Where should young nature lovers live on the Seattle Eastside?
November 13, 2012 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Young couple moving to Seattle area: where to live (rent) with great views, relative serenity, but close to civilization?

We are moving from Manhattan. We can count the number of times we've been out to fine dining, theatre, museums, culture in general, on approximately 0.2 hands in six months. We're not complete homebodies, and like to get out to a bar or nightclub occasionally, and she does like to sit and read in the coffee shop.

This lifestyle may change, but I'm guessing not. More interesting is being close to nature. Panoramic views are a huge plus.

I have the option of working in Fremont or Kirkland. She hasn't found work yet, but doesn't mind commuting as much as I do. One option is to live in Fremont and use the saved commute time to drive to the mountains more frequently (presumably on the weekends).

A better option may be to live in a place with views like this so that every night when we come home we're in heaven. And it's right in the thick of hiking trails, it seems.

Trouble is, that (Talus) is a 25 min drive to Kirkland. Are there places that are closer, but still as epic?

I've lived in Seattle before, but haven't explored the Eastside much. Now that I'm a little more domestic, I figure I might give it a try. Can we beat Talus?

If not, I might bank that 250 min/week of commute and check out what Fremont has to offer. That farmers market ain't bad :)
posted by Talisman to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you aren't into Fremont, but can afford Queen Anne, it's right nearby and has a fantastic view of the city all around. I really miss living there for a summer.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:40 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're working for Google, yes? If you have a choice, absolutely do not work in Kirkland. If you choose to live anywhere near civilization, the commute to Kirkland will make you want to kill yourself. There are lots of places in Seattle with magnificent views of Elliot Bay, the Cascades, and the Olympics (and yes, you can find an apartment with a view of all three). How much can you afford to pay in rent?
posted by halogen at 6:56 PM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Also, how do you plan to commute? Bus? Bike? Drive?
posted by halogen at 6:57 PM on November 13, 2012

Yes, absolutely seconding Queen Anne. I live right on the strip in Lower Queen Anne. and it's pretty nice and quiet but still extremely close to basically everywhere fun or useful in the city, while still being pretty much surrounded by trees. If you like walking around, there are some seriously awesome staircases all the way up the hill (I know, right? Staircases. But they're pretty old and can drop you off right in front of some beautiful views!). Bonus for you: buses to Fremont are often and brief. It is a little pricey (though you are coming from Manhattan...); expect around $900-$1500 for an average-nice 1-bdrm apartment, with an upper price ceiling of infinity, depending on what part of the hill you're on.
posted by zinful at 6:57 PM on November 13, 2012

If you want serenity, Queen Anne and Fremont are pretty densely populated and planes regularly fly low over these neighborhoods (you can see the landing gear on a good day).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:59 PM on November 13, 2012

I live in Lower Queen Anne, and the Boeing Field approaches are indeed over the the water and A Seatac approach is over Montlake or maybe over Capital Hill. That said, we're far enough north of both that neither is a nuisance for being relatively high altitude-- I rarely notice them. There's also some cross-town low altitude traffic from the float-plane airline that runs tours and local flights out of Lake Union (and Kirkland too), but it's relatively rare. There's more truck traffic on Mercer St, so I never try to talk on the phone when I'm along there, and Elliott Way/15th is still gridlocked during the rush, but the hilltop is a good place to live. It's closer to the world than Magnolia, easy access to Ballard, which is where life sometimes happens instead of downtown, certainly close to Seattle Center for the few times a year that's a place to go.

Don't know how long you've been gone, but the Mercer access to I-5 is worse than ever thanks to construction, even though Mercer is now a two-way street east of Aurora. "The Mercer Mess" is not even half finished and the disease of construction will spread onto Mercer next to Seattle Center, and also mess-up 99-- they'll be screwing with the tunnel.

