For 13 glorious years, I've had a view of Mount Rainier from my apartment. I have no dishwasher, mind you, and the horsehair insulation in the walls is great for mice, but at least I also have the highest peak in the Cascade Range out my window. Do you see it there, above and slightly to the left of the volcano water fountain at Cal Anderson Park? It was a cloudy morning when I took this photo—cloudy outside and also cloudy within. That yellow backhoe was not a happy sight.
No one wants to hear complaints from anyone who's had a view of Mount Rainier from their bed for 13 years, but not to worry: I won't have the view much longer.
I've been charting the changes on this block for a long time. Boring Report was a long-running Slog "column" that consisted of pictures and video of the block when the tunnel-boring machine was making the Capitol Hill station.
I had a bird's-eye view of the block going from this:
Throughout that process, my view of Mount Rainier remained unimpeded.
"Views give us a reference point and connect us to where we are, and to nature, and to each other," according to the Seattle Times. "They inspire us to get up, get out, get involved... Your view, from your own particular place in the world, holds real value — financially, psychologically, historically, possibly almost universally."
I'm not really sure how my personal view holds universal value, Seattle Times, but okay, we'll go with that. Does my sadness get to be universal too?
Construction on all the buildings going up around the light rail station was supposed to begin sooner than now, but was stalled by financing issues awhile back. I've never been so happy about financial issues stalling a construction project in my life.
Anyway, the backhoes have finally arrived, and they are multiplying.
I really shouldn't complain. I don't want to sound like the people in that Seattle Times story, none of whom, I hasten to point out, lost a view of Mount Rainier. My gloom, which I've been sharing with friends and coworkers nonstop, is a little fake, a little done-up, dramatized for the purpose of having something to complain about, which is all anyone seems to crave these days.
Honestly, there is a lot of good coming out of this block's development. Having that light rail station so close to my apartment has been a miracle (coming home from the airport on light rail feels luxurious), and I'm pro-density (especially transit-oriented development) because the more housing stock we have, the better for all of us (the news a few months ago: "Rents are dropping significantly across the Seattle area for the first time this decade, as a flood of new construction has left apartments sitting empty in Seattle’s hottest neighborhoods"). And because the new buildings on the block will have a lot of affordable housing in them.
According to Capitol Hill Seattle, the development above and around the Capitol Hill light rail station will consist of four gigantic buildings.
When complete, the development will span four buildings around Capitol Hill Station. It’s planned to house 428 residential units – 41% of which (176 units) will be designated affordable housing. There will be 31,150 square feet of residential space, 216 parking stalls for cars, and 254 parking stalls for bikes. Designs for the project were finalized last October. Gerding Edlen expects the construction to take about 21 months.
Here's the designer's rendering of the future building along Broadway, the building those backhoes are working on:
Here's a different view of the same building, along with the building that's been designed to go up behind it:
One hundred and seventy-six units of affordable housing is fantastic. How did that happen? CHS:
In 2013, the City Council approved a development agreement allowing developers to plan for 85-foot tall buildings along Broadway in exchange for going above minimum affordable housing requirements. Though many ask today in the midst of Seattle’s ongoing affordability crisis why the coming apartment buildings won’t be taller, even achieving 85 feet was a battle.
What that means for me (let's get back to my universal sadness!) is that the new buildings are going to be taller than the building I currently live in.
So this view is almost certainly a goner:
For another angle on this, let's get down to ground level.
I support urban density, especially transit-oriented development. I support urban density, especially transit-oriented development. I support urban density, especially transit-oriented development. I support urban density, especially transit-oriented development. I support urban density, especially transit-oriented development. I support urban density, especially transit-oriented development.
Is there a German word for the sadness of losing your view of a mountain? A volcano, no less? It's a dumb sadness, a selfish sadness, a highly privileged and therefore deeply problematic sadness, and probably "sadness" itself is too big a word, too related to real problems. The German word weltschmerz means "mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state," also defined as the sadness of "comparing a perfect situation to the real life scenario," also known as "a word used to describe the disappointment you feel after watching the inevitable destruction of your unrealistic expectations."
I woke up this morning to more visions of that inevitable destruction, in the form of construction:
After I put on my shoes and walked downstairs and had another view over the fence, I saw an unlikely hero in my story, shaped in the form of a construction worker doing fuckall while everyone else works:
I would like to thank that man in orange leaning against the wall and texting or staring off into space or whatever he is doing pic.twitter.com/wHdIClJbDc
— ChristopherFrizzelle (@TheFrizzelle) July 18, 2018
Seattle is a city of views. As Jen Graves wrote in The Stranger in 2008:
Seattle is mad for views, probably because we have so many of them. It may just be the best view city in the country. There's Puget Sound, Lake Union, Lake Washington, the Olympic Mountains, the Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, numerous islands, and two glittering skylines (Seattle and Bellevue). In the database that real-estate agents use, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), there are 13 possible categories of views that apply to properties in Seattle: bay view, city view, jetty view, mountain view, partial view, sound view, territorial view, canal view, golf-course view, lake view, ocean view, river view, strait view. Some of these are virtually meaningless. Take "territorial." "Unless you're living in a windowless hovel, you are looking out on some kind of territory," said real-estate agent Sarah Rudinoff.
Modern Seattle was founded on the appeal of its hills, valuable for their vantage points. Starting in about 1900, Seattle was advertised as a city of "seven hills," in comparison to the seven hills of Rome... Nobody even knows what the original seven hills were supposed to be. There are more than seven hills here.
Graves also reported:
Water views are notoriously coveted, but even within that category there are lake people and sound people. And then there are the Mount Rainier people.
"I think Rainier is the best view—it's like Fujiyama to the Japanese," said Bill Bain, a leading light of architecture in Seattle for more than 50 years (his father cofounded NBBJ).
Have any Slog readers gone from being "Mount Rainier people" to "territorial-view people"? How did you process the change? Did you write a big ol' Slog post? Complain about it a lot? Absorb the change quietly? Move?
And while I have you, a few more questions:
• Are any of these mountain gods legit? Do they accept offerings?
• Are there any known spells or potions that could make a construction project meant to take 21 months take 201 months instead? I don't want anyone to get hurt. I just want it to... you know, take a while.
• Are there any proper customs or rituals for saying goodbye to a view of a mountain? Or for saying hello to some status quo Seattle architecture?
• Do you know anyone who can etch Mount Rainier into the glass of my window?
• Is there a solution involving decals?
• Do you know anyone who can take a long video of the view and then have it play on a recurring loop on a TV fitted exactly to the shape of my window, forever, until the end of time?
• Does anyone have the phone number for a wambulance?