What neighborhoods should I consider in Seattle?
May 1, 2012 11:40 AM   Subscribe

If I'm moving to Seattle from NYC this summer and have time to scope out ~3 neighborhoods on a quick upcoming trip, where should I start? I'm having trouble squaring good advice I see online with my commute situation, which is that I intend to take the Software Company shuttle bus to Redmond.

- Some neighborhoods that might be a good fit, like Ballard, seem like a miserable commute. How do I balance that?
- Because a toll was recently instituted on the bridge, changing traffic patterns, no one seems sure how long it takes to get to the Eastside anymore.

Here are some things I'm looking for in a neighborhood:
- I need to be someplace walkable. After 10+ years in NYC, I know how to drive only in theory. I don't have a car and don't really want one.
- Good restaurants (esp. farm to table, new American style) and bars that have good wine (not necessarily a wine bar, just not a beer bar + Sutter Home).
- Reasonable proximity to opera/classical/ballet venues downtown, so that I could see a concert on a weeknight and not get home after midnight.
- Some population of single people (not "all strollers, all the time").
- But not only twentysomethings, especially hard-partying twentysomethings (Is this contradictory? I'm recently single again and not sure if other single thirtysomethings actually exist.)
- I'd like to be near some kind of park where I could run 3-5 miles if the weather is nice enough.
- My target price is $1600-1700 and I'd like to find a two bedroom or one bedroom + den so I can have an office with a sleeper sofa for guests.
- FWIW, I currently live in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn and like it.

Things I don't do frequently enough that I need to live near them:
- Clubbing/meatmarket type scenes
- Avant-garde arts
- Live rock/pop music

Anyway, if you'd made it this far, do you have any recommendations for where a classically overeducated, only slightly athletic foodie should consider living?
posted by bradamant to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (36 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Wallingford, Fremont and Belltown.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:50 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Capitol Hill - closer to downtown, not so close to Broadway will get you just about all of your asks.
Queen Anne

I'd love to suggest Wallingford, but traffic between there and everywhere else can be miserable. Not quite as bad as Ballard, but bad.

Green Lake is workable for some folks with your desires because it's central-ish and is richly veined with bus routes, but getting culture on a weeknight and getting home at a reasonable time might not be as convenient as other areas.
posted by batmonkey at 11:51 AM on May 1, 2012

I'm guessing everyone here will suggest Capitol Hill. It has tons of restaurants, is relatively close to the Lake Washington bridge, is a quick drive to downtown, and is well within your price range. Also it is more walkable and has more parks than the north side.
posted by miyabo at 11:51 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I lived in Seattle, currently live in Jersey City, and plan to move back to Seattle at some point. We are thinking of living in Queen Anne (dream location but rather $$$), then possibly Green Lake, Phinney Ridge, South Lake Union.

Where does Company Shuttle pick up? Downtown somewhere?

When I first lived there I was in Belltown, and it used to be I would say "just go live in Belltown" becuase you'd be near a lot of good restaurants, you could go running in Myrtle Edwards park along the waterfront, and there were a lot of young people. It's gone rather downhill in recent years, though, so you might want to reconsider.

We are thinking of South Lake Union for reasons of easy walk to downtown, near a Whole Foods, you can go running near the lake, and there are restaurants in the area now.

Do you want a house? Is an apartment OK? Queen Anne and Green Lake would be our idea spot to buy a house but they are generally pretty $$$$, so that might not actually work for us. Depending how you feel about crazy real estate prices, though, take a look.
posted by lyra4 at 11:52 AM on May 1, 2012

Coming from the relatively flat NYC area...you're aware, right, that Seattle is much hillier? That may or may not affect your walkability criteria.
posted by dfriedman at 11:55 AM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: I'd second Capitol Hill or Queen Anne. Walking distance to downtown, not as loud as Belltown, very walkable, and good transit access to most places. You should also look at Sound Transit bus routes in addition to the Connector - it's often faster/easier to take public transit than the company shuttle.