If you choose Kirkland, I'd consider some place like Lake Forest Park, where you can get off the main roads and zip around the lake to Kirkland. If you're in town, I'd say either west ballard for the view and commute to Fremont, or upper QA Hill.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:39 PM on November 13, 2012

Given your conditions, I don't think you'll do better than the Issaquah/Talus area. There is a lot of money out there so that's going to be hands down the best option for being in the mountains and near civilization's modern conveniences.

Having said that, one minor drawback of living there is that you're close to the outdoor recreation in the I-90 corridor, but those are always the most crowded areas, and it's less convenient for you to get up to the Hwy 2 corridor or Darrington, out to the Olympic Peninsula, and many of the other fantastic options in the region. Certainly not out of reach, but maybe not as easy as from a more centralized location. Were it me, I'd opt to live in Seattle proper, close to the everyday things like restaurants, shopping and nightlife, and within striking distance of outdoor options in all directions. In the summer you can cut out of work a couple hours early, drive out I-90, climb Mt. Si, and make it back to your car before dark. In the wintertime it's going to be dark and rainy in the morning on the way to work and dark and rainy in the evening on the way home, so enjoying the outdoors will pretty much be a weekend thing exclusively, and that's when it's nice to have urban amenities nearby.

But again, given your conditions, I think you've found your best option, and I think you'd love it there.
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:39 PM on November 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far!

I lived in a downtown (Denny Triangle) high rise with pretty incredible views of Rainier, the Sound, the Olympics, and the Needle. Within the city, I'm sure I can't beat that. (Actually if I could sneak in the Cascades to the east... but I'm not looking to spend $4k/mo.)

Something about having mountains and forest (like the link I gave) view really puts me in a profound ease, and it sounds like I won't get that anywhere closer than Talus. And to be able to walk out my back door and be in the middle of nowhere is a dream of mine. I can get a whiff of that somewhere like Ravenna Park, but it's not quite the same.

So it sounds like I've narrowed it down to Fremont/Queen Anne or Talus. I was hoping something like Sammamish might have what I'm looking for, but it looks like probably not. Mercer Island may still sneak in there as an option, with more greenery than the city.

If I can stomach 50 min of commute every day, I'll probably go with Talus.
posted by Talisman at 9:29 PM on November 13, 2012

Places in Seattle city borders are more likely to have unbelievable water views than unbelievable mountain views.

I love Queen Anne. If I had as much money as I wanted, I'd live there.

Another neighborhood in Seattle that has gorgeous views is Madison Park. Houses there start at half a million, and it's kind of a pain to get anywhere outside the neighborhood, but it's pretty. I'd look for houses there if finances allow.

I also like West Seattle, if you can score a water view. There are mountains across the water on clear days. It's more affordable than Queen Anne AND Madison Park, but it's also worse of a commute. Plus, there are some problems with viaduct creating noise right now...

I grew up on Mercer Island. Some of the houses are beautiful. Some are crap but expensive anyway. I think you'd get a better deal in another place, if you don't have kids and don't care about Mercer Island's excellent public schools.

I would not want a 50 minute commute everyday. Seattle's traffic is very unpredictable. It took me 70 minutes to drive what would normally be a 20 minute drive. It wasn't even really rush hour anymore. But it was raining. (And Seattleites do NOT know how to drive in the rain. And yes, it rains a lot. It's actually kind of funny until you have to deal with it.)

Fremont and Kirkland... Kirkland is the office that has a lot more families. Kirkland is an especially family friendly place. But if you're single, young, or just want to go out and meet people more often, you'll want to be in the Fremont office. (Assuming you're going to work at Google, Fremont's more awesome anyway.)
posted by ethidda at 11:42 PM on November 13, 2012

Seattle's traffic is very unpredictable.

Seconding that one! Where I live I should be able to hop on I-5 and get to work in 9 minutes (according to Google). But I routinely leave a half an hour to get to work, because you just cannot tell how it's going to be. It could be a straight shot in the middle of what should be rush hour, or it could be a parking lot at noon on a Sunday with clear weather and no roadwork.

