama, Stuart, Ritchie) and M-4 (Malchow, Hornish, Moran, Ross), terms coined by Ritchie.

        The Gang of 4 was a term used for the power structure in the 2011-2015 council. It’s common in Sammamish to use these terms. Selfie Slate is a convenient moniker.

  2. I don’t get how these self-proclaimed Democrats can reconcile their positions of support for the environment *and* support for maximum development. Those two positions clearly contradict each other. Cutting down trees is bad for the environment. Congestion and pollution are bad for the environment. As a Democrat I’m turned off by these self-serving politicians using the party platform to advocate for destroying the environment for their own gains. They won’t be getting my vote.

  3. Thank you for the informative post Mr. Hamilton. If you ask any of these candidate they’d probably all say they are against unfettered development. Development is going to happen in Sammamish whether we like it or not. After attending the last forum and reading the various posts here and on facebook, I’m strongly leaning towards the Malchow, Gamlin, Treen trio. Me a lifelong D! Still something seems a bit odd. It would be nice to know how the MGT trio envisions growth in Sammamish and where they see the density happening.

    • You ask a good question, Guy. The thing is, council does not, and really can not, control growth. What should controls growth in Sammamish is an adherence to the Growth Management Act (GMA). This is a law passed in 1990 whose purpose was to regulate growth. The GMA clearly states that development should happen concurrently with infrastructure improvement. What’s happened in the past, that has let development get so far ahead of road improvements, is that past councils manipulated concurrency.
      To control growth all we will need to do is honestly apply an accurate concurrency measurement. This will show when road failures are occurring from too much development without concurrent road improvement . At the point where we show these failures development is paused until the necessary improvements are made. When done correctly concurrency is a self regulating process that will regulate growth to match our rate of corresponding infrastructure (roads, sewers, stromwater, even schools). The councils main job in this process is to make sure that the concurrency testing model is accurate and fairly applied. The current council has recently done this, and I will make sure it continues to be done.
      Does this make sense, Guy?

  4. I feel there is no viable option, we MUST control our growth. There are choices, but each is difficult and requires support of the council and concerned Sammi citizens !
    CHRISTIE has proven her leadership and committment to being part of the solution. Gamblin and Green are unproven, but I need to continue to support proper growth keeping in mind the various issues that must be addressed to obtain that goal.
    Hal Abbott

  5. Thank you Scott this helped me in confirming my decision on where my support will go this election. Responsible development should have been a goal of council for years but it seems we have gotten away from that goal. Thank you again.

  6. Forgive me, but how does one vote for City Council candidates? I do not recall ever getting a ballot or any such means of voting in my mailbox.

  7. Indapure was the only Commissioner to not support the upzoning of the Santoni property. Her concerns seemed to be around traffic and the loss of trees. Based on your statement in favor of the upzoning that night I know that you disagreed with her choice. I didn’t disagree with their final recommendation either, but I just wonder if it is really accurate to say that Indapure supports unfettered growth. In the end, I’m leaning toward Gamblin, but I’m not so sure that the contrast is as stark as you portray it.

    • Douglas: Indapure’s vote against Santonis is what environmentalists call a “greenwashing” vote: a vote that appears to favor the environment when the record shows otherwise. Indapure voted for the “egg splat” vision to put high density in 13 single family neighborhoods, irrespective of traffic and school impacts; and she voted for what’s called the “Home Grown” vision for high density across all of Sammamish.

    • Okay, good update, but when is the election and, regardless, are the issues basically growth vs. no Growth.

      Thanks to this forum I understand what the council members stand on the issues, but I suspect it’s not merely a matter of growth or no growth. I’m truly getting the idea that both “sides” have their reasons supporting their positions. Seems like recent gatherings, BBQ’s and “Hoe-Downs” (oh god I’ve been hoping to use that term for 50 years since Sherriff Tex went off the air.)

      Basically I am opposed to further unmanaged growth. I grew up in the south end and do not want to see Sammamish turn into, say, McMicken Heights or Yesler Terrace. But thus far, the argument appears to be between the developers and their supposters former mayor Gerend, for one, and the chamber of commerce. These are not groups comprised of evil beings sent from Hell trying to build properties high enough so we can see the Space Needle.

      On the other hand, I don’t give a flying fandango if I can see that eyesore even if I climb on my roof.

      BTW, are the upcoming city elections really going to change anything?

  8. Scott, Thanks for all your work on getting the truth out about the council candidates. Especially, since you moved and could have easily turned your back on Sammamish. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate you and Miki keeping us informed and up to date on everything Sammamish.
    Even though we are on opposite sides of the political spectrum; you have always been honest and open minded. Oh, by the way, I voted for Trump and will again.

