Amazon has no plans to build warehouses in Seattle’s Rainier Valley, a company spokesperson said late Friday, on the eve of a planned protest by activists in the neighborhood.
“We are not chasing any locations in the Rainier Valley,” company spokeswoman Alyssa Carroll wrote in an email. “We weigh a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve our customers. We often explore multiple sites at the same time and make adjustments based on our operational needs.”
Amazon filed documents with the City of Seattle in April 2021, outlining a plan to replace Lowe’s Home Improvement Store and the Pepsi Factory with two small warehouses spanning 220,000 square feet on 23 acres of land.
The proposal soon drew criticism from groups who argued that the space could be better used to improve the quality of life in the community and that warehouses could lead to pollution and other environmental concerns that disproportionately affect an area with a large number of people of color.
Despite the new message from Amazon, more than 60 people showed up at a pre-planned rally in an abandoned Starbucks parking lot in south Seattle. They were still upset with the company’s proposal to build a pair of warehouses near Mount Baker Light Railroad Station and Franklin High School.
After the demonstration, South Seattle community organizer Travona Thompson-Wiley, 31, said Amazon tried to “infiltrate” the community.
She said that creating an industrial site would not maintain the youth culture in the society. She doesn’t want high school students to give up their passion and end up in a factory job with poor working conditions
She said the company is not in contact with the communities that live in the area. She said she wanted the youth of the community to understand that they should pursue their passion and not engage in a factory job because it is close to and accessible to them, which would have been the pre-planned warehouse.
Amazon has repeatedly been accused of poor working conditions. Activist groups have claimed that Amazon has falsely reported a decrease in the number of work injuries despite a 20% increase in 2021 and repeated safety violations.
Our society talks about the fact that they need to have affordable housing. “They need access to support and education,” Thompson Wiley said.
The Mount Baker area is almost like a highway, so it’s important to pursue development that will make it more of a community than a drive-through area, said Jamil Suleiman, a 38-year-old artist and community organizer in South Seattle. Solomon said that instead of a warehouse, the area should be used to build a park, youth center or community gardens that preserve culture and communities of color.
Nationwide, Amazon is likely to build warehouses in neighborhoods where residents are primarily people of color, according to a December 2021 analysis from Consumer Reports.
Among Amazon warehouses, about 69% are in communities with a greater proportion of people of color living within a one-mile radius. About 57% live in neighborhoods with a greater proportion of lower-income residents.
Thompson-Wiley said she and other community members would like to see Amazon officially revoke the permit and see the city reinstate the area to prevent another large corporation from building on it.
“We want the community to continue to work together — to be in community with each other to find powerful people out there and continue to amplify our message,” she said.
This month, Amazon backed out of a deal for a cargo hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, after opposition from advocacy groups and unions who wanted to see Amazon stick to labor agreements and a zero-emissions standard at the facility.
Activists in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have also protested against Amazon’s expansion in the area, raising concerns about noise, traffic and environmental impact and accusing Amazon of failing to address local laws regarding lighting, parking and zoning. The company is drawing out its plans in March.
The company said in May that Amazon now plans to sublet some of its warehouse space, after the increase in expansion left it with additional capacity.
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