Your 50-minute commute will likely be an hour and a half commute *or more* at least some of the time. And it's going to suck to top off a long stressful workday with a long stressful commute. Why not save all that time and gas and just go camping and hiking on the weekends, and enjoy the scenery that way?
posted by parrot_person at 12:17 AM on November 14, 2012

If you're working in Fremont, Ballard (including the north Ballard neighborhoods of Sunset Hill and North Beach) can have beautiful views of the water and the Olympics across the Sound and aren't a terrible commute. In addition to the great advice you've already gotten, I would say consider what kind of culture you want to be surrounded by (other than the trees). You lived Downtown and you live in Manhattan, both areas with significantly more variety and character than Talus. Talus is a master-planned community from start to finish, so lots of tract housing, homeowners' rules and sterility. Even the trails have been planned and are groomed. And to get that view you want, you'll have to find something on the very outskirts of the community--much of the interior has been cleared to make room for housing. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, if that's what you want. Just something to think about. There's some rugged, outdoorsy feel to the lifestyle out there, but mostly a suburban family feel to the area. Tiger mountain and Cougar mountain are both popular and, especially in the summer, crowded places to hike. Being more centralized in the city does allow more options for weekend excursions, but when it comes to the weekend, the entire Puget Sound is full of options, so I don't think one or the other is better in that sense.
posted by weeyin at 9:10 AM on November 14, 2012

Interlake/Montlake and North Capitol Hill (Volunteer Park) have a lot of green areas - I live near the St Mark's greenbelt/Harvard Ave historical preservation district and have an epic view of lake union and lots of steep forest. Quieter and nicer than Queen Anne in my very humble opinion, probably in the same $$ bracket.
posted by par court at 12:59 PM on November 14, 2012

How about Magnolia near Discovery Park? Five minutes into the park and you really don't feel like you're in the city, though you will have a lot of fellow hikers in the summer. But it's a very quiet neighborhood, and pretty close to Fremont. It's also reasonably priced, due to its quietness.
posted by lunasol at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2012

I agree Talus is beautiful.

However the statement "that (Talus) is a 25 min drive to Kirkland" will almost never be true.
Talus is a 25 min drive to Kirkland at 2:00 AM, is a correct statement. Average is probably 30-60 minutes

So you're not looking at adding 50 minutes a day, you're probably looking at closer to 1.5-2 hours a day.

I live and work in Seattle after years of living in Seattle and working on the east side.
My quality of life is so improved not being in my car constantly.

Great views abound everywhere in Seattle. Magnolia, Wallingford, Montlake, Capital Hill, Seward Park, Leschi, Laurelhurst, et al..
posted by patrickje at 2:37 PM on November 14, 2012

Response by poster: For all the years I lived in Seattle, I made it a point not to have to drive far for work. The furthest distance was probably Mercer & Fairview to Beacon Hill (a few miles on I-5), and the most time was Denny Triangle to Fremont (maybe 11 min on Westlake). All at off-peak hours.

So I've never had to experience Seattle traffic, amazingly. If indeed even 25 min is unlikely, then Talus is definitely out. No way I'm consistently spending > 1hr in the car per day!

Within the city, I'm fine with many of the views. Overlooking semi-pristine wilderness was that little (okay, big) something extra for me, but it looks like that may not happen until I retire (or find a job close to Talus).

So given that I'll likely live much closer to work, I'll optimize for other things -- like being near friends, most of whom are west of the lake. That will probably now be the deciding factor, actually.

I'll also glance at Kirkland living, since I'm not above being in suburbia. If it's the occasional (once every other week?) bar and/or coffee shop, I'm sure it has that. I know it's hard to imagine, but in the 6+ years I lived in Seattle, I never once went to Benaroya, Moma (despite living in Harbor Steps), or even a single show. Fine dining maybe 3 times. Yes, there are people in the world this uncultured. Scary, I know :)
posted by Talisman at 5:21 PM on November 14, 2012

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