I think Fremont and Ballard are too much of a pain in the ass to get to via public transit to/from the eastside. U-District and Greenlake would be manageable, but they may be a bit less walkable (obviously depending on exactly where you go).
posted by 0xFCAF at 11:57 AM on May 1, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the replies so fast! Here's a map of the shuttle locations AFAIK: http://binged.it/KsRAXc I'd definitely be looking for a rental apartment to start.

It sounds like Capitol Hill may be the consensus location, which is sort of what I was beginning to conclude from the map, but I kept hearing such different things--stately Victorian homes like Park Slope in Brooklyn! Twentysomethings shouting and puking in the gutter! Huh? It sounds like it's a big place with a different flavor in different parts?

Can anyone give me a sense of the difference between Fremont and Wallingford?

That's a good point about the hills. This is why I'm looking forward to doing some legwork in person. That said, I'm a pretty insane walker even by NYC standards, and I also don't mind the bus.
posted by bradamant at 12:04 PM on May 1, 2012

I'd suggest South Lake Union, but $1,700 wouldn't get you anything other than a studio. Capitol Hill should be available in your price range. Queen Anne and Wallingford are more family-oriented and there's very, very little diversity there – compared to other Seattle neighborhoods – so I'd stay away if that's at all a concern.
posted by halogen at 12:07 PM on May 1, 2012

I haven't lived in Ballard for a while, but I recall the bus commute to downtown was very frequent and quick. It was getting from Ballard to the U that was a living nightmare. Everyone's saying Capitol Hill--I'd just add that if you think you might ever get a car, it can be rough going. Parking is horrible. Plus, it is within walking distance to downtown, but be aware that it's walking distance on a fairly steep high traffic hill.
posted by lovecrafty at 12:07 PM on May 1, 2012

It sounds like it's a big place with a different flavor in different parts?

It's more like everything's on top of each other. One block might be full of stately Victorian homes, and the next full of skeezy bars. Probably the steep hill creates a natural barrier that prevents vomiting 20-year-olds from wandering into the corporate VP's back yard.
posted by miyabo at 12:12 PM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: I live in Capitol Hill and LOVE it, but it's a pretty big neighborhood, with a bunch of mini-neighborhoods. I live near the 15th Ave corridor, which is more like Greenpoint or Park Slope (slightly older and more low-key, mix of families, students and people in their thirties), compared to the Pike-Pine neighborhood (around Pike and Pine between roughly 10th and 13th Aves), which is more like Williamsburg or the Lower East Side.

Anyway, the area around 15th Ave is great - lots of coffeeshops/nice restaurants, proximity to Volunteer Park, and 4 supermarkets in walking distance. Very pretty, too. And if you want more urban intensity, you can just walk down the hill. My only quibble is that this little micro-neighborhood doesn't have a ton of good cheap eats or take-out - it's mostly sit-down places. But again, it's just a 10-minute walk down the hill for that stuff.

I have a friend who lives on the north end of the Broadway strip in Capitol Hill (near Broadway and Republican) and she likes that a lot too, says it's relatively quiet but close to everything.

Seconding the car warning, although that's less of an issue in my part of the neighborhood. But I have off-street parking and never drive anywhere in the neighborhood unless there's parking because I know I'll spend 10 minutes circling the block. I just walk everywhere on the hill - it's good exercise and you'll be used to it coming from NYC.
posted by lunasol at 12:26 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Fremont is a little weirder than Wallingford, I suppose you could say. I think of Wallingford as a bit more "all strollers, all the time" - if you're fine with hippies, Fremont has a lot of what you're looking for and a sense of humor to boot. I do love both neighborhoods, but Wallingford, to me, is a bit more residential/boring.
posted by R a c h e l at 12:27 PM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: Capitol Hill. For your price range you can find a great apartment or even a small house in the north end (look north of E Mercer pretty much anywhere east of Bellevue Ave) and especially along the 15th Ave E corridor. These areas are (relatively) quiet and safe and very pretty, within walking distance to good food, drinks, local distilleries, grocery stores, public transit to downtown, and I think the MSFT shuttle has a stop around there.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:32 PM on May 1, 2012

Fremont is a little weirder than Wallingford, I suppose you could say.

