Seattle vs Tacoma - Move from East Coast

Old Aug 20th, 2007, 09:27 AM
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Seattle vs Tacoma - Move from East Coast

I'm newly single (mid 30s) and hoping to relocate to Seattle area. Right now I have some promising leads in both Seattle and Tacoma. I think I would prefer to live in Seattle, but the job in Tacoma sounds more interesting. Not having been to Tacoma (yet), are there areas which might appeal to a mid 30s single female who would like to live within walking distance to a great beer place, some funky shops, and good restaurant selection?

In Seattle, I loved Capitol Hill, Fremont (my favorite), and Ballard. Would living in one of these areas be a terrible commute for a job in Tacoma? Right now I live 34 miles from Washington DC and the commute is awful - about 1.5 hrs for those 34 miles.

Thanks!
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 10:52 AM
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We seldom go down to Tacoma, for reasons that are unimportant, but last week we took a boat tour that departed from the Foss Waterway and, to kill time, the bus driver gave an impromptu tour of downtown Tacoma and we were favorably impressed with what has been done since we last visited. While the Seattle powers-that-be hold endless committee meetings and dither forever before making a decision, the Tacoma city fathers have bitten the bullet, taken the bull by the horns, etc etc and have created a lively downtown. What was once a strip of bars and sleazy emporia is now the site of the UW Tacoma branch that has brought with it some really nice places.

Tacoma living costs are lower than those in Seattle, and if something is going on in Seattle it is a little over 30 miles by freeway.

Look into University Village and Fircrest when assessing neighborhoods.

The Sounder train schedule is not kind to people who work in Tacoma but live in Seattle...they are going against the tide. Check out http://transit.metrokc.gov to see what is available on buses. I would consider driving the freeway as cruel and unusual punishment.
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 11:08 AM
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Beanweb, congrats on your move. I relocated from the Seattle area two years ago and desperately miss it. It's a great city. I have lived in the Tacoma area and in Seattle and I must say, I MUCH prefer Seattle. Unless things have really changed, the commute for a Tacoma job would not be too bad in the morning, getting to Tacoma. But in the evening, getting back to Seattle will be jammed up, especially once you get to the Michigan curves (a section of I-5, a few miles south of downtown). From there, it would be very slow to any point downtown or north of the city. On some days, it could easily take 1.5 hours to get from Tacoma to Seattle during evening rush hour. Point of reference - I lived in Lynnwood, about 15 miles north of Seattle. Saturdays, mid to late morning, it can be an hour or more to get downtown. The plain and simple answer is that traffic in the Seattle area just sucks. ;-)

As already stated, the cost of housing will be lower in Tacoma. The 3 areas of Seattle that you mentioned liking are a few of the highest priced neighborhoods in the city.

I would say, work and live in the same city/general vicinity and save yourself some heartache. Unfortunately, I can't think of anyplace in the Tacoma area that I would want to live, but YMMV.

Good luck in your new adventure.

Shane
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 11:14 AM
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The commute would be horrendous. Highly not recommended.

Don't be fooled by people from Seattle knocking Tacoma. Tacoma is less expensive than Seattle, though prices are climbing. It is undergoing a renaissance. It has real neighborhoods (like Seattle) with housing within walking distance of shopping, night spots, restaurants, and cultural activities. It has beautiful views of the Sound and some areas of really lovely housing.

The North End is the area you would want to look for housing. It includes several fun commercial streets, downtown, UW Tacoma, University of Puget Sound, Point Defiance Pk, the museums, many good restaurants, cute shops, parks, and beautiful old housing, as well as new. The area has a lot of character. Look close to downtown, near 6th Avenue, Proctor St., the University of Puget Sound, and the Old Town on the waterfront. The North End also has good access to I-5. Visit Tacoma and see for yourself. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

My sister lived in the North End for years and loved it. They finally moved when their jobs migrated north and the commute was killing them. They now live in West Seattle and love it. They had lived in the interim midway between Seattle and Tacoma and hated it - felt isolated as they couldn't walk to anything and there was no sense of community.
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 11:17 AM
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Tacoma has its charms, no doubt. It's no Seattle, however.

A little personal history: At one point, many years ago, my Partner and I were moving from the mid-west to the PNW, and looking for a house to buy in what was then (also) a bubble-market for real-estate. We searched Tacoma diligently, as prices for comparable homes were more reasonable than in Seattle (I think that's still true). Thanks to a knowledgeable agent, we checked into properties in a number of charming neighborhoods... And then went back to Seattle to look some more.

