Perspectives: Sara Houpis

Eyes on Sammamish

This is part of our continuing series of interviews with people who live in and/or are connected to Sammamish, providing their perspective on what is happening on key issues in the community.  Responses may be edited for length and flow.

Sara Houpis has lived in Sammamish for four years and for the last year and half has owned a State Farm insurance agency in the city.

What are the key issues facing the Sammamish business community and/or community as a whole?
For business it’s lack of competition in commercial real estate. Prices are high because of very few owners. Three strip malls are owned by one company, there’s a lack of space or options for places to go and it’s expensive. It really makes it difficult for businesses to open here.

How would you describe your view of how Sammamish is dealing with that?
Nothing is really happening, that’s the frustrating part. One group of people wants to have more commercial space — the town center — and the other, who are in charge, are against it. I think those in charge are answering to a minority because most people don’t get involved. The people who speak the loudest are heard.

What improvements are needed?
As a resident of Sammamish, I don’t leave on a daily basis. I don’t like to go to Issaquah or Redmond to buy a gift for a birthday party in Sammamish. It’s at least a 20-minute excursion no matter which way you go. I would like to see the town center and not see people have to leave the plateau for business.

What's the #1 positive thing going on?
I like having people from all over — the diversity is great. I love the neighborhood I live in. I love the trees, and the top-notch parks. We have beautiful parks.

What's the #1 frustration? 
It’s the city council, and the lack of anything happening that isn’t related to traffic. There are other things we need to be talking about, like airbnb’s in neighborhoods.

How do people in Sammamish get their news about what's going on in the community, and how is that working?
There are a couple of Facebook pages that say they are for Sammamish, but it’s the same people with the same opinions. There are a lot of professionals who are living here, people busy living their lives who don’t have the time for that. I don’t think Facebook is the best way to get information out; it’s all just people’s opinions. There are never two sides of the story, and it’s usually not right, but you don’t know what’s really going on unless you know the other side.

What do you think of the moratorium on new development?
The building that has caused supposed traffic issues is still going on. Those developments were approved years ago.

The moratorium is only affecting the town center and preventing the city from moving forward. I don’t consider Sammamish as having a major traffic problem. We’re trying to act like we’re still a city of 30,000 people. We have to get over the idea that we’re a small rural community. People act like they care so much for Sammamish, but they don’t do business here, and a lot of that is because we have no options. Business owners would like to own their own businesses instead of just paying increasing rents, but they can’t.

Looking to the future, how do you think Sammamish will be operating a year from now?  Better or worse?
I think things will be exactly the same. Watching the cattiness and downright disrespect at the city council, the “I’m not going to listen to anything you say,” is embarrassing.

The majority on the council doesn’t want the town center, while the businesses that were relying on it lose their life savings, and people drive off the plateau for business. We who work in Sammamish, who live here, our kids go to school here, we’re the bad guys because we want the city to have more to offer.

I’ve lived in other cities that have something similar to the town center and it’s amazing. I don’t understand why some people are so against being able to see a movie in Sammamish, have some more restaurants. I would love to have senior housing so people can downsize and stay in the community and be able to walk to breakfast or walk to the store.

We’re going to have traffic during rush hour like every other city. We’ve taken other cities’ problems as ours as an excuse to not move forward. I lived in the Bay area a long time. This is not bad traffic.