Seattle pros and cons: ‘I will never not be in awe’

Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The Evergrey community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about with the community in a Your View piece, please submit it to [email protected].

What would you attack about Seattle, and what would you defend about it? 

‘The Seattle Process is frustrating to no end’

I moved to Seattle in 2011 from the cultural and otherwise desert of Phoenix. I felt a boundless optimism about moving to a place near water, trees, and mountains. The attitude of people here was different than what I had experienced in Phoenix. I remember telling friends back home that my favorite thing about Seattle so far was that there was a baseline understanding and appreciation for technology that Phoenix and its snowbird desert dwellers had never exhibited. That optimistic feeling lasted about two years.

Something has changed since then, and it’s most likely not just one root cause. The overall personality of the city seems deeply cynical and pessimistic. Cost of living is rising dramatically, and that tension drives subtle behaviors that many people might not even notice. It also motivates a desire to “do something” and preserve that nostalgically symbolic Seattle that probably never even existed. I’ve learned the only constants in this city are change and opposition to change.

Seattle as a city and collection of people has to be able to absorb that change more quickly. But the Seattle Process (I laugh every time I remember there’s an actual Wikipedia article for this) is frustrating to no end for its hellaciously slow deliberation and results that satisfy no one. I don’t like that the city is becoming denser and more and more people are moving here and traffic is terrible and everything is more expensive.

But if there are things I like about Seattle, and I chose to move here because of them, why wouldn’t others? If I’m to accept this growth and change, let’s at least be forward-thinking about how we do it. Seattle needs more innovative approaches to governance, to cultural outreach, to urban planning, to financial management, to building lives and families and communities. We’ve gone ever further in the direction of building consensus, but I think the opposite approach is what will set this city free from its self-imposed pessimistic outlook.

‘I will never not be in awe of the views here’

When I was a kid growing up in the desert, I used to fantasize about one day living somewhere with water. Like a child wanting to leave the small town for dreams in the big city, it never actually seemed possible. But here I am, and the longer I live in Seattle, the harder it becomes to even consider leaving the water and green.

There’s a particular time of year when the temperature warms, and the clouds aren’t so oppressive, and signs of summer are blooming everywhere. The anticipation of warmth and sunshine is palpable to everyone. For me, though, the most important marker of that utopian season is the first whiff of salty air that drifts from the shipping canal to my apartment in Ballard. When I first moved here, I made a habit of opening my window at night and breathing as deeply as possible that smell. It’s that feeling I get that confirms I’m actually living out the waterside dream.

The truly amazing thing is how much more Seattle has to offer than just the water. I’ve often wished I could pull my car over on the I-90 bridge on a sunny day to revel in the fact that I can see multiple snow-capped volcanoes while atop a beautiful lake. There are certain hills in the city where you can see the Cascades, the Olympics, the city skyline, Mount Rainier, and Mount Baker just by spinning in a circle. I will never not be in awe of the views here—except when it’s too cloudy to see them. But that’s the tradeoff. And the longer I live here, the more I’m happy to make that trade.

(Published in 2017 by members of The Evergrey Writing Group; updated 2021)