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Seattle’s Residents Witnessed HQ1. They Don’t Wish HQ2 on You.

The people most qualified to comment give 4 reasons to shun Amazon’s bid.

Amazon’s Spheres, self-enclosed employee-only spaces for relaxation. Flickr/Manuel Bahamondez.

It’s starting to feel real. Amazon officials toured DC last week, and this week a delegation is in Austin touting the city’s tech bona fides. For those reading the tea leaves, everything from Bezos’ home in Kalorama to Georgia pulling Delta’s tax breaks to Arlington’s rep for green buildings counts towards the suspicion that HQ2 will be right here.

But, according to a not-so-scientific poll of 50 of our readers, people who lived through HQ1 are mostly tepid to hostile on the idea of bringing HQ2 to their adopted city. Less than a third endorsed the idea of DC courting HQ2. Fully half rejected it outright.

Only 17 percent supported a proposal that includes tax breaks and subsidies, which is presumed to be a prerequisite of any successful bid. (The value of such carrots as Mayor Bowser might be dangling are unknown, despite attempts to FOIA it out of her administration. But, as a comparator, Maryland has offered $3 billion in tax breaks. New Jersey went up to $7 billion.)

This is just a screenshot.

Why are so few Seattlites supportive of a company that could bring 50,000 jobs?

While the positive feedback was pretty generic — “Amazon brought jobs to Seattle,” and “Amazon would help diversify DC’s economy” were the most common ones — the feedback against Amazon was more diverse, more extensive and honestly more personal. Two stories that came from people who were born and raised in Seattle struck me:

My family has been in Seattle for 5 generations. My older brother worked at the first Amazon warehouse in the 1990s. Until the early 2000s Seattle was a working class city, but since Amazon really took hold there, it’s becoming a city that only the wealthy can afford to live in. I grew up in Wallingford, a small neighborhood in North Seattle and my mom and brother still live there. As Amazon has expanded, their employees they have spread out all over the city, but mostly North Seattle. As a result rents are sky rocketing and they are building high rises with no onsite parking in a city with very little reliable public transportation. Soon my brother, a photographer and bar tender, will not be able to afford rent in the neighborhood we grew up in, or anywhere even close to it. The soul of the city, a vague statement I know, has changed as well. Every time I go home I feel the West coast weirdness is being either marketed or disappearing altogether. Amazon’s presence has made it so that I can never move back to Seattle, not only because I won’t be able to afford it, but because it’s changed too much, it’s not the same city I grew up in.

Here’s the second one:

However, the thing that people never ever talk about with Amazon impact and the population and traffic boom in Seattle is simply how many people are picking up their roots and choosing to leave. My wife and I were born and raised in Seattle. We both went to college in Seattle (UW and Cornish). We both planned to live, work, and have a family in Seattle. Then 2008 came, and the economy tanked and our income flattened. Then Amazon moved to South Lake Union, and forced up prices on virtually everything. Last year, we moved to DC. We love it here, but if Amazon moves here, we will move again. We won’t be the only ones. It is easier to move, than it is to hope that politicians do the right thing for the middle and lower classes of their city. I’ve seen how Amazon has transformed my native city for the worse. I sincerely hope the same doesn’t happen to the fantastic people and culture of DC.

Here are 4 big reasons people cited for advising against the move:

Seattle lost its culture.

“A lot of the central parts of the city are now overtaken by people from elsewhere who moved to Seattle for their Amazon job — who demand newer, trendier, more expensive eating, entertainment, and living options in their neighborhoods which has pushed out a lot of the best and most authentic parts of Seattle that I remember from living there.”

“Seattle became a more passive aggressive community.”

“The new residents don’t care about transit and norms, preferring instead to treat the city like a college town and fight in the streets. They brought bigoted violence to Seattle’s gay community and regularly assaulted trans people and people of color.”

“Sucked the soul right out that city.”

It sucks to work for Amazon.

My friends who worked for them mostly had terrible experiences, felt generally devalued by the company, and were burned out within a couple of years.”

“The thing is, a lot of Amazon jobs are not so well-paying that you can comfortably afford to buy/rent. If you have a family, things feel extra tight. People assume all tech jobs are these incredibly high paying jobs with amazing benefits, but that is not always the case.”

“In terms of company culture, Amazon is known for compensating its employees well, but overworking them. What this does to the city, however, is it creates a whole class of children (literally 22–28) who have way too much money and zero life experience, so they undertip, overdrink, and are generally dicks to those who have lived in the city much longer than they have.”

DC already has an affordable housing crisis on its hands, and Amazon would make it worse.

“DC is already experiencing an increasing displacement of people due to the influx of increasing development and increases in the cost of living. If HQ2 moves to DC, you will see this displacement increase dramatically.”

“How are you going to help folks CURRENTLY living here continue to afford to live here? Real estate prices are already crazy.”

“Amazon has marginalized and disenfranchised the vast majority of locals who live within the city of Seattle who do no work in the tech industry. By buying millions of sq ft of property and lobbying the Seattle City Counsel to relax fair housing standards and rent stabilization mechanisms, Seattle neighborhoods such as Capital Hill, Greenwood, Columbia City, West Seattle, Ballard and Fremont have become entirely un-affordable.”

Amazon doesn’t help the community.

“The job creation is tempting, but those jobs are going to go almost entirely to outsiders, not city residents. Most of them won’t live in DC, so DC won’t even get their tax dollars.”

“Over time, the company began to do some good will, by helping a local women’s shelter or donating here and there, but it was too little too late.”

“While Amazon has economically improved the city for a certain group of people, it has completely devastated our long-time black, brown, and immigrant communities… These people also do not give back to our city and often actively advocating against government support for our city’s most vulnerable citizens.”

“Amazon is always going to do what is right for Amazon. It doesnt have a culture of community engagement in the same way that Starbucks, Boeing and Microsoft (Seattle’s other major employers) do.”

Well, that’s direct.

“I left Seattle for many reasons (this being one of them).”

“I will knock every door in the city on [Bowser’s] opponent’s behalf if she doesn’t drop it.”

“GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT”

Since it seems like Mayor Bowser is going to pursue Amazon without putting out a plebiscite on this, maybe we should think about what a good Amazon scenario looks like. People did offer a couple of helpful hints:

“What’s your plan for making HQ2 help working class people?”

“We need to invest in education and [computer science] training for our black student population — yesterday — or else we will see a widening racial inequity.”

“I’d support Amazon coming here if I saw a legitimate effort to commit to affordable housing, increased density, and build more market rate units (the data shows this is a supply and demand issue at some level).”

“Leave it to MoCo”

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

If you wish to examine the testimonial data, you may do so here.

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Connecting Washingtonians to their city, to their communities, and to one another.

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