Friday, June 08, 2007

Transients are here to stay

In the summer of 1995 my Beau and I moved into an apartment complex on top of Queen Anne Hill. We couldn't have been happier with the spacious 2-bedroom, the western exposure with commanding view of Magnolia, Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island and the Olympics.

Friendly by nature we soon got to meet the neighbors, in our complex, that is. For some very strange reason the surrounding home owners did not return our hellos. That is, until the three-year-old daughter of the people who lived behind our building, across the alley, ran from her parents' lot, speeding toward me to fling herself at me for a quick hug. The booby prize for two years of saying hello, and getting nothing but a begrudged response. The child's action opened the parents' eyes. It was as though they had never seen me, or us before. Apartment dwellers didn't exist.

Not long after that we organized a garage sale, and neighbors from adjacent houses joined us for a cup of Joe from my thermos. Finally we heard about the source of animosity between home owners and tenants.

In Seattle of 1959 a man with a vision built an apartment complex with 20 units on a lot which before had held just one single family home, built in 1910 or so. This was a home the size of a city villa (folks didn't think or built small on Queen Anne Hill at the beginning of the 20th Century).

The grudge the home owners held against this visionary (he foresaw a need for rental space, what with the World Fair of 1962 coming up), was transferred onto the tenants, for decades to come. A grudge which was passed on from parents to their children, from neighbor to neighbor.

Forty years after the apartment complex arose between two one-family villas, offspring of the people who had lived in the surrounding homes since they were built, told me about their parents anger with the developer for pushing his plans through the day before the zoning law forbade the building of aparrment complexes. Their anger was married to the fear that renters were nothing but transients, untrustworthy people on the move.

Not long after our coffee klatsch, one of the tenants of our complex died. Eve, aka "The Angel of Queen Anne", named so for her unfailing dedication to helping those in need, had lived in our complex for 20 years.

Today locals complain about town homes that arise where once a single family house stood. Four to six new homes adding to the parking problems in the street. Seattleites call it Californication, making a state name into a curse.

This while across the Nation far more damaging tarmacadamnification takes place; covering of precious land with asphalt, creating problems for the environment, for life on earth.

Meanwhile, proud Seattleites continue their opposition against high rise building, the place sighs under the effects of the metamorphises from provincial town to metropolitan city. It's obiously hard to accept the ramifications of growth.

What is wisdom? A sensible and timely approach to what's at hand, but more so, to what's to come.
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