Live in Sammamish for the schools and then get out
Sammamish: The best place to live in Washington. Or at least that’s the latest hype about the city. Similar rankings often pop into my email boasting of the city’s affordability, or even how much cheaper it is to buy a car there. In short, the best.
“Really?!” John Curley exclaimed when I told him this. “By what standards? It’s got great schools, it’s well-to-do, it has a great community center. But it’s a plateau and it’s a pain in the butt to get off of, and it’s a pain in the butt to get back onto.”
Curley lives there and is a former council member. Gee Scott has lived there for more than two years. They’re both residents, and each carry different perspectives. They, however, agree when it comes to living there.
“I do think that Sammamish is the best place to raise your kids … you don’t need a car to get around in the Sammamish area,” Gee said. “All the time, you see a bunch of kids in neighborhoods, walking into town. In the summer time is pretty cool for the kids, you have Lake Sammamish right there.”
“Now, when my kids are done in school, which is in a couple years, see ya!” he added.
This is not meant to be a dig at the city or the people who live there. I grew up in the area. It was boring, to say the least, and I could go on with other very negative criticisms. But it’s not like it’s different from most any other suburb.
On the other hand, it’s understandable why some people are drawn to the area — family. Nearly half of all households in the city have children and 77 percent of households have married couples.
What isn’t as understandable is the claim that it’s the best place to live in Washington state. It’s frequently rated as the best place to live by Money Magazine, CNN Money, or Forbes (consider the sources, you can draw your own conclusions).
I asked these two KIRO Radio hosts and Sammamish residents to weigh in. Two very different Sammamishites. Sammamishonians … Sammamishers? But before that, feel free to weigh in with your own opinion below.
“Great schools,” Curley said. “People move there for the schools.”
“My kids go to Eastside Catholic,” Gee said. “It was a family decision and I wanted them to live very close to where they went to school …. When you are getting ready for the ACT and the SAT, even though Eastide Catholic is private, that school system gets you prepared – very good test scores.”
“Unbelievably safe,” Curley said. “When I was a council member, the biggest problem we would get was ‘there’s a dead raccoon on the side of the road.’ And we were quick to respond.”
“I’ll tell you something that stands out about Sammamish,” Gee said. “I love the fact that if you call the police, the police will be there at your house in 30 seconds. I had a situation where I had a knock at my door at 4:30 in the morning. It was the police. He says, ‘We caught somebody going through your car.’ Well, the neighbor saw them going through my car in the middle of the night. The police were called. The police were on the scene before the person who was going through my car was done. That’s how fast the police response time is in Sammamish. So if you want to do crime, Sammamish is not the place to do it.”
“As far as the stores are concerned, they don’t have anything that stands out,” Gee said. “They have basic stores, Trader Joe’s, Safeway, places to get your oil changed, a couple gas stations, a McDonald’s.”
“Shopping?!” John said. “Are we talking about the QFC or the Safeway? Or maybe Met Market, they’ve got candles, overpriced almond milk … and we don’t call them strip malls, they are ‘open air shopping village experiences’ with really, really good parking.”
“We have hardly any good restaurants,” Curley said. “I think we give Federal Way a run for its money when it comes to fast food. If you’ve done the Jack in the Box and the McDonald’s, why not head over to Domino’s. They’re all within a stone’s throw of each other.”
“They close early,” Gee said. “They are closed at like 9 or 9:30 p.m. … they’ve got the Sammamish café, and they’ve got the Ale House. Those places close early, even on the weekends. As far as food and the restaurants, out of 10, I’d give it a 3. I’ll say this, the food there needs more seasoning.”
“It’s not as expensive as Bellevue, it’s not as expensive as Kirkland, or Clyde Hill or Medina,” Gee said. “But it’s spendy to live there. I would not move there thinking about affordability. You are paying for the school system. If you own a house there, you are paying good property taxes.”
“The median income in 2009, was $135,000, I don’t know what it is now,” Curley said. “Affordable? You can get a 4,000-square-foot house, brand new, for $1.4 million. And the beauty of it is you can know exactly what your neighbor is cooking for dinner; you can smell it because they are 15 feet away. You have a $1 million house and you can look across and see the guy’s Levi waist band size, which is about a 36, average size in Sammamish.”
Note: According to the latest census data (2017), the median family income is $157,271.
What is there to do?
“Nothing,” Gee said. “No nightlife at all. There’s more night life in Redmond than there is in Sammamish. There is more night life in Issaquah.”
“Well, when your kids are young, you go to a soccer field and drink $9 lattes from Starbucks, and you watch your 7-year-old kick another 7-year-old in the shins while you read Facebook,” Curley said. “That’s when they are young … I don’t know what people do there otherwise. I go to work, then I go to the gym … there’s the Pine Lake Ale House where you can get a fried chicken sandwich. There’s no nightlife. Pine Lake Ale House is the restaurant people go to.”
“If you have a family with young kids, Sammamish is a great place to go,” Gee said. “If it’s just you and your significant other, hell no, Sammamish is not the place to go. It’s nice, it’s pretty plain. If you’re looking for excitement, this is not what you want. Sammamish, you get consistency, not excitement.”
“It’s a great place for families, but realize your children are going to be surrounded by very, very wealthy children and you really have to make sure that you have a solid foundation so your child is not swept up in the materialism that is all around them,” Curley said. “I’m talking about kids getting brand new cars for their birthday and going to school, or racing around on boats on Lake Sammamish. They are going to be surrounded by money and hopefully they got some strong values.”