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Old 07-13-09, 03:04 PM   #1
Jaye
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Seattle area expertise anyone?

Hey guys and girls,

My wife and I have decided that we will be moving to the Seattle area March 1st, 2010. Long story very short is that we have both lived in the Southern CA desert long enough and want to move somewhere else. Our research has led us to pick the PNW, and more specifically near Seattle as I have a job opprotunity in Mercer Island.

My questions are, well pretty much everything. I am not going to have a chance to scout the areas myself so I am hoping that based on the map I posted a picture of you guys can give me some ideas as to which areas would be best and which to avoid.

We are both mid twenties and have a 2 year old daughter, our budget for rent is going to be in the $700-$800 range.

I apreciate any input that anyone has as far as positives, negatives, info about cycling, schools, basically anything you feel like sharing.

Thank you very much in advance.

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Old 07-13-09, 03:43 PM   #2
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Hey Jaye, welcome (soon) to the PNW.

I suppose I'll be the first to tell you, $800/month to house your family is going to be VERY tough to accomplish around here. You have some choices:

- Small apartment in a bad neighborhood close to work
- Nicer apartment or small house 1+ hour commute from work

You'll also find that public transportation pretty much sucks here. If you're a ways outside the city (which you likely will be), you're stuck in your car on our overcrowded freeways for hours a day, or you double your commute time by piecing together rides on our deficient bus/train system. Unfortunately your job is located on pretty much the most expensive real estate around, so likely bike commuting will be out of the question (unless a 40 mile commute appeals to you).

Schools: there's great school districts and bad school districts in the area. As expected, the more affluent the community the better the schools, which kind of plays against your rent budget.

Bicycling: great trails, bike friendly area for the most part, but you've got to get used to riding in the rain, otherwise the bike is parked in the garage way too much.

Man, I'm really not painting a great picture here am I. I've lived here for 25 years, absolutely love it, and never want to move. I'm just going to have to recollect exactly why that is ...

Good luck with your move and your decision.
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Old 07-13-09, 05:11 PM   #3
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Well, I'm not going to be *quite* as pessimistic as Wristwister, but the simple fact is that he's not far wrong. Your budget for rent is going to make it very tough to find anyplace where you'd want to be raising a child. I'd suggest that you look in the Renton and/or Kent area, myself. You'll be a fair ways from work, but both those have major transit centers used by thousands every day.

You can be very successful here in a multimodal commute. Drive to the bus stop, put the bike on the bus and ride it to your stop-off point, then bike the rest of the way. Yes, Mercer Island is not a great place to try to approach from a mass transit point of view, but there is a good bike trail (the I-90 trail) that goes straight across the thing.

If you can swing a rent about double what you're budgeting now, you can probably find a better place. Sorry about that.
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Old 07-13-09, 06:25 PM   #4
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Renton, Kent, Tukwila, Skyway. cheap rent, marginal neighborhoods but nothing like bad LA.

the ride to MI will take one hour, hour and a half tops.


you absolutely have to come up at look at apartments next spring. but check craigs list right now if you want.

like the other poster said, if you can even afford a twice that, you can live in Seattle in a real cool neighborhood but with sub 800 you've got few quality choices.

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Old 07-13-09, 08:34 PM   #5
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Doubling my rent budget is simply not possible. There seems to be plenty of places on craigslist in Kent, Renton, Lakewood, etc in our budget. I am more concerned with neighborhood quality than I am commute time but of course both are factors. I have a bit of time obviously so I am trying to do my homework.

Thanks for the input and for any additional that anyone has to offer.
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Old 07-13-09, 09:44 PM   #6
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Kent, Renton, Burien, Tukwila, etc are all reasonably close to Mercer Island. You will curse yourself (your family will too) if you live as far away as Lakewood...

You might also look in West Seattle.

Everyone is right - it'll be tough finding a decent 2 bedroom apt for $700-$800. You'll do ok if you can up that to $1000-$1200.