Eh, I heard that Fremont was the hippie neighborhood before I moved here but that seems to have gone by the wayside. I work in Fremont and it's a bit soulless these days, and a total dudebro party scene on weekend evenings. I used to live in Wallingford and it is very family-ish - that's actually the neighborhood in Seattle that I'd say is most like Park Slope. However, it's close to UW, so there are also a lot of grad students, which keeps it a bit more fun.

One thing to be aware of - it's really hard to find an apartment in Fremont or Wallingford, because it's mostly houses. And a lot of the apartment stock that does exist is in the form of beige-carpeted white boxes from the 70s and 80s. Your best bet would be to find a half of a duplex or an old house that's been split up into apartments. But you MIGHT get lucky and find a small house in your budget.

FWIW, you should be fine on your budget on the Hill, or in Fremont or Wallingford.
posted by lunasol at 12:36 PM on May 1, 2012

Capitol hill FTW!
posted by tristeza at 1:22 PM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: I live in Capitol Hill and work at MS, as do many of my friends. Some of them take the shuttle, which is reliable, comfortable and has wifi, but I live at the 545 bus stop and just take that (runs every ten minutes, stops three times between my house and work). There is currently no traffic on 520, although everyone says it'll come back when people get sick of driving around the toll (and I commute an hour or so later than the majority, 10.30- 7.30). I-5 is the worst part of my trip these days, but it's only a half hour each way.

I don't have a car, and I hear parking is pretty bad. There's a couple of zipcar locations within a few blocks of my house if I ever wanted to drive.

My 1 bedroom is <>
I have several friends who are moving from the Hill out to Ballard/Wallingford as they buy a house etc, and they love it there but they complain that it's so hard to get anybody to come over from the Hill. If you want to drive then it's not far away, but it's inconvenient on the bus.
posted by jacalata at 1:28 PM on May 1, 2012

My 1 bedroom is less than $1000, and I expect you could easily find similar if you don't want new granite countertops, or get something pretty nice at the top of your price range.
posted by jacalata at 1:28 PM on May 1, 2012

They are flying you out for your trip, right? If so, just ask the recruiter for the list of shuttle bus stops in Seattle.

I would vote for Capital Hill, Queen Anne, u-district. Fremont is too far.
posted by crazycanuck at 1:37 PM on May 1, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the Wallingford/Fremont distinction (and explanation of why I'm not seeing tons of apt. ads there) and the drilldown on Capitol Hill. That definitely gives me a specific sense of where to start walking around. One thing that is interesting about this relocation is that I've lived in the same city for so long, and now choosing a neighborhood is forcing me to self-identify as one kind of person or another. How weird am I? I'm definitely not a hippie, nor a dudebro. Just a nerd, I guess?

I currently have a pretty hellacious hour-long-each-way commute and pay $1600 for 450sq.ft. on a not-so-nice block, so on the whole this sounds very promising to me. Also, it's nice to hear a MS person describe working 10:30-7:30, because I have this persistent fear it will really be 10:30 to 9:30 or beyond. (I'm more of an 8:30-whenever person, myself.)

Oh, and I'm only just in touch with the relocation/recruiter people so don't have anything from them yet except the shuttle map I linked above. The trip I'm taking soon is actually for a conference for my current job.

One other question while I have your ear: what's the deal on utilities? I only pay electric ($35), internet ($49) and gas ($16). Should I budget for paying a lot more for water/sewer/gas?
posted by bradamant at 2:01 PM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: Water is included in my rent. Electricity is about $30 every two months. I either don't have gas or it is included in my rent (I suspect the hot water is gas but don't know). Internet is retarded and I have basic cable with it which makes my overall bill cheaper, but still about $80/month. I could probably afford to go with one of the slower plans without noticing but haven't bothered yet.

I checked your map against the shuttle stops on the internal website and it looks exactly the same, for the Cap Hill stops at least.

