Sammamish 1955

The City of Sammamish, Washington Incorporates on August 31, 1999

After a decade of wrangling, one failed vote for incorporation and an unsuccessful attempt to incorporate with Issaquah, voters on November 3, 1998 approve the incorporation of the City of Sammamish out of an area on the Plateau just east of Lake Sammamish. The city formally incorporates on August 31, 1999.

For many years the area due east of Lake Sammamish, nearly 20 miles east of Seattle, was referred to simply as “The Plateau”. First inhabited by white settlers in the 1890s, the area for many years consisted of a few small farms, some large chicken and dairy farms, several logging mills and, by the middle of the 20th century, a few resorts, such as French’s La Pine Resort (better known as Pine Lake Resort) on Pine Lake.

Development began spreading on the Plateau in the mid 1970s and by the mid 1980s was accelerating dramatically as Seattle’s suburbs sprawled eastward. Before long local residents were complaining that King County was not providing the appropriate services as growth continued unchecked on the Plateau, which led to increasing interest in incorporation by the late 1980s.

In 1991 the first vote came when voters rejected a proposition to annex to Issaquah the southern end of the Sammamish Plateau (south of Southeast 8th, east to area ending roughly around 260th Southeast). That same year, Redmond included the north end of the Plateau (north of Southeast 8th, and west of-- again roughly-- 244th Northeast) in a long-range annexation plan. The plan was hotly contested and was debated for over a year before being abandoned.

In 1992 East Sammamish area voters first put the incorporation issue on the ballot. Proponents argued that it would give the area the infrastructure it needed to grow, more efficiently manage tax dollars and preserve the community. Opponents argued that it would actually be cheaper and more efficient to annex to Redmond and Issaquah and take advantage of the established government services in these cities.

On September 15, 1992 over 9,300 area voters (just over half of those registered) defeated the incorporation proposition. Preliminary results released in the October 1992 Sammamish Review showed the measure failed by a significant margin: 58.4 to 41.6 percent.

Incorporation proponents were surprised by the breadth of the defeat and while there initially was talk of quickly bringing the issue to vote again, there was actually little action for the next several years. However, by 1997 the drive to incorporate was again gaining momentum. Area activists formed two groups in 1997 to gain support for incorporation. These two groups, SHOUT (Sammamish Home Owners and Renters United) and SING (Sammamish Incorporation Neighborhoods Group) helped generate significant publicity for the incorporation issue and kept it moving forward to an eventual vote.

By the summer of 1998, the incorporation drive was picking up speed. In June a feasibility study was released by King County that concluded that a new city in the area would be self-supporting and with a healthy annual tax surplus. Also by the summer of 1998, Redmond had gone on record as no longer having an interest in annexing the northern half of the Sammamish Plateau, while Issaquah had no further plans to consider annexation of the southern half of the Plateau before 2013 at the earliest.

On November 3, 1998 nearly 8,000 eligible voters voted to create the City of Sammamish by a comfortable margin of about 67 percent to 33 percent. Ironically, in spite of the publicity leading up to the vote, turnout was nearly 15% lower than in the 1992 election, even though the Plateau’s population had grown during the 1990s.

At midnight on August 31, 1999, incorporation took effect and Sammamish became its own city, with a city council and a police department, a zip code (but no post office, a problem that persists today (2005)) no downtown and a “city hall” located in the Sammamish Highlands Mall--in short, Sammamish was born with the same ancillary problems that any new suburban city faces when it first splits off from the mother county. Since 1999 Sammamish has come a long way toward resolving these problems. For example, in June 2005 ground was broken for the development of Sammamish Commons, a civic and park complex at 228th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 8th. Scheduled for completion in the summer of 2006, this will be home to Sammamish’s new city hall.

During the incorporation process in 1998 and 1999 there was considerable debate over what to name the new city of about 28,000. While Sammamish was favored by many there was serious discussion on other names: Sahalee, Inglewood, Pine Lake, Heaven (a proposition quickly withdrawn)—even Monohon, in a nod to the vibrant logging community that was on the southeast shore of Lake Sammamish in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sammamish won the name game and stuck with its original name, which is a Native American name derived from samma, meaning “the sound of the blue crane” and mish, meaning “river”.

---Phil Dougherty
September 5, 2005

“Feasibility Study: YES”, SHOUT for SAMMAMISH, August 1998, p. 1;
“Pros and Cons” (of incorporation), Sammamish Review, September 1992, p. 15;
Melissa London, “Voters quash Sammamish incorporation bid”, Sammamish Review, October 1992, p. 1, 2;
Dave Herman, “Cityhood for Sammamish”, Sammamish Review, November 1998, p. 1;
Dave Herman, “Now entering Sammamish, Wash.”, Sammamish Review, September 1, 1999, p. 1;
Robert Hitchman, Place Names of Washington, Tacoma, WA: Washington State Historical Society

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