  9. I feel like everyone is getting trolled by another Trumpite. After communicating on this subject with an ex-Mayor and councilwoman from our fair city, it’s my opinion that CityHamilton is simply muddying the waters. I’ll just quote (unedited) what I was told:

    “In 2008, the city council created the Town Center concept and put in in our comprehensive plan after an extensive community . As you know, we do have to take growth in the city under the Growth Mgt Act, so we allocated 2200 units to the TC rather that to the neighborhoods. It was also set up to take development rights from other parts of the city, particularly from the very small recreation lots along the lake front.

    This particular city council has chosen to block that development without having a similar community plan. Indeed this council has spent thousands of dollars in consulting fees to find a traffic concurrency model that would allow any growth; plus, over 1m to fight the completion of the trail. And a council that was determined to prevent growth spent 2 years fighting about Transportation Improvement Plan; at the very last minute, the included a $57m (yes, you read that right) to widen Sahalee Way; this created the concurrency for the TC to move forward at last.

    The Town Center will is designed to be a walkable community and will have condos, townhomes, senior housing, work force housing and residences. It will also have additional services such as an Ace Hardware, small movie theater, restaurants, professional offices, a park and ride and other services.

    So, bottom line, this council is opposed to providing housing for those who work here or services and employment opportunities for those who live here rather that the $1m and up housing here and in the neighborhoods and they have done absolutely nothing to mitigate traffic or work with the schools and other service providers who are working on the mental health crisis facing so many of our young people and they have literally driven most of our city staff away and, to boot, didn’t show up at an Eastside Fire District meeting when they both took away one of our 3 fire stations and raised the cost of fire service.

    So, I’m sorry that the person who came by misrepresented the three candidates – they are the only ones who have been interviewed and endorsed by the Sierra Club, Fuse and the Washington Conservation Assoc. As you can tell, I am supporting the two Karen’s – Howe and McKnight as well as Rituja Indapure who is smart, creative and who will bring reason and vision to a very divisive council.”

    I don’t have the time to be so deeply involved in the city’s politics to understand all the machinations (I have a strong recollection of speaking with Mr. Valderama years ago, and then watching him walk back everything he promised; I wouldn’t vote for him to be dog catcher). But I trust those whom I have known to be good stewards. I’m not advocating that you follow me in my thinking either, rather you should follow those persons and organizations you know and trust. This is a commentary page, and there is no guarantee of fairness of position. If Mr. Hamilton was into transparency, then he should have announced he’s a Trump supporter; I unabashedly am not. If you’re a democrat, you should probably vote with the democrats, and if you’re a Trump voter, go with the Trumpite.

    • What makes you think I’m a Trump supporter?

      I helped create the Town Center plan, so I don’t need any lectures on what it is.

      What it isn’t is a transit center: Don Gerend killed my idea for a park and ride at the corner of SE 4th and 228th at the city council level and Tom Vance didn’t support it when I proposed it at the planning commission level. (This was in 2008, long before Met Market was even a gleam in anyone’s eye).

      TDRs that have been put into the Town Center came from unincorporated King County, not from within the city. This was never envisioned by the planning commission and is another legacy of Gerend.

      we do have to take growth in the city under the Growth Mgt Act, so we allocated 2200 units to the TC rather that to the neighborhoods

      This is the biggest BS argument of all. The GMA mandates growth if there is infrastructure to support it (another issue to talk about, which Miki Mullor has written about extensively). The 2200 units is an upzoning. The city still had room under its then-current zoning to accommodate up to 72,000 residents (at the time of the TC approval, the population was in the 40s). There was no need to upzone. It was a choice, and one I supported in its original form.

      By the time the council got through with the recommended plan, there was 100,000 more SF of commercial (another Gerend legacy, who wanted 200,000 more), the county-fed TDRs, elimination of 50-100 ft setbacks on 228th so there would be a green buffer to buildings, no park-n-ride (I tried to bypass the PC’s no-support on this one) and Gerend’s persistent (though unsuccessful) effort to eliminate height restrictions so there could a be 20 story “Don Tower”. Northwest style architecture was gone, allowing the standard urban style you now have.

      And BTW, I worked with Vance in 2004 when he was chair of the 5th District Democrats to try and elect (among others) Kathy Huckabay to the State Senate. This hardly makes me a Trumpite. I broke in part with Valderrama because he refused to say whether he supported Trump in the 2016 election when Valderrama ran for state House as a Republican. You can look up these writings on the Comment.

      I broke with Vance in 2009 when he proved to be subservient to the then-city manager rather than providing leadership as chairman to the PC. As mayor, Vance continued this subservience, giving Sammamish much of the problems it has today. It’s why Vance lost reelection by 10 points, under-performing his 2011 win against a weak candidate by 20 points. He became the first sitting mayor and the third sitting council member to lose reelection since the city was formed in 1999.

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