For work hours, that completely depends on your group. My manager leaves at 4.45 pm two days a week to pick up his kid for soccer, but I'm not sure what time he arrives. I arrive at 11am and leave somewhere between 6 and 9. People work from home for the day sometimes, we try and have no meetings on Wednesdays - but I've heard of teams where they have much stricter expectations about being in the office at certain times. The last shuttle leaves Cap Hill at about 9.45am, and leaves work at about 7pm - this is a significant reason I prefer the regular bus but is probably not a factor for most people.
posted by jacalata at 3:12 PM on May 1, 2012

You might want to check Beacon Hill. I lived in Ballard, wish I was still there, but Beacon Hill seems pretty good. Some parts of it feel a bit sketchy, but mostly it's pretty good.

Ballard's a nice part of town, I loved being there, but the house was small and not kept up well (we rented and the landlady was a bit difficult to deal with). (And if you want to get from there to the U, you can take the 75, which goes kind of up and around but gets there.)

And you do want to check your non-shuttle bus options, too. It can interesting sometimes to get places. Bing, Google Maps and the the King County Metro site are also helpful. You also, if you plan to use public transportation much, want to get an ORCA card so you don't need to worry about carrying change for the bus - it's a lifesaver sometimes.
posted by mephron at 6:02 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you only know how to drive in theory, I'll just mention that this particular corner of Wallingford has a perfect Walk Score - 100 out of 100. Any place to live near that would also be a very walkable place.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:39 PM on May 1, 2012

Greenwood, West Seattle and Wallingford. Possibly the Central District.

Note that I left Seattle 4 1/2 years ago, but assuming things haven't changed that much...
posted by jhandey at 7:08 PM on May 1, 2012

With Greenwood and West Seattle, you'd want to be closer to the central business districts. West Seattle's in particular was quite walkable...
posted by jhandey at 7:10 PM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: I'm an ex-Brooklynite and ex-Seattleite.

I lived in and love Queen Anne, but it's not crazy-walkable -- basic services are available but a lot of other stuff is a bus ride away. It's a great place to occasionally use a car. Fremont has a similar problem if you want, say, groceries or a post office. Same for Beacon Hill, Magnolia... lots of places in Seattle meet most needs without a car, but very few meet all needs.

If you are NEVER going to have a car, the only neighborhoods I would consider would be Wallingford or Capitol Hill. Mayyybe Green Lake, but bus service to Green Lake is awful. Even Belltown has a certain lack of services, despite its location (and it's not much like Brooklyn, let me tell you right now.)

Personally I don't like Capitol Hill (it's a bit screaming-nightlifey for me), and despite the "patchwork of neighborhoods" comments (which are accurate), it's mostly like Williamsburg. Wallingford and Prospect Heights are not so far apart, spiritually. A lot of UW professors, grad students, a lot of settled families, good casual nightlife, a giant QFC, beautiful houses...

At your rent range you can basically live wherever, my old 3-bedroom house in Queen Anne was $2000/month and that's a real nice neighborhood.
posted by zvs at 8:02 PM on May 1, 2012

Oh, living within a short walk of downtown Ballard would probably be OK too. Actually it might be a better suggestion. Tons of useful commerce, lots of buses, real great neighborhood feel.
posted by zvs at 8:02 PM on May 1, 2012

AND to your utility questions:

Electric in Seattle is a tiny fraction of NYC. Mine was like $9/month. Gas is similar to NYC.

For my house, water, sewer, garbage and compost totaled to $100/month, after downsizing garbage cans. Apartment rents generally include water/sewer/garbage.

I paid my own heat in my apartment, but it was miniscule (never more than $30/mo or so, if that). My drafty 1300-sq-ft house cost about $400/year to heat.
posted by zvs at 8:05 PM on May 1, 2012

Re: Beacon Hill -- North Beacon Hill is on the Link light rail line. This makes it much more handy to live there without a car. (The #36 bus service there is about as good as it gets in Seattle, too.) You can take Link to Mount Baker and walk over to the shuttle stop on Mt Baker and McClellan, though it is a bit of a hike. (Same with the Genesee stop. The shuttle stops actually seem kind of weirdly placed to me in SE Seattle -- way east of the major bus lines, etc.)