Several factors drove us back north:
1. Tacoma, while charming and cheaper, did not, and still does not, seem to have the civic amenities of Seattle. For us, a 'weekend out' would have meant a drive to Seattle and back, battling traffic for 30-60 minutes each way.
2. Our jobs were in the eastern suburbs of Seattle. While the number of miles we currently drive from Seattle to work is not terribly much greater than what a commute from Tacoma would have been -- the commute would have been on I-5 and/or I-405 during the worst parts of the day. Life is too short, as they say. From Seattle, we have alternate routes to use in a pinch.
3. No one we knew then, and no one we know now, had or has a home in Tacoma

Based on that, I'd say buying in Tacoma makes sense for you if
1. You feel Tacoma's resources are sufficient to make a drive to Seattle only occassionally necessary.
2. Your jobs are closer to Tacoma than to Seattle, and don't require you to drive I-5 to get to them.
3. You have some friends (or at least acquaintances) in the immediate area to help you learn your way around, and get the best of what the city has to offer.
4. You have some rather tight constraints on how much you can spend for housing.

Buying in Seattle ain't easy these days -- but the short-term pain of making a Seattle purchase might be justified by avoiding the longer-term pain of forever shuttling between the two metro areas.

Just my 2 cents.

Fritzrl
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 11:33 AM
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If you do choose Tacoma, I would rent and live there for at least one year before you make a commitment. I have a dear friend working a 2-year stint down there who can't WAIT to get back to Seattle, the second that his commitment is complete. Anytime he's looking for something to do, he comes back up to Seattle.
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 11:36 AM
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Going 2 Africa posted when I was writing my response. Tacoma has changed even in the last few years. My sister says every time she goes back to visit she is surpised by the number of new restaurants. She said she is meeting people who are now talking about retiring to Tacoma.

Her daughter, who is in her mid-twenties, still lives in Tacoma. She lives in an old house that is split into apartments in a beautiful area with big, old trees. She is within walking distance of downtown and the waterfront. She loves it.

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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 01:14 PM
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beanweb, I saw your post earlier and was getting ready to post "let the Tacoma bashing begin!" since that has long been a favorite past-time. ;-)

I lived in Tacoma for a number of years. Does it have all the amenities of Seattle? No. Does it have some? Yes. Particularly in restaurants and museums. Does it have charming neighborhoods? Yes. Look at the Proctor District which is in the North End http://www.tacomabusinessdistricts.c...asp?district=7 (see Orcas' post above). I lived there within walking distance of shops, restaurants, cafes, library, grocery stores, a movie theatre, the University of Puget Sound, etc., etc. There is easy access to I-5 via the 705 spur.

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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 04:53 PM
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Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies. I will definitely check out the areas in Tacoma you recommend...and I also plan on renting for a year before I purchase anything - don't want to put roots down unless I'm absolutely sure about my job and my surroundings!

I lived in DC proper for several years before moving to the 'burbs. Even though Tacoma might be an awful commute from Seattle, part of me still thinks it would be ridiculous to move across the country to live in more suburbs. But, I will for sure have to check Tacoma out before making my decision.

My biggest concern isn't as much the cost of housing as it is the "feel" of the neighborhood I select. As a single girl, I would love to be around other singles and people my age rather than in a neighborhood comprised of mostly older people and/or families if that makes any sense.

Thank you again for all of your opinions...keep 'em coming!
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 05:58 PM
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Beanweb, what area of Tacoma is the "interesting" job in? That can make a difference as well.

I really wouldn't call Tacoma a suburb. Tacoma has suburbs, as Seattle has suburbs, but to be very clear, Tacoma is not a suburb of Seattle. They are two entirely different cities.

As said before, don't let the miles fool you as far as a commute. I moved away 14 years ago in part because I could no longer stand that commute (I went Tacoma to Seattle).

Tacoma is changing pretty rapidly these days, I'm surprised every time I visit. It's definitely not Seattle, but that doesn't mean it isn't a great place to live.
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 06:37 PM
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I just realized that it might sound like I moved from Tacoma to Seattle. No, I commuted from Tacoma to Seattle. When I move away from all that traffic, I moved to Kansas City!
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 07:02 PM
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We left the DC area back in 1960 after commuting from Cheverly, MD every day. Now they have commuter trains...go figure.

