Who's Leaving Seattle?
By Jean Godden
The way to get your name in the paper these days is to write about why you're leaving Seattle. Departing the Emerald City has become headline bait simply because so many people are heading into town. For the fifth year in a row, Seattle led in growth percentage.
How big is the growth spurt? Since 2010, Seattle has been the fastest growing city in the nation, ending with 18.7 percent more residents. Crowds of newcomers have pushed the city's population to 725,000. Although ranked 18th in the nation, Seattle has risen to tenth in density. There are 8,600 of us crowded into each square mile, giving us less elbow space than the citizens of Los Angeles.
The increases are dizzying. It's enough to make one nostalgic for the days when columnist Emmett Watson, the city's own Herb Caen, waged his pretend war against growth. Watson, who wrote for Seattle dailies, called his campaign "Lesser Seattle." It was his tongue-in-cheek answer to Greater Seattle Inc., a Chamber of Commerce promo.
To combat Greater Seattle's hucksterism, Watson spoofed bigness and parodied the notion of mindless growth. He must have written a hundred Lesser Seattle columns over a 25-year period. He urged locals to write relatives inviting them to visit so they could witness endless rain, mud slides, washed out bridges and earthquakes. He offered slogans: "Seattle: Three Days of Summer" and "Seattle: Rust Capital of the World."
Watson saved extra animus for Californians who, at the time (1980s and 1990s), were said to be moving to Seattle after selling their expensive homes, then buying here and driving prices up. He joked about levying head taxes on California ex-pats. He suggested electronic tracking bracelets and a prohibition against buying umbrellas and raincoats. His cry against "Californication" became nationally famous.
During his Lesser Seattle days, Watson was a mentor for me. When he left the Seattle Post -Intelligencer, I was just beginning to write a column for the paper. He cautioned me to "entertain the troops first," earning people's trust before I wrote about serious stuff.
When it comes to seriousness, one of the lessons I learned is that one should think honestly about Seattle. It is important to assess what Seattle once was and what it is now becoming. As it turns out, this city isn't for everyone, especially now that it is growing as if overdosing on steroids.
National publications, the same ones that have turned Seattle into an "it" city, are beginning to look more seriously at Seattle's pros and cons. Most articles and blogs score Seattle high for its climate ("so moderate you hardly ever need air conditioning"), its natural setting and proximity to nature, great seafood, enlightened LGBTQ attitudes and its surprising lack of bugs (minus an itinerant fruit fly or mosquito). But those same sources say the city also has negatives: insanely expensive housing, grinding traffic congestion, widespread homelessness, property and car theft, lack of diversity (despite our large Asian population, we're awfully white) and the city's infamous standoffishness known as "the freeze." One commenter grumbled, "Seattle either matches who you are or it drains you of morale. I've had enough and can't wait to leave."
At times, Watson himself dropped his Lesser Seattle humor and waxed serious about his beloved city. In his book "Digressions of a Native Son," he issued this caution: "We must be wary, alert to trade off carefully, aware of the cost to be paid for certain forms of progress. Every monstrous scheme or structure exacts its price, the penalty of visual blight and loss of human scale...What we have must be protected, firmly enhanced and constantly improved."
In other words, those of us not leaving Seattle -- and that's more than 700 thousand of us -- should assume the burden of keeping the best that is Seattle. We must preserve the city's beauty, its charm, its cocky can-do spirit and the safety and health of our citizens.
Best thing I ever did for my mental health was to leave Seattle though it has taken time to work out the kinks and twisted knots accumulated from years in Seattle.
Over the years I've worked in Seattle and the surrounding areas. Never a resident however. Nonetheless, I considered moving to Seattle at one point, but on my last business trip I decided NO. What a mess is Seattle. It screws itself up daily.
Californicaters are a problem everywhere. They create unlivable conditions in California and leave because what they created is intolerable. Yet in their new home they gain control and grow the same conditions they left. I give you Colorado and Austin Texas as leading examples.
The phrase in the article, "we're awfully white" is about as dumb as it gets. It's great to virtue signal from an nearly all white city about the lack of 'diversity' but once one is overtaken by 'colorful vibrant persons', then one begins quickly to look for an escape. Phony virtue it Is. If the writer of this article wants 'diversity', move to Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis or other major American city.