You should be able to find decent bike or multi-modal commute routes from the local suburbs to MI.

Consider - you might save some money on rent living further out, but you'll just spend that on transportation instead.
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Old 07-13-09, 09:53 PM   #7
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Doubling my rent budget is simply not possible. There seems to be plenty of places on craigslist in Kent, Renton, Lakewood, etc in our budget. I am more concerned with neighborhood quality than I am commute time but of course both are factors. I have a bit of time obviously so I am trying to do my homework.

Thanks for the input and for any additional that anyone has to offer.
Lakewood is south of Tacoma, about 50 minutes drive from Seattle (not Mercer Island) w/o traffic. There are some dodgy places in Lakewood.

Can you do $1200 per month? That might get you something closer/nicer. I haven't paid Seattle rent in years, not sure if this would be enough.
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Old 07-13-09, 10:03 PM   #8
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You might make it somewhere in the Rainier Valley. It's generally the least nice part of Seattle, but its cheap and bike commutable to Mercer Island.
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Old 07-13-09, 10:50 PM   #9
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$700-800 rent for family housing is going to be putting you in close to the poorest areas of the Seattle Metro region. Between Kent, Renton and Tukwila you pretty much can't go wrong (but you pretty much can't go right, either). I'd say look into Tukwila and Renton over Kent for location, community. Tukwila has bad traffic a lot of the time, so my recommendation leans toward Renton. The main area that I, personally, would avoid is the 6:00 to 8:00 region of Lake Washington, that is, the area southwest of the lake. I've lived here a long time though, so I have come to more generalizations than is even really practical.
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Old 07-14-09, 04:40 AM   #10
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also it depends. if you live really flashy with a lot of visable luxuries, have a fancy watch on everywhere you go, more-than-nice clothes, jewlery, chrome wheels/expensive bicycle... you might get some unwanted attention in any place that has 700 dollar living... whether it's kent, downtown, or rainier valley.

people often do live very happily in all these areas with a much lower visible luxury index, meaning no flatscreen set up five feet from the front window and clothes that could just as easily be from a department store as they could from a thrift store.

just be smart and don't live in an area you're not comfortable with. it's much like southern california in that the closer and more luxurious it is near the center of town it is, the more expensive... and the less affluent the neighborhood, the less 'safe' it seems to be.

maybe your family would be happier in a smaller, super-affordable housing situation that is ... say, much farther from mercer island, but near a good school? you can always move- rent's only advantage is that it gives you as much flexibility for the future as you want.
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Old 07-14-09, 08:15 AM   #11
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You can also find reasonable 2br. places in the $900-$1100 range in the Bothell area. The schools are good in this area, but the driving commute down I-405 ti I-90 is a pain, however there are plenty of bike routes that will get you to Mercer Island.
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Old 07-14-09, 08:25 AM   #12
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You might try running your own ad in the local paper. I did that when I decided to move up to Everett. I ended up with an affordable mother-in-law apartment in a good neighborhood and my landlord is my neighbor so I don't have to worry about noise and loud parties.
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Old 07-14-09, 10:10 AM   #13
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I know it is difficult to ask for someone to quantify something that is based partly in opinion but what is it that is making places like Renton, Kent, etc "bad"? Are we talking gangs and violent crime or are we talking older buildings, less hipsters, less nightlife, longer commute.

Also on the subject of traffic, I live 50 miles north of LA and have driven So Cal freeways countless times, both in and out of rushhour so I am very aware that a 20 minute drive on a saturday can be an hour drive on a monday morning, that being said is it really so severe that even places as near as Tukwilla, Renton, Kent, Bellevue, etc are such a hassle to get to Mercer Island?

To answer CC700's question about how flashy we are, we aren't. If we were flashy I wouldn't be looking sub $800. In all seriousness though most of our wardrobe is Walmart, I don't even wear a watch let alone a nice one, we have a big screen TV but it is a sony from the early 90's that was handed down, I ride a $1500 bike that is mostly aluminum, etc.

