Sunday, January 16, 2011

What All the Fuss is About

View of the Olympic mountains and Puget Sound from our attic window
With Seattle positioned between the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, Lake Washington, and Puget Sound, you don’t have to work too hard to see sparkling water or snowcapped mountains. The topography of Seattle itself with its many hills makes for plenty of lots with prime views. And those views—of water and mountains—are what all the fuss is about!

Property values reflect the presence (or absence) of views. Trees have been known to get “topped” in the middle of the night because of views. And neighborly relations can get very strained because of views lost or about to be lost. The truth is that private views are not protected by law; local zoning defines what can and can’t be built on a site and views are not factored in except for a handful of exceptional views to and/or from specific public viewpoints. But that doesn’t stop people from trying to hang onto what they have.

In local lingo, when a Seattleite says “Wow, the mountains are really out today!” that means that the cloudcover, rain, or mist has cleared enough to see those distant peaks. The most famous view is, of course, of Mt. Rainier, but I like the Coast and Olympic ranges better. I love how they seem to ring the city and how, on very clear days, it almost seems like you can reach out and touch them right from Seattle.

Our lot offers some great long distance views westward over Puget Sound toward the Olympics. We’ve never had a real view before and are excited to move into the new house and wake up to those glorious vistas. But we also know not to take them for granted; at any time a neighbor to the west of us could rebuild or remodel and obscure them. We purposely oriented our windows to take advantage of views out and over the street to the southwest, knowing that the ones immediately due west are not protected.

In the end a home is a lot more than the views around it, whether they are of water or mountains or a city skyline. A home, to me, is just as much about the street, the community, and the people who are my neighbors. If I ever have to, I hope I’ll be able to give up a view and not let it get in the way of all the other qualities that make a house a home. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy them while we have them!

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