Of course you are well-placed to transfer to any downtown bus from the Link train, so that's another alternative.
posted by litlnemo at 1:12 AM on May 2, 2012

Capitol Hill, no question.
posted by mwhybark at 9:44 AM on May 2, 2012

More on walkability from an east coast transplant: definitely make sure you check out the walk score for any apartment you think about renting - Seattle is mostly made up of residential neighborhoods with "downtowns," unlike east coast cities where residential and commercial stuff is more mixed up together. So for instance, that address that twoleftfeet linked to would be awesome, but I lived just a half a mile away, down the hill and closer to the canal, and I wound up driving almost everywhere. It would have been a pain to live there without a car.

The other thing is proximity to other neighborhoods. If you live in downtown Ballard, it's perfect for a walker, and probably my favorite neighborhood in Seattle (Ballard Ave reminds me a bit of parts of Brooklyn). But if all your friends live in Capitol Hill, your social life will be challenging because the bus routes between the two are a pain.
posted by lunasol at 10:29 AM on May 2, 2012

Response by poster: I don't really know anyone yet in Seattle so I figure I can meet people wherever I end up!

It does seem like everyone loves Ballard, and maybe it would only be 20 minutes extra commute per day (total). Commuting with a seat and wifi would be a lot more productive than the straphanging I currently do.

I think my list of where to scope out is going to be: 1. the 15th Ave. end of Capitol Hill, 2. Wallingford (and hope that there are apartments-not-houses there to look at when the time comes) and 3. Ballard (to see if it's worth the shlep). And add Queen Anne if I have more time.

Thanks again for all these answers--I'm really eager to make this move and sitting around in NYC is making me antsy. Can't wait to check it all out.
posted by bradamant at 12:38 PM on May 3, 2012

Ballard is great, but without a car, you are adding 45 minutes to an hour to your in town get-anywhere time. You can walk to the Pike Place market from Capitol Hill in twenty minutes.
posted by mwhybark at 1:38 PM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

And from Pike Place to Capitol Hill in two hours.
posted by miyabo at 1:39 PM on May 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You can walk from Pike Place to Capitol Hill in less than a half hour, but it's all uphill. That's something to mention to someone who doesn't want to drive, and especially to someone from NYC, which is much flatter.

Seattle is made up of many hills. Old Seattle was down at the bottom of all these hills, and it was only the development of the streetcar, and later the automobile, that begin development at the tops of the hills. All the major hills top out between 400 and 500 feet (the result of a glacier carving its way across the terrain) and almost all of them got streetcar lines around the same time; 1910 to 1920. So much of the charm of Seattle neighborhoods is at the top of these hills, where you'll see many nice Craftsman homes all built around that time and funky little village-like shops originally built at a time when most people didn't drive cars.

The walk score doesn't reflect the change in altitude. You can live halfway up Queen Anne, and on a map it looks like you are only a few blocks from that wonderfully huge QFC supermarket, but trudging up that very steep hill, even for a few blocks, when you're carrying a bag of groceries, won't be as much fun after you've done it every week for a few months.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:09 PM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I bookmarked this when you originally posted and am just now getting back. Did you make a decision?

Given what you've said and your (large for what you want in Seattle) budget, Capitol Hill really seems like it would be the best place. It's hard to see what you would gain from living in Ballard or Wallingford that would justify the extra commuting time and inconvenience.

(I live between Fremont and Wallingford and love it, but I work at the UW, and part of what I love is the easy commute.)
posted by grouse at 5:02 PM on June 1, 2012

Response by poster: Hi, I only saw this much later... but yes, I ended up finding a place in Capitol Hill that's on the same block as a Big Software Company shuttle bus, a very large one bedroom that was actually under my budget. It's going well so far. Thanks for all the input, everyone!
posted by bradamant at 7:20 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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