In the past couple of years, there’s been a steady stream of outstanding journalism and research documenting the dramatic changes taking place in Seattle, largely driven by Amazon’s explosive growth.
In July 2015, I published How Our Success is Ruining Seattle which was promoted by BoingBoing, Slashdot and mentioned prominently Crosscut. It was well-received within and beyond the city by many people. There’s also an outline reference of all the news and statistical reports I used for the article.
I’ve summarized more of the most essential stories and data below:
Background on Amazon’s Seattle Impacts
In May 2014, my post You’ve Got Male (a.k.a. Too Many Dudes) chronicling Amazon’s impact on the Seattle dating scene went quickly viral and spawned a number of follow-ups — the most popular of which, “Amazon is Killing My Sex Life” by Tricia Romano, made it into the late New York Times’ columnist David Carr’s curriculum for his communications class.
Then, in November 2014, I wrote “‘Amageddon’: Seattle’s Increasingly Obvious Future”, which hit a nerve and received well over a hundred thousand page views. Said one friend, “You’re saying what’s on everyone’s minds.” Most recently, I published, “Peepless in Seattle: Dating, Friendship, and the Seattle Freeze After Forty,” my most personal, disclosive piece yet. All these pieces continue to get ongoing search traffic.
Fast Facts: Seattle After Amazon
Amazon’s Company Town? The retail behemoth feels at home in Seattle. But the city’s not so sure (Politico, 10/14/14)
Growth and Construction
[pullquote1 quotes=”true” align=”right” cite=”Dan Savage”]Gold’s Gym is so overrun with straight boys these days that I’m pretty sure we’re going to get pushed out of Seattle’s ‘gay gym’ pretty soon. [/pullquote1]
Seattle is the fastest-growing city in the country; now larger than Boston. Fueled by Amazon’s unrestrained growth, fifty-one cranes frame the Seattle skyline with more on the way. Seattle’s sky is full of cranes (and we’re not talking about birds) (PSBJ, 7/8/14): “there are more than 100 construction projects in Downtown Seattle,” a third more than the previous high from 2007. “Over the past year, the amount of office space under construction has nearly doubled … to 3.2 million square feet.”
Newcomers arriving in record numbers (Seattle Times, 3/24/15): “It’s official: Amazon boom beats Microsoft boom. In 2014, King County smashed a 24-year-old record for the number of newcomers — and we’re on pace to set a record again in 2015.” See also This boom is bigger than the last: Report says Seattle area seeing record number of new residents.
Is Amazon wielding too much weight in Seattle? (GeekWire 3/25/15): “With the lease of the historic Troy Block along Fairview Avenue, Amazon.com is now on track to occupy roughly 10 million square feet of office space, which according to an analysis by The Seattle Times (Amazon devouring quarter of Seattle’s best office space, 3/24/15) would equate to about 25 percent of the premium office space in downtown Seattle. Could Seattle follow the same path as Detroit? Is Amazon.com the equivalent of General Motors?”
See also Amazon’s Seattle growth continues, leases 817k square feet in 2 towers east of main campus (GeekWire, 3/24/15) and Amazon Seattle’s headcount to Nearly Triple in Five Years (Jeff Reifman, 12/4/14).
Traffic, Biking and Public Transit
Seattle has the fourth worst traffic in the country or We’re No. 5 (Seattle Times, 3/31/15) “Drivers in the metro area spent an average 89 hours of last year delayed in traffic jams, and an evening commute that should take 30 minutes at the speed limit averaged 53 minutes”
“Add 20,000 or 30,000 more Amazon employees, and people just won’t be able to move given current transportation systems.” Is Amazon wielding too much weight in Seattle? (GeekWire 3/25/15)
It’s getting too dang hard to move around Seattle (GeekWire, 9/14/14): “it’s getting to the point where you can’t really move around this city. Three times this week I’ve taken to the roads in my 1992 Honda Accord only to be rebuffed or sent in another direction.”
Carfree in Seattle, the living isn’t easy (Seattle Times, 9/13/14): “For all the talk of Seattle’s green urbanism and the rise of the downtown corporate campus, a la Amazon, there’s good reason 84 percent of Seattle households still have cars (compared to only 44 percent in New York). It’s because relying on mass transit here — on the bus — can slowly turn you into a second-class citizen.”
Crash yesterday put region in a standstill (Seattle Times, 3/25/15). It took me 30 minutes to drive 1.3 miles that afternoon.
How Much (Or Little) The Middle Class Makes, In 30 U.S. Cities (NPR, 3/19/15): Seattle has the 2nd wealthiest middle class. Seattle has the fastest growing rich (The Stranger, 3/24/15) via Some cities are still more unequal than others (Brookings, 3/17/15)
King County Homeless Population Up Sharply in One Night (Seattle Times, 1/23/15). The annual One Night Count of the Homeless, held Thursday night into Friday morning, found 3,772 people in King County without shelter, a 21 percent increase over 2014.
Cost of Living, Rent Increases and Regional Diaspora
In July 2015, Amazon misled the Associated Press about its damage to affordable housing in Seattle.
