Amazon won’t pursue warehouses in Seattle’s Rainier Valley

Amazon does not plan to build warehouses in Seattle’s Rainier Valley, a company spokesperson said late Friday, on the eve of a planned protest by neighborhood activists.

“We are not pursuing any locations in Rainier Valley,” spokeswoman Alisa Carroll wrote in an email. “We weigh a number of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve our customers. We often explore multiple sites at once and make adjustments based on our operational needs.”

Amazon filed documents with the city of Seattle in April 2021, outlining a plan to replace a Lowe’s home improvement store and Pepsi facility with two small-scale warehouses spanning 220,000 square feet on 23 acres of land.

The proposal quickly 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 cause pollution and other environmental concerns to disproportionately affect an area with a significant population 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 about the company̵[ads1]7;s proposal to build a pair of warehouses near the Mount Baker light rail station and Franklin High School.

After the rally, South Seattle community organizer Travonna Thompson-Wiley, 31, said Amazon was trying to “sneak” into the community.

She said that an industrial area will not preserve the youth culture of the community. She doesn’t want high school students to give up their passions and end up in a factory job with poor working conditions

She said the company is not in touch with the local communities living in the area. She said she wanted the youth in the community to understand that they should pursue their passions and not fall into a factory job because it is close and accessible to them, as the previously planned warehouse would have been.

Amazon has been repeatedly accused of poor working conditions. Activist groups have claimed that Amazon falsely stated that the number of workplace injuries has decreased despite a 20% increase in 2021 and repeated fines for safety violations.

– Our society talks about their need for access to more affordable housing. They need access to support and education,” Thompson-Wiley said.

The Mount Baker neighborhood is almost like a freeway, so it’s important to pursue development that will make it more of a community instead of a drive-thru, said Jamil Suleman, a 38-year-old artist and community organizer in South Seattle. Instead of a warehouse, the site should be used to build a park, a youth center or community gardens that will preserve culture and communities of color, Suleman said.

Nationally, Amazon is more likely to build warehouses in neighborhoods where residents are primarily people of color, according to a December 2021 analysis from Consumer Reports.

Among Amazon’s warehouses, approximately 69% are in communities where a greater proportion of people of color live within a one-mile radius. About 57% are in neighborhoods with a greater proportion of low-income residents.

Thompson-Wiley said she and other community members want to see Amazon officially withdraw the permit and see the city rezone the site to prevent another large company from building on it.

“We want the community to continue to work together — to be in community with each other to find people with power outside and continue to just amplify our message,” she said.

This month, Amazon pulled out of a deal for a cargo hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, following backlash from advocacy groups and unions who wanted to see Amazon commit to labor agreements and a zero-emissions benchmark at the facility.

Activists in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, also protested Amazon’s expansion in the region, raising concerns about noise, traffic and the environmental impact and accusing Amazon of failing to address local ordinances regarding lighting, parking and zoning. The company withdrew the plans in March.

Amazon now plans to sublease some of its warehouse space, after the surge in expansion gave it extra capacity, the company said in May.

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