Silver Lake: Many longtimers welcome area's evolving identity

During Silver Lake's early 20th-century run as an idyllic retreat, the most dominant structure in the skyline was the 40-foot waterslide that towered above Silver Beach.

Today, with a slew of projects looming on the horizon, the view at Silver Lake in South Everett is changing; and like a pudgy, sun-speckled sprite screeching helplessly earthward down the long-disappeared slide, furious development has created a slippery, irrecoverable freefall toward full-fledged city living.

Thankfully, at least some Silver Lake residents are tolerant of the community's evolving identity.

"What can you do about it?" said Dorthy Vandeventer, a Silver Lake resident since 1971. "People are going to move in."

And move in they have.

Located near several major transportation routes, Silver Lake provides a natural unfurling point for the tentacles of urban sprawl. It is bounded to the north by 100th Street Southeast, to the south by 132nd Street Southeast, to the east by Lowell-Larimer Road and Seattle Hill Road and to the west by Interstate 5.

As is often the case, accessibility has bred growth.

Among the changes facing the area is a mixed-use development along the north shore of the lake.

Current plans show the new Silver Lake Center will include a pair of 10-story condominium towers, though the final design of the project is still under review.

"We've seen a lot of changes here over the years," said Peggy Claflin, a 30-year resident. "But getting used to the height of the buildings would be a big adjustment."

Home prices in the Everett-Mukilteo area, which includes Silver Lake, have risen sharply over the past year. The median price of a home in March was $315,500, up 26.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to figures compiled by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Traffic has become an issue as well. Highway 527, the main road through the area, is currently being widened to two lanes in each direction from 132nd Southeast to 112th Southeast.

The goal of the project is to improve safety and reduce both congestion and the environmental impact of pollution on nearby waterways.

Vandeventer, a longtime activist in the community, said protecting the lake has always been a concern to residents.

"There have been a lot of land-use issues here in the past," she said. "We've had to work through a number of things in order to save trees and protect the shoreline. A big goal has always been to maintain the lake as a recreational asset."

Much has been done to that end.

In addition to improving transportation through the area and building a walking trail, the city bought an 8.3-acre parcel of land that was to become a 500-unit apartment complex before the development was scrapped due to environmental concerns.

But residents like Vandeventer and Claflin say there is still work to be done.

"A lot of people are concerned about [Thornton A.] Sullivan Park," Claflin said of the biggest of three parks that surround the lake.

"The city has been conducting studies there for a long time, trying to decide what to do with it. But it's as ratty as it was 20 years ago."

Vandeventer said she was concerned about the lack of parking around the lake itself.

"They never saved enough space for that," she said. "Accessibility is paramount. People shouldn't have to walk from a mile away to use the lake. That's not easy, especially for people with young families or the elderly."

Still, Vandeventer is happy to be in Silver Lake.

"It's a great area to raise a family," she said. "And the city has worked hard to improve the area and protect the lake. ... The water is of a fairly high quality for being in the city like this."

Claflin remains happy as well.

"There are definitely a lot of new people moving in," she said. "But we still have the lake and we're close to everything."

At left, Teena Frice tends to Ralph Syltebo at Steve's Silver Lake Barber Shop in South Everett. The shop has been a community gathering place for 15 years at the location on the northern tip of Silver Lake and Frice says she's unsure how new development will affect the business. Above, construction trucks mix with passenger cars along Bothell-Everett Highway north of Silver Lake. The road is being widened from two to four lanes. (JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Silver Lake

Population: 23,248

Schools: The Silver Lake neighborhood is served by the Everett Public School District.

Housing: Of 9,018 total housing units, 6,145, or 68 percent, are owner-occupied; 2,618, or 29 percent, are renter-occupied; and 255, almost 3 percent, are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities:

• Everett Clinic at Silver Lake

• Providence Hospital, Mill Creek Campus

• Providence Everett Medical Center, Everett

• Stevens Hospital, Edmonds

Public facilities:

• Silver Lake Parks — Green Lantern Park is on the northeast side of the lake and has fishing spots available. Hauge Homestead Park, on the southeastern side, is on the original site of one of the first homesteads and the later site of the amusement park.

• Thornton Sullivan Park, on the west side, has many recreational opportunities, such as day camps for children, swimming and elementary sailing. In the summer, the Parks Department hosts "Under the Stars," a program of outdoor movies for children, at Thornton Sullivan Park.