The CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, is well known for his love of the final frontier and this hideous building, bubble, geodome, whatever, is not shocking. It is the last nail in the proverbial coffin that the city that once brought you Dangerous Catch about the working men who often moored their boats in Fisherman's Terminal here, now brings you Lol Works about the idiot who came up with a website called "Can I have a cheezburger". Thankfully that show much like the business itself is canceled.
Seattle has always struggled with an image problem. It was once proudly working class with Boeing its largest employer. Then the move of the headquarters to Chicago and the switch to Microsoft caused the city to change the type of Engineers it revered. In the late 70s our local curmudgeon from the local paper, the PI, Emmett Watson, dubbed the influx of Californians a damage to the image of the city and demanded a "lesser Seattle." I am afraid with that came the concept of the Seattle Freeze that still exists in some type of isolation and segregation. I believe the book "Whatever Happened to Bernadette" best illustrates the Seattle "type."
Then Microsoft discovered cheap immigrant labor in the form of H1B1 Visas and their location in the east side of the lake that divided the area made for neighbors of disconnect and discontent. There has always been and will be a false sense of pride with regards to Bill Gates and his minions but the new generation don't always recall those who set the trail. Many don't realize Mr. Gates father is in fact a prominent Attorney with a well known law firm in DC that has many lobbyists not barbarians at their gate and at one point employed the famous or infamous Jack Abramhoff. But that is another story and an even better movie with Kevin Spacey, pre House of Cards.
And now new money trumps old. Mr. Bezos whose wealth is or is not in Billions (who really knows as all it takes is watching the documentary Queen of Versailles to see how the rich "live") has recently been in the news for his purchase of the Washington Post. Well if you can't be them join them and controlling a legacy paper in the backyard of the Capital is the same thing as having a prestigious law firm, sorta, kinda. What is interesting is that when the Post Intelligencer our second newspaper with a powerful Hearst legacy was for sale, Mr. Bezos had no interest in that purchase and it survives, barely as an online blog type journal. Seattle is now a one horse newspaper town as many are which I think speaks volumes about aspirations versus reality.
The Seattle Times rag, and I mean that as I don't read it but when I do I think it would make excellent glass cleaning cloth (being the greenie I am newsprint does great on glass) as opposed to the one step removed newspaper it once was had an article (that they had already written months ago but okay point made) about the high rents in the area. Despite a building boom the average rents now run about 2,000 a month. That would make rent at about 24K annually and that means your income should be over 65K annually to afford that much rent. Well that is what the supposed median income here in Seattle. Fascinating as I know NO ONE who earns that. Which means it is affected by the disproportionate individuals who earn millions.
The reality is that wage average also sets the average rents and costs here, and again that puts renting and living in Seattle for the average (I suspect it falls between 45 to 52K) worker out of luck. And despite this articles raving about the jobs and "average" pay for said gigs. Putting this in perspective that Glassdoor puts it at 80K which means with deductions and taxes the net pay is approximately 1,300 a month. So guess there are a lot of roommates there. And given that most of the Amazon staff are emigres from East Asia that would not be a problem. Add to that the average workweek for an Amazon employee is close to 80 hours a week that means you are earning approximately $15/hr (taking out daily costs such as lunch) Wow I need to take a math class.
And when you read this man's take on the Amazon "philosophy" and work ethic. The revolving door that Congress to K Street seems to be the same here.
As for the other Amazon employees, the ones earning $11/hr, well they are contracted employees so exempt from benefits, stock options, workman's comp and other protections provided to full time employees. Well let's keep our costs down as Daddy needs to invest in space machine or expensive newspaper.
Seattle has massive problems facing any city undergoing urban development of this kind. The infrastructure is shot, we have poor schools with a Board that an outside consultant deemed utterly dysfunctional and a third Superintendent in as many years, a lack of affordable housing, violence by the Police resulting in a 41 million dollar judgement by the Justice Department, a singular public hospital that is utter garbage in treating the needy/poor, a transit system that was underfunded by the legislature and undergoing massive cuts as a result, an airport not capable of handling increased traffic and of course real jobs with real livable wages.
The whole bullshit about why the Amazon employee wants to live near their work is because they work 80 hours! And that they don't have a car, well could you afford one with 75% of your income to rent? Then add the likelihood of college debt, these kids are not worrying about getting married, buying a home and having kids. And if you have kids in Seattle, most of the "middle class" send their kids to private schools so add that debt onto the tab. This city is a joke and a farce and even with 4000 to 6000 relocation's here annually according to the DMV I wonder how many of them stay and how many are the ones living in the doorways to all the supposedly full Apartments?
My comments about this led to nasty criticisms by those new migrants to the area from tragic cities such as Baltimore, Detroit and Cleveland. And I understand that in comparison this is not just the home to the band known as Nirvana, but what it also says is this: That their own communities are now deteriorated and they are not there to try to re-build, re-new a community and that they are part of the problem with their nasty sense of entitlement that abusing one concerned about the long term further isolates, segregates and perpetuates the "Seattle Freeze." This is the new America, the Myopic one that is what about "my" stuff. It is not good for any City, one on the way up and one on the way down. Ask Detroit about what that means. Bubble bubble toil and trouble.
As Amazon Stretches, Seattle’s Downtown Is Reshaped
By KIRK JOHNSON and NICK WINGFIELD
When Amazon executives showed up last year for the first meetings about their proposal to build a new headquarters here — three towers that would draw thousands of workers downtown — city officials were taken aback. Not by the scope of the plan, but by the simplicity of the discussion. The executives said they were ready to break ground immediately on what would be one of the biggest development projects in city history. < “It was not a hard-boiled negotiation,” said Marshall Foster, the director of city planning. “They basically walked in and said, ‘We think this is the site.’ ” A shovel-ready company that clear and confident, and with the cash to back it up, “doesn’t happen very often,” Mr. Foster added. Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, has a reputation for the grand gesture, a knack for seizing an opportunity that can remake a landscape. His purchase of The Washington Post this month for $250 million cash, a bet that others might have shied away from, is a case in point.
