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No Los Angelizing for Seattle

June 16, 1996

Only L.A. expatriates worry that Seattle will become another Los Angeles ("Is Seattle Going to Hell in a Handbasket?" by Kim Murphy, May 5). Such warnings are largely ignored by Seattle natives, who are comfortable in the certainty that they're too wise to make L.A.-type mistakes.

Murphy is a bit insulated. She refers to the "independent neighborhoods" of Seattle, "ranging from . . . Queen Anne to funky Fremont." That's not much of a range; they're adjacent. It's like saying L.A. has many distinct neighborhoods, from Studio City to Sherman Oaks.

And Murphy describes West Seattle as "blue collar." Hardly; it's heavily old-timers, TV production staffers and peripherals, and ex-New Yorkers, most of whom like steamy Alki Beach. It's as blue-collar as Melrose Avenue.

I moved here 10 years ago after a Fairfax-area friend fled north to escape L.A.'s heat and humidity. Seattle was more like the L.A. I grew up in and loved. My friend now lives on Seattle's Eastside; it reminds him of Cleveland when he was a boy. I live 30 minutes north of Seattle in a small ferry-dock town, a combination of '50s Santa Monica and Brigadoon.

Californians I've known moved here to live in a "Twilight Zone" episode, not to "open a corner espresso stand and turn it into an international coffee giant."

Diane Broughton

Edmunds, Wash.

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Murphy's profile of Seattle's current urban-growth woes rightly reports the ugly threat of a future L.A.-type sprawl. But she mistakes the reason as a "tax revolt."

Seattle voters overwhelmingly supported last year's $6.7-billion three-county Regional Transit Authority rail plan. A yes vote of more than 60% was cast inside the city limits. But suburban voters and those in nearby Tacoma and Everett fiercely opposed it. It's in suburbia, not in Seattle, where people yearn for an L.A.-style fantasy of endless freeways, to beach and mall, for their sport-utility vehicles and convertibles.

Murphy must have missed the clean, quiet electric trolleys that offer frequent all-day and evening service in the Central City and older neighborhoods. Even in newer sections, conventional buses run often and are well patronized. It is in the suburbs that neighborhood transit service is lacking, where freeway congestion makes trips into and out of town downright painful.

So if we in Seattle are in the handbasket of scrutiny while we dine on haute cuisine in our gentrifying old neighborhoods, we still could use some help from the 'burbs to build transportation alternatives.

Barbara Stenson

Seattle

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