Priced out? Growing numbers appear to be fleeing King County (Seattle times, 3/26/15): “could we also be witnessing the emergence of a countertrend — that of a growing number of folks fleeing pricey King County and heading south to Pierce? New data on U.S. counties, released by the Census Bureau on Thursday, hints that this may be the case.”
In Vulcan to Redevelop Cal Anderson Park (The Stranger, 4/1/15) Dan Savage tells average folks to get politically active and get used to a decade of really long commutes: “We are powerless to ‘save’ Capitol Hill. But we have the power—or you do—to create a new Capitol Hill in Pioneer Square or on Beacon Hill or in South Park. And guess what? You will be to those ‘hoods what the bros and techies are to this ‘hood: The new arrivals, the disrupters, the first-wave gentrifiers. Pushing for the construction of more affordable housing units (even though we’ll never be able to build enough to make up for what’s being lost). Pushing to rezone more of the city for multi-family dwellings (and allowing for the construction of more apodments). But the single best use of our time? Pushing hard for the fast-tracked construction a city-wide mass transit system. Pushing to get rapid transit out into the suburbs—aka the new inner city—might actually help the people who are being forced out of the cities.”
Diversity and Gender Equality
Male Dominated Hiring
In October 2014, Amazon released its diversity numbers. While the company reports 63% of its worldwide workforce is male, it’s likely closer to 75% male in the company’s Seattle technology headquarters; that’s the company’s overall managerial ratio and close to Microsoft’s technical ratio.
In Broverwhelmed: Gender Disparity in Seattle (8/1/14), SeattleMet described a woman’s unfortunate interview experience at Amazon: “When she arrived for her second interview at Amazon, the applicant was escorted to an undecorated office the size of a closet. There she sat as a procession of seven guys filed in one at a time to ask her questions, often the same questions as the guy before. Few made eye contact, none offered her so much as a drink of water or a bathroom break. The whole day she didn’t lay eyes on a woman. She was there for five hours… She didn’t get an offer, but by the time she ran (screaming?) to her car she didn’t want one.”
In “Thanks to Amazon, Seattle is awash in fortune-seeking men again (Crosscut, 3/2/15), Seattle historian Knute Berger compares the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush to the present Amazon boom: “according to a recent study, Seattle’s sex industry is undergoing an explosive period of growth… Human trafficking is again a major concern; feeding libidos is a lucrative business. There’s no evidence that this is due to Amazon men.”
Gender pay equity has declined as Amazon’s grown; says Politico, “Women in Seattle…make just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men…down from 86 cents in 2012.”
Apple and Intel make massive investments in tech diversity but Amazon and Microsoft do not: Apple donates over $50 million to improve diversity in tech (The Verge, 3/10/15). Intel Invests $300 Million to Improve Its Workplace Diversity (Wired, 1/7/15).
Census reports show that Seattle is the fifth whitest big city and getting whiter. The Rainbow PUSH coalition called Amazon’s diversity report “…intentionally deceptive, as the company did not include the race or gender breakout of their technical work force.”
Impacts on LGBTQ Community
Cultures clash as gentrification engulfs Capitol Hill (Seattle Times, 3/17/15). Journalist Tricia Romano documents how spiking rents and an influx of brogrammers into the traditionally gay Capitol Hill neighborhood are invoking hate crime as well as protest art, as profiled in The “Woo Girls” Street Artist Is Not Hiding from Anyone (The Stranger, 2/27/15). Capitol Hill ranked as fifth Bro-iest neighborhood nationally by Thrillist.
Capitol Hill is becoming ‘less gay’ and LGBTQ hate-crimes jumped from 6 in 2011 to 19 in 2012.
Dan Savage writes, “Gold’s Gym is so overrun with straight boys these days that I’m pretty sure we’re going to get pushed out of Seattle’s ‘gay gym’ pretty soon.” Transit Is a Social Justice Issue (The Stranger, 4/7/15)
August 2014 was “the highest reported robbery totals of any month” on Capitol Hill.
Amazon’s ‘Life in Seattle’ recruiting video gets satirized (Seattle Times 5/13/15):
Amazon Financial Concerns
Amazon.com Inc. Is Losing More Money Than You Think (Motley Fool, 12/22/14): The truth is that Amazon isn’t generating anywhere near enough cash from its business to make the kinds of investments that the company is making. During the third quarter alone, Amazon entered into $1.1 billion of new capital leases. To put it simply, this isn’t likely sustainable in the long term. Amazon cannot afford to keep doing what it’s doing. If it continues to invest heavily through capital leases, its debt is going to keep piling up. also Amazon Just Admitted It’s Making Less Than You Think (2/7/15): “Investors need to wise up to Amazon’s accounting games.”
Amazon vs. Microsoft
How does Amazon’s boom compare to Microsoft’s heyday? (Seattle Times, 3/28/15) Brier Dudley compares the cascade of wealth of Microsoft’s growth to that of Amazon’s.
Ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says Amazon isn’t a real business (GeekWire, 10/24/14): Ex-CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer recently said, “Amazon’s not a real company” because it doesn’t make any money. “If you are worth $150 billion, eventually somebody thinks you’re going to make $15 billion pre tax,” he said. “They make about zero, and there’s a big gap between zero and 15.”