We’re on a hunt for a new place to call home. The coming weeks will reveal to us whether or not Washington state is that place. This is an earnest, scientific voyage chock full of research and data. Naturally, we’ll have some fun, too, because otherwise, what’s the point? We have a list of 10-12 towns to visit, and I’ll be blogging about most of them. Buckle up!
A Different Approach
To shake things up a bit and to ward off boredom (for you and me), this next blog series will include:
1. A poem that expresses our impression of the town. Won’t that be more fun than reading a gazillion paragraphs? Said poem will either be an original (by yours truly or husband of yours truly) or a fitting one we find online. Song lyrics and poetic quotes will all be thrown into the mix. Since Haikus are my fave, you can expect to see a poetic imbalance by way of 5-7-5. I’ll also provide some vital information with (unlike this post) brevity along with photos (brevity not as likely here).
2. Quantitative data in the form of a spreadsheet outlining our most important criteria about what makes for a happy homestead. We’ll be pitting town against town. We don’t necessarily plan to move somewhere permanently, but even a temporary move, for let’s say a year or so, is important enough for us to conduct due diligence.
The Towns We are Assessing
Port Orchard (removed from list – too gritty)
Kingston (removed from list – too itty bitty)
Port Angeles (maybe)
Langley on Whidbey Island
Anacortes on Fidalgo Island (removed from list – too busy)
Friday Harbor on San Juan Island (just a visit here, because I want to witness the beauty of Orcas)
Mukilteo (removed from list – no real downtown area)
I’ll be relying heavily upon our observations, speaking with locals and researching one of my new favorite sites, Sperling’s Best Places, to compile data for this exploration. Check out Sperling’s and see how your town rates. Sperling’s research on safest places from natural disasters is quite interesting. Using Pacific Grove as our barometer (because we LOVE PG), below are the criteria, in order of importance. Each criterion will be scored for each town on a scale of 1 to 6, where 6 is the best. Following is an example of the spreadsheet template we’ll be using. We populated it with Pacific Grove information. You can see that we have weighted each of the criterion to reflect our priorities.
Town Comparison Criteria Spreadsheet
Explanation of Criteria
1. Cost of Living
We love almost everything about Pacific Grove except the cost of living, which is our highest weighted factor in choosing a place to live. We’ll be comparing each of the above listed towns to Pacific Grove. Here’s how Sperling’s compares PG to the US average.
Sperling’s states: “Our cost of living indices are based on a US average of 100. An amount below 100 means Pacific Grove, CA is cheaper than the US average. A cost of living index above 100 means Pacific Grove, CA is more expensive. Overall, Pacific Grove, CA cost of living is 207.30.”
If you look closely, you’ll see the category that throws PG out of whack is “housing.” Our ideal is an overall cost of living index that is 50% of PG, which would nearly equal the US average.
Our 1-6 Cost of Living rating scale:
6= <50% of PG (this also approximately equal or less than US average)
5= 50 to 60% of PG
4= 61 to 70% of PG
3= 71 to 80% of PG
2= 81 to 90% of PG
1= 100% of PG
Another important consideration for us is the climate. We will base our results on the Comfort Index or the effects of humidity. A higher value equals a more comfortable climate. In the details section of this criterion, we’ll include the number of sunny days and rainfall (in inches).
Our 1-6 Climate rating scale:
6= Comfort Index of 75 or higher (78 is the comfort index of Pacific Grove; 44 is the US average)
5= Comfort Index of 65-74
4= Comfort Index of 55-64
3= Comfort Index of 45-54
2= Comfort Index of 35-44
1= Comfort Index of west nile virus
3. Dog friendliness
Fairly self explanatory. A dog friendly town will have open space for dogs to run off-leash, cafes that accept dogs, dog bowls outside of establishments, people walking with their dogs in town, and organizations that support dog (and other animals) rescue and adoptions. A 6 will equal all of the above PLUS easy access (ideally no driving) to off-leash trails.
Our 1-6 Dog friendliness rating scale:
6= all of the above
5= 4 of the above
4= 3 of the above
3= 2 of the above
2= 1 of the above
1= Michael Vick’s house
4. Organic Food Markets
For us, the availability of organic produce is vital. This is because we don’t want to eat toxic food. Our utopian town will have farmer’s markets and local grocery stores or food co-ops that support this need. In Santa Cruz, there are at least three farmers markets along with three fabulous local food markets plus Whole Foods all within a 4-mile radius. New Leaf, one of my all-time faves, supports the nonGMO project, and I’ll be doing a book signing at two of their locations in May. Santa Cruz is our benchmark for an organic food-happy town.
