City Council hears specifics on demographics, economic challenges
May 17, 2013
By Ari Cetron
New: May 17, 2:19 p.m.
Sammamish leaders already knew that the city was unusually youth and family oriented. Now they have the numbers to back it up.
Chris Mefford of consulting firm Community Attributes, made the latest in a series of presentations to the City Council’s Economic Development Committee May 14 on an economic study his firm is conducting.
Among the latest round of data Mefford presented information about the relative ages of residents and family size. Almost one-third of the city’s population is under 18. But then, there’s a big dip in the curve. Sammamish has a low number of people in their 20s and early 30s, Mefford said.
Along the same vein, he noted there is a dearth of the one- or two-bedroom apartments and condos in the city, where people in that age group would be most likely to live.
Mefford wondered aloud about the reasoning there. Whether people that age would want to live here, and there’s no opportunities to do so, or if there’s limited options because people that age don’t want to live in Sammamish.
Councilmembers at the meeting seemed accepting of that demographic bubble. They note that once those younger people start having families, they look to live in Sammamish.
Fifty-six percent of Sammamish families have children in the house, compared to King County as a whole, which has 29 percent. About 40 percent of Sammamish households have four or more people, compared to 20 percent in King County as a whole, Mefford said.
Once people move in and start having children, Mefford noted, they keep having children. He said the city may have the highest family size in the state. For now though, the city doesn’t really have the sorts of entertainment options that twenty-somethings are after, and city leaders seemed comfortable with that.
“I don’t think we want night clubs or night life,” said Councilwoman Nancy Whitten.
The city is also generally wealthier and better educated than the county as a whole, according to Mefford’s data. The median income is 60 percent higher that the county, and the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 50 percent higher than the county.
Who works here?
Mefford then went on to take a deeper look at Sammamish’s employment picture. According to a host of data sources, Mefford said there are 21,400 people in Sammamish who work. Of those, 20,700 work outside the city. According to the math, that means only 700 people live and work in Sammamish. Of the 4,600 jobs located in Sammamish, 3,900 are filled by people who live outside the city, Mefford said.
“Most people who work here don’t live here,” he said.
Mayor Tom Odell noted that many jobs in Sammamish are service industry jobs, such as retail or restaurant employment. People in those jobs are unlikely to make enough to afford to live in the city, Odell said.
He though the city should try and find ways to increase the amount of office space so that professionals, maybe those who already live in Sammamish, could have places to work as well.
Enticing more Sammamish residents to work on the plateau would likely reduce traffic, and could also help local businesses since there would be more customers around on the plateau during the day.
Mefford said this sort of dynamic might mean there’s a space for co-working, where a group of small businesses can share an office space.
Even with these added spaces, and including the office space envisioned in the Town Center plan, Sammamish is likely to retain its character as a bedroom community, Mefford said.
Mefford plans to present another set of materials to the committee, including a draft plan for possible actions to the committee June 11. The final version of the plan is due to go to the whole City Council in late October. It would then be up to the council to act on the plan.