June 4, 2006

There's an apartment with my name on it in First Hill. My car and other possessions are making their way into town and should arrive this week. My first week at work has come and gone. I've had way too much coffee way too often, because, well, it's there.

The Tests

I arrived in town one week before my start date, May 23, with the intention of finding permanent housing as soon as possible. I was provided temporary housing for up to 45 days but was warned that at this time of year, Seattle's apartment vacancy rate is only about 1%.

Seattle Craigslist's Apartments for Rent page was my primary means of finding leads on apartments, and holy crap do they go fast. During the day you can refresh that page every few minutes to see the listings just fly by. With plenty of advice from friends and family in town, I took my rental car all over town looking at neighborhoods and figuring out where I want to live. My priorities:

  1. The Money Test — Needs to be affordable considering that I still have to pay my mortgage in Pittsburgh. (If someone rents my house that should defray the mortgage cost, but that's an "if.")
  2. The Coffee Test — Needs to be within easy walking distance to some place where I can have a cup of coffee on Sundays.
  3. The Commute Test — Needs to be an easy commute to work on foot or by bus. (As a new hire I'm at the bottom of a waiting list for a parking space.)

The last priority turned out to be the most constraining. While in Pittsburgh I became very aware of what geographic bottlenecks do to traffic. I'm told that Seattle doesn't have anywhere near as many bridges as Pittsburgh, some (like the infamous 520 Bridge connecting Seattle with Bellevue, Redmond, and points east) create gnarly traffic jams. The quickest commute by far placed me in Beacon Hill (atop which my office is located) or the International District ("the I.D.," where there's a convenient shuttle to bring me to work). Beacon Hill seems too dilapidated and hilly an area to pass the Coffee Test; the business district is still underdeveloped and it's a tough walk from the places I looked at in north Beacon Hill. I really like the I.D. for all the food and shops within walking distance, though apartments are quickly giving way to condos at top dollar. Even my temporary housing building, The Mosaic, is rebranding itself "Asia Condominium" and asking well in excess of $200,000 for smallish one-bedroom units.

Let's Go On Tour

I hopped in my rental car, fired up VZ Navigator on my phone, and blazed through all my remaining airtime minutes while cruising from one Craigslist address to the next. Navigator handled all the roads well with the exception of downtown, where GPS signals bounce off buildings and mess with directions.

Driving in Seattle is tough on a car. I didn't realize that this was the second-hilliest city in America until I was stopped at a red light on Cherry Street and, when the light turned green, I had to floor it to avoid hitting the car behind me. Similar experiences greeted me in sections of Queen Anne and Magnolia where stairstepping directions (turn left, then prepare to turn right, then prepare to turn left) took me through dizzying changes in elevation.