Never regretted moving to the Seattle area, especially when the news reporters in DC are complaining about the heat and Congress has taken time off during the hot months.

In addition to the U of W Tacoma campus downtown, the Tacoma Community College area has lots of people your age. I still like Fircrest or University Place (think I said University Village before..it's a shopping center in Seattle).
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 11:31 AM
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Can you spend some more time out here and see for yourself (the differences between Tacoma and Seattle)?

I would definitely NOT recommend planningn to Tacoma from Seattle. It could be pretty much as bad as your current commute!
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 11:51 AM
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Lets be honest, "affordability" will be a great determining factor, and there is some chance that costs may inspire you to select a living location somewhere between Seattle and Tacoma.

That would make your Tacoma drives far more workable and keep Seattle more accessible for nightlife and entertainment.

Unfortunately the Seattle neighborhoods you mention lean toward the north side of downtown (excepting Capitol Hill) which adds risk-potential to your commute.

On Capitol Hill there are always parking concerns for anyone who has a place without a reserved parking spot.

Your only saving grace, commute-wise, would be that you'd be going against the grain of most of the problems. That won't help at all on those mornings when your number comes up.

I give you credit for already having a fairly true/accurate sense of what you're up against, and of areas that are what you sense them to be.

Tacoma just has SOME elements which will continue to bring it down, and hold it there. Geographically it is difficult to become too far removed from all of them, hence the conundrum.

Sounds like you're lucky to be able to make this move independently, and not have still other concerns dictating what you're willing to try in the way of experimentation.

Good luck with everything!

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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 12:30 PM
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Seeing as how you like Capitol Hill, Fremont and Ballard, I wouldn't suggest anything between Seattle and Tacoma. If you are working in Seattle, I would add West Seattle to the list of places you might like. Check out Alki.

Burien is the closest thing to a cute town between Seattle and Tacoma. The downtown area is revitalizing and is going to continue to improve.

Most other areas between Seattle and Tacoma are quite suburban and I think you'd dislike them.

Visit Tacoma and see for yourself. Yes, it has some rough edges, but it has a nice community. (Capitol Hill has rough edges, too, by the way)

Where would the job be?
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 02:49 PM
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Log onto www.thenewstribune.com to get a feel for Tacoma.
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 03:24 PM
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Now that the new Narrows Bridge has blown that bottleneck wide open, you might consider looking into Gig Harbor for housing (if your job's in Tacoma.) Friends who live there truly love it. A very cute downtown on the water, and just now big box stores like Costco and Home Depot (not to mention a great new YMCA) are moving into the northern area of town: pretty convenient.
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 03:50 PM
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You guys are so great! I really appreciate everyone taking so much time to provide opinions.

Right now, I'm not planning any "visit" time to reacquaint myself with the area. I did a great neighborhood tour of Seattle last year (and even posted a trip report), but never made it to Tacoma. It's quite possible that my only visit to Tacoma will be over one weekend *if* I make it past the next round of interviews (2 down! Fingers crossed.).

The job in Tacoma would be on A Street (near A and S 9th Street). The more I think about it, the more I think I will focus my housing (to buy or to rent) search in Tacoma proper if this job pans out. I want to be able to have a tolerable commute and be close to the dog so I can let her out in-between work and happy hours. I have my priorities.

As expensive as housing is in DC, it's actually refreshing to see what you can get under $400k in Tacoma! Whether I rent or buy, I'm looking to spend no more than $2000 per month on housing (not including utilities). From what I've seen so far, I think this will be doable in Tacoma.

Orcas - I toured Alki last year when I visited and loved it (especially the cupcake place).

I will definitely check out the neighborhoods and online resources you all recommend. Thank you.
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Old Aug 21st, 2007, 08:53 PM
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I would take a lesser job to be able to live in Seattle, on Capitol Hill specifically (Fremont or Ballard), and have an easy commute within the city.

That's just me, but as a single young person, moving in to Tacoma would be way way down low on my list of thing I would want to do.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2007, 05:51 AM
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Thank you for your honest opinion, Suze. I'm hoping that I'll get an offer from both places and have a choice between Tacoma and Seattle. My first preference would definitely be to live and work in Seattle which would allow me to take advantage of the all the great restaurants and bars I've discovered on previous trips. I also play adult coed and womens soccer and noticed that Seattle has a MUCH stronger soccer presence than Tacoma - and this is important to me as well.
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