Thanks again for all the help guys and please keep it coming, the good and the bad.
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Old 07-14-09, 10:59 AM   #14
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The Rainier Valley is pretty much about crime and bad schools. It's not that the teachers don't try (I have friends that teach down there) its just that they have to dedicate much of their time to dealing with kids that have extremely dysfunctional home lives. Doesn't leave much effort for "normal" (for lack of a better word) kids, but what can you do with 6 year olds with gang member parents.
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Old 07-14-09, 11:08 AM   #15
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Have you visited the Northwest before? I'd recommend a trip up here in the winter just to see what it's like. Coming from the SoCal desert you should expect that it will take some time to acclimate to the endless grey drippy days of winter. Some people really can't stand it but you probably know that going in.

Seattle area freeway traffic around rush hour is some of the worst I've seen and I've lived in lots of places. Sounds like you're prepared for a nasty commute though. I'd definetly look into some sort of bus/bike commuting combo if possible.

With a 2 year old you probably aren't too worried about public schools yet which is good since you'll have some time to sort that out once you get here. Like most places the low rent areas don't tend to have the better schools.

On a plus note it really is a beautifull area with all kinds of outdoorsy things to do. Just get your Gore-Tex and fleece ready and loose those Cali license plates at the border
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Old 07-14-09, 11:10 AM   #16
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Well, I wouldn't say that all, or even most, of Renton, Kent, and/or Tukwilla are "bad." There are parts, of course, where the violent crime rate is significantly higher than average, and where there are known gang problems, etc., but every city has at least small pockets of these areas. What I was talking about was your qualification about schools. The school districts in Renton and Kent aren't the better ones in the area. The cities are populated by less affluent individuals, which translates to lower property values, which translates to less money for schools. Simple economics.

I will state, for the record, that I live in Burien, which is west of Tukwilla and southeast of west Seattle. We've lived in our house for over 25 years and think Burien is a very good area. However, having put our son through the Highline School District, if we had to do it over again, we'd move. If schools aren't your big concern, I'd highly recommend Burien as an excellent, affordable area.
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Old 07-14-09, 11:24 AM   #17
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I'd just add that for someone coming from LA, what is different about the "bad" areas around seattle is that it is really block-by-block. It's not that there aren't gangs and tags, of course there are, but what we don't really have around here are the square miles of blighted urban landscape that make huge areas of LA a "no-go zone". Instead, you'll have a block of crack houses, but one street over, it's transitional with mostly owner-occupied houses with bars on the windows, and then another block colonized by 20-something professionals in fixer-uppers. Basically, in your price range, you'll need to see the places for yourself, 'cause just by CL you can get burned, but there's also lots of very pleasant pockets of housing in even the "worst" areas.

If it were me, I'd be looking in the rainier valley along the new light rail line, maybe starting around the intersection of MLK way and Graham St and circling out. Lots of affordable stuff there (google Holly Park, huge mixed-income development subsidized by the city, if your budget for a family of 3 is really 800 bucks, you probably qualify. nice area!), lots of retail and good ethnic restaurants, quite close to downtown, esp. with streetcar starting service this month. Commute to MI quite reasonable - surface streets for 2 miles, then you're stuck on the i-90 bridge, but that's true of any route. Very easy to do by bike as well.
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Old 07-14-09, 01:22 PM   #18
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With a 2 year old, he has some time before he has to look for the good schools. Find a cheap place, sign a six month lease and then start looking for where you really want to live.

Renton and Kent are both up and coming. Renton took over the boeing waterfront and is building crap like crazy on S. Lake Washington. Kent has the new showare center (hockey) and Kent station. Both allow easy access to mercer island (reverse traffic once you get to I-90 if you go up I-5). I don't think either really have huge crime problems comparatively.

