Seattle-based Sammamish Town Center developer pours money into Council elections

By Miki Mullor
Editor 

  • R.D. Merrill of Seattle contributed $25,000 to “Livable Sammamish” PAC (Political Action Committee), headed by former Mayor Don Gerend and former Council Member Kathy Huckabay.
  • R.D. Merrill partnered with STCA to develop Phase 1 of the Town Center, a 419 unit project and 98,000 sq/ft of retail, located on SE 4th St.
  • “Livable Sammamish” is opposing “Sammamish Life”, a Sammamish residents PAC headed by Michael Scoles.

Town Center developer backs Gerend and Huckabay

PDC (Public Disclosure Committee) filings show R.D. Merrill a Seattle real estate development company, has contributed $25,000 to “Livable Sammamish”, a PAC (political action committee) headed by Gerend and Huckabay.  

Unlike campaign contributions that are limited to $1,000 per person, contributions to a PAC are legally unlimited. PACs can spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose a campaign.

PDC report from Sep. 24 shows Gerend and Huckabay are the officers of “Livable Sammamish”:

In a June 10 Puget Sound Business Journal article, R.D. Merrill announced a partnership with Innovation Reality [STCA], headed by Matt Samwick, to “develop phase 1 of the Town Center – 500 apartments, 24 town homes and 100,00 square, as part of plan for 2,000 homes in the Town Center.“

In August, controversy erupted over the concurrency approval of phase 1.

Artist illustration of portion of the proposed Sammamish Town Center.

The entire Town Center plan calls for 2,000 homes to be built at the Town Center. As we reported, STCA in 2017 tried to convince the city to increase the plan by 1,500 additional homes and 250,000 sq/ft of commercial space, a plan that was quietly killed by the city council then in office. 

This is the first time R.D. Merrill, with $282 million in annual revenues, has gotten involved this heavily in local elections.  PDC archives show R.D. Merrill made only nine political contributions in the last 10 years, averaging just $381 per contribution.  

Gerend opposing current city council  

In July, Gerend filed legal action to undo the current city council’s concurrency regulation. It is currently on hold for 90 days per Gerend’s request.  

Gerend is represented in this case by Duana Kolouskova who “has also successfully represented groups of private developers and property owners in challenging attempts by local jurisdictions to impose regulations or fees that either have a disproportionate impact or artificially limit or preclude growth” according to her online bio. 

Kolouskova also represents Matt Samwick, the owner of STCA / Innovation Realty.

Washington State Division of Corporations lists Kolouskova as the registered agent of Plateau Investments LLC, while has the same Oregon address as Innovation Realty Partners, LLC – both list Samwick as their governor. 

Gerend support for Innovation Realty / STCA

In a July 22 op-ed posted on the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce’s blog, Gerend said: 

“The most important issue is to see that the town center is created as the community and as past councils envisioned and approved. I’m thrilled that someone [STCA] aggregated the parcels to make a cohesive development consistent with community’s and council’s vision.”

Gerend and Huckabay were also in attendance in the private dinner hosted by STCA and the Chamber at City Plaza:

Don Gerend, Jason Ritchie seen at STCA party at City Plaza, Sep. 15

City Council candidates Karen Howe and Karen McKnight also attended the event.  Howe posted a picture with King County Dow Constantine at the event. 

Karen Howe, Dow Constantine at STCA party

Gerend endorsed McKnight, Indapure and Howe 

Gerend and Huckabay have endorsed Karen McKnight, Rituja Indapure and Howe.  Both made money contributions to Indapure and Huckabay also contributed to McKnight’s campaign.

A picture from McKnight’s Facebook page with Gerend:

Karen McKnight thanks Don Gerend for his support

A picture from Indapure’s Facebook page seeing with Gerend and former mayors Bob Keller and Tom Vance. 

Facing residents’ PAC

Opposing Gerend’s “Livable Sammamish” is the residents’ PAC called “Sammamish Life”, headed by Michael Scoles. (www.samm-life.com).  “Sammamish Life” has raised $38,000 from 19 Sammamish residents, including a large $25,000 check from Wally Pereya, a well known local environmentalist. 

Gerend: “excited about this firm [R.D. Merill]”

Gerend told the Comment: “I am very excited about the contribution from this firm [R.D. Merill] which develops housing for seniors amongst other types. Check out their project in the U District.”

R.D. Merrill did not respond to a request for comments. 

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