Here, in his company’s hometown, Mr. Bezos has put his chips on the idea of Seattle and urban America itself. The first headquarters tower is already under construction, and the company currently occupies 14 smaller buildings nearby.
The result in South Lake Union, previously a low-rise, low-rent warehouse district with ties to the city’s gritty maritime past, is a flood of cash, construction detours and dust. Increases to the city’s tax base aside, some people are apprehensive about whether the growth could outstrip the city’s ability to keep up.
“South Lake Union was a place that people drove through, not to,” John Schoettler, Amazon’s director of global real estate and facilities, said in an interview. “Once we started development there, everything started to spring up around us.”
The once-empty streets are flooded at lunchtime with Amazon workers, easily identified by their blue employee badges. Fleets of food trucks have arrived, offering Thai, tacos and other fare. On a nice day, workers take their lunches to a park next to the Museum of History and Industry, which was recently renovated with a $10 million contribution from Mr. Bezos.
The company already has about 15,000 employees in Seattle, mostly highly paid engineers, managers and programmers, out of a global work force of about 97,000, according to people familiar with its head count who were not authorized to discuss a figure that the company does not share publicly. The new towers have a capacity for 12,000, giving the company room for nearly 30,000 workers in Seattle, which has a population of 635,000.
“Nobody else in the downtown area has ever had this kind of impact,” said Matt Griffin, a 35-year veteran of the Seattle economic scene and the managing partner at the Pine Street Group, a real estate marketing and development company.
But the Amazon effect only starts with its own big numbers. The thousands of new employees, recently hired or anticipated, have also caught the attention of apartment developers. Last year, Seattle issued more new residential building permits than in any year since at least 1984, when the current system of record-keeping began.
Many of those new apartments are within walking or biking distance of Amazon. Service businesses and start-up technology companies, meanwhile, have sought nearby addresses. Northeastern University, based in Boston, set up a remote campus last year across the street from Amazon’s current buildings.
“I think they’ve single-handedly defined a whole region,” said Bryan Trussel, the chief executive of Glympse, an Internet start-up with offices next to Amazon. “Now everyone wants to be there.”
The setting is significant. In casting its lot in the center of a congested, bustling city, Amazon has rejected the old model of the suburban company campus that is typical of Silicon Valley and the technology ring road around Boston. The old way is perhaps most vividly exemplified by Microsoft. Its offices, and most of its 42,000 local employees, are about 18 miles from downtown Seattle, in the suburb of Redmond.
But it was, perhaps paradoxically, Microsoft money that made Amazon’s torrid growth in the neighborhood possible. In the early 1990s, Paul Allen, Microsoft’s billionaire co-founder, agreed to help finance the creation of a 61-acre public park starting in South Lake Union, a project that was eventually killed by voters. As a result, Mr. Allen’s investment firm, Vulcan, ended up being a big landowner in the area, eventually selling or leasing many of its buildings to Amazon.
Other technology companies are moving into urban spaces. Twitter and Dropbox, the social networking and online storage services, have made San Francisco home, while Tumblr and Etsy, blogging and shopping sites, are in New York. Google has huge urban spaces from Paris to Pittsburgh.
The appeal of cities to potential employees is part of the reason for the shift. An urban setting, with access to good restaurants, nightclubs and cultural attractions, has become as important a recruiting tool as salary or benefits for many companies.
But most of those urban pioneers are still small, at least in their real estate and staffing needs. Twitter, one of the largest, employs about 1,500 workers in San Francisco.
Amazon, by contrast, is both local and global. By encouraging its employees to live within walking distance, it could help Seattle meet its goals for energy efficiency and conservation, city officials said. As part of its development agreement, Amazon also plans to buy a new streetcar for the light rail line that runs past its properties and pay for a stretch of dedicated bicycle lane.
Mr. Schoettler, Amazon’s real estate director, said environmental considerations were an important factor in the company’s decision to remain in Seattle, along with the type of employee that an urban location attracts.
“The energy and excitement from employees being in an urban environment — I hear it daily,” said Mr. Schoettler, who walks to work. “A lot of people don’t even have a car. They want that urban experience right there.”
By contrast, Microsoft’s private bus line, called the Connector, is a common sight snaking through neighborhoods in Seattle and other local communities. Of the company’s 42,012 employees in the Puget Sound region, nearly half are registered to ride, a spokeswoman for the company said in an e-mail.
Amazon’s transformative rush presents challenges for Seattle. Officials must manage the de facto city-within-a-city that is emerging around the company, with a surge of new restaurants, apartment complexes and commercial buildings.
The new headquarters has limited parking, putting pressure on mass transit, which was crimped this year by a financing stalemate in the State Legislature. The city wants low-cost housing in the Amazon zone, but soaring rents and real estate prices, city officials said, will make that goal difficult to achieve. The company’s business model, and tactics in avoiding state sales taxes in many states, also presents a challenge to retailers.
And the company’s mostly young work force may want to raise children here, requiring a new public school where none exist. The city has allocated $5 million for an elementary school, but planners are wrestling with a chicken-or-egg dilemma. A school built now could sit empty, they said, but waiting until the need arises might be too late if young families start moving elsewhere.
“As the city grows — and again, it’s a good problem to have, one that other cities don’t — we have to keep investing in all of our places,” Mayor Mike McGinn said. “How do we make sure we preserve the things that make the city special?”