As others mentioned, do some research on craigslist, take a long weekend and come up here and search around for a place. $800 is doable. $900 is more doable.
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Old 07-14-09, 01:52 PM   #19
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$700-$800 per month rent in the Seattle area? (cough..cough) Maybe - if you're lucky - but if it's close enough to commute to Mercer Island, I doubt that it would be anywhere I'd want to live.

forrest m's advice isn't bad and his (?) observations regarding neighborhoods is the same as mine.
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Old 07-14-09, 02:12 PM   #20
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Welcome to Seattle. Just to counter some of the glum news above about housing costs, I thought I would say that - after the heat of the desert - you'll love cycling here. Once you get equipped to ride in the rain (fenders, booties, warm clothing), you'll be able to enjoy riding 52 weeks a year. Google the Seattle Bicycle Touring Club - their website has a "maps library" that shows 40 or 50 different routes in the Puget Sound area - a very good guide to getting going.

Also get the King County bike map and the City of Seattle Bike Map - good guides to start figuring out bike routes.

All of this is linked from www.cascade.org; check their page of local cycling links.
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Old 07-14-09, 02:12 PM   #21
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Is Seattle the place because of work?

Portland area is more affordable, in the PNW, has better mass transit.
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Old 07-14-09, 02:34 PM   #22
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I didn't expect so much trouble coming from my rent budget since there are literally 500+ ads on craigslist for places that match my criteria. Now granted I'm sure some of those are duplicates and some of them are probably not the greatest but if even 1/10th of that number was worth a crap that is still 50 places in my range.

I do like the advice of signing a short lease first and then being able to scout the neighborhoods, and I could probably eek out up to $1000 a month in rent if I really NEED to in order to find a good place.

FlowerBlossum mentioned Portland but I have what I believe to be a good oprotunity in Mercer Island, if it doesn't work out then my options could change but for now I need to be within commute distance to MI.

Thanks again everyone, still enjoying reading everything you have to say.
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Old 07-14-09, 04:16 PM   #23
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I'd just add that for someone coming from LA, what is different about the "bad" areas around seattle is that it is really block-by-block. It's not that there aren't gangs and tags, of course there are, but what we don't really have around here are the square miles of blighted urban landscape that make huge areas of LA a "no-go zone". Instead, you'll have a block of crack houses, but one street over, it's transitional with mostly owner-occupied houses with bars on the windows, and then another block colonized by 20-something professionals in fixer-uppers. Basically, in your price range, you'll need to see the places for yourself, 'cause just by CL you can get burned, but there's also lots of very pleasant pockets of housing in even the "worst" areas.

If it were me, I'd be looking in the rainier valley along the new light rail line, maybe starting around the intersection of MLK way and Graham St and circling out. Lots of affordable stuff there (google Holly Park, huge mixed-income development subsidized by the city, if your budget for a family of 3 is really 800 bucks, you probably qualify. nice area!), lots of retail and good ethnic restaurants, quite close to downtown, esp. with streetcar starting service this month. Commute to MI quite reasonable - surface streets for 2 miles, then you're stuck on the i-90 bridge, but that's true of any route. Very easy to do by bike as well.
+1 to the Rainier Valley. It's not as bad as people think/say.
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Old 07-14-09, 04:42 PM   #24
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+1 to the Rainier Valley. It's not as bad as people think/say.
That's what my friend says about her place in Georgetown. She's got a 3BR house for $1000. Of course, with every new cafe that gets built in the area, her landlord has to be thinking of raising the rent. It's not nearly the no-mans land it was in the 90s. I did see a Gypsy Joker in the convenience store when I visited in September, but he was the cleanest Joker I'd ever seen!

I had friends in a big house in Raineer Beach, they had a very interesting Convenience Mart. The locked the door after 10pm, and all business was transacted via a big drawer in the bulletproof glass.

All of those neighborhoods are getting better and better, however. Seems like the place to go for violent crime in 2008 was Belltown.
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Old 07-14-09, 04:44 PM   #25
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Another consideration within bikeable distance to Mercer Island is to check out Factoria. A little closer than Renton or Kent, and it's been developed nicely in the past few years.
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