Our 1-6 Organic Markets scale:
6= Multiple nearby local markets (grocer/natural food market and farmer’s market) with a wide availability of fresh organic produce and other whole foods
5= At least one local grocer or natural food market and a farmer’s market in town with a wide availability of fresh organic produce
4= At least one local grocer or a farmer’s market near town with a wide availability of fresh organic produce
3= Chain grocery store(s) like Safeway or Trader Joe’s with fresh organic options, and a farmer’s market near town
2= Chain grocery store(s) like Safeway or Trader Joe’s with fresh organic options near town
1= This place is a pesticide-ridden, toxic, gmo-crunching hell
5. Outdoor Recreation
Living around nature is important to us – trees, water, wildlife. So, being out in that nature is equally as important. Proximity to and availability of hiking, biking (including bike paths on roads), kayaking, swimming, wildlife viewing (birding, for example), open space and trails will be the factors we use to determine the level of outdoor recreation in a town.
Our 1-6 Outdoor Recreation scale:
6= All of the above listed activities can be found in town or within walking distance
5= Most (4-5) of the above can be found in town or within walking or biking distance
4= Some (3-4) of the above can be found in town or within walking or biking distance
3= Few (2-3) of the above can be found in town, and some (2+) at driving distance
2= Only one or none in town, and some (2+) at at driving distance
1 = This place sucks
6. Environmentally Conscientious
A town that is environmentally conscientious will have minimal to no litter and will have town-wide sustainable practices such as: recycling and (ideally) composting for all residents, innovative litter ideas (like butt receptacles and Styrofoam or plastic bag bans), promotion of local food sources and/or local businesses, promotion of native plant gardens, great-tasting tap water, a solid stance against toxic chemical use (pesticides, herbicides, etc) and programs for the preservation of resources and wildlife.
Our 1-6 Environmentally Conscientious scale:
6= 5 or more of the above
5= 4 of the above
4= 3 of the above
3= 2 of the above
2= 1 of the above
1= Monsanto, the Koch Brothers and Shell oil use this town as their playground to dump toxic waste
7. Cultural Options
Netflix gets old, so we need access to activities that are provided by museums, art centers, independent bookstores, libraries, a cinema or theatre, cafes, vegetarian restaurants, and nonprofits for volunteering.
Our 1-6 Cultural Options scale:
6= 6 or more of the above
5= 5 of the above
4= 4 of the above
3= 3 of the above
2= Just 1 or 2 of the above
1= Culturally stunted
8. Peaceful Coexistence
Peaceful coexistence, to us, equates to a town with acceptance of diversity and a general sense of a tolerance of people with philosophical and political differences, and a genuine sense of friendliness. Accepting and happy people make for peaceful coexistence.
Our 1-6 Peaceful Coexistence rating scale:
This is a fairly subjective criterion. We will base the rating on what we see and how we feel. We’ll do our best to explain the outcome.
We’d prefer to avoid crime to the greatest extent possible. But given how, in the course of one’s life, that’s a nearly impossible endeavor, we’ll work at minimizing our exposure to it. And we have no intention of targeting any place that has a reputation for violence. This is how Sperling’s rates crime in Pacific Grove:
The US average for violent crime is 41.4 and for property crime is 43.5. Based on these combined US averages, we will have the following rating:
5= 41 to 50
4= 51 to 60
3= 61 to 70
2= 71 to 80
1= Agoraphobic validation
10. First Glance Impression
Are there views, is it clean, is there interesting architecture, does the downtown area have trees, parks, and flowers? Does this town lend itself to a sense of peace and quiet? This is a completely subjective criterion. We will base the rating on what we see and how we feel. We’ll do our best to explain the rating.
One never reaches home,
but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.
The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.
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Poetic Passage Through the Pacific Northwest
This is Post #1: Poetic Passage through Pacific Northwest Washington
Post #2: The Gig is Up Gig Harbor
Post #3: The Not-so-slick Limerick of Bainbridge Island
Post #4: What’s at the End of Town in Port Townsend?
Post #5: Some Bunny Loves Langley on Whidbey Island
Post #6: Monday at Friday Harbor, San Juan Island