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 activists in the neighborhood.
“We are not pursuing any sites in the Rainier Valley,” spokesperson Alisa 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 locations 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 a Lowe’s home improvement store and Pepsi plant with two small-scale warehouses spanning 220,000 square feet on 23 acres of land.
The proposal quickly drew criticism from groups who argued the space could be better used to improve quality of life in the community and that warehouses could lead to pollution and other environmental concerns disproportionately affecting an area with a significant population of people of color.
Despite the new message from Amazon, more than 60 people showed up at a preplanned rally in an abandoned Starbucks parking lot in South Seattle. They were still upset at the company’s proposal to build a pair of warehouses near the Mount Baker light rail station and Franklin High School.
After the demonstration, South Seattle community organizer Travonna Thompson-Wiley, 31, said Amazon tried to “sneak” into the community.
She said an industrial site will not preserve the culture of youth in the community. She doesn’t want high schoolers to give up on their passions and end up at a factory job with bad working conditions
She said the company is not in touch with the communities that live in the area. She said she wanted the community’s youth to understand they should pursue their passions and not fall into a factory job because it’s near and accessible to them, which the previously-planned warehouse would have been.
Amazon has repeatedly been accused of poor working conditions. Activist groups have claimed Amazon falsely stated the number of job injuries decreasing despite a 20% increase in 2021 and repeated safety violation fines.
“Our community is talking about the fact that they need access to more affordable housing. They need access to support and education,” Thompson-Wiley said.
The Mount Baker area is almost like a freeway, so it is important to pursue development that will make it more of a community rather than a drive-thru, said Jamil Suleman, a 38-year-old artist and South Seattle community organizer. Instead of a warehouse, the area should be used to build a park, youth center or community gardens that will preserve culture and communities of color, Suleman said.
Nationwide, 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, about 69% are in communities where a greater share of people of color live within a one-mile radius. About 57% are in neighborhoods with a greater share of low-income residents.
Thompson-Wiley said she and other community members want to see Amazon officially pull the permit and see the city rezone the area to prevent another large company from building on it.
“We want the community to continue to work together — to be in community with one another to find folks of power outside and continue to just amplify our message,” she said.
This month, Amazon backed out of a deal for a cargo hub at the Newark Liberty International Airport, after pushback 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 its plans in March.
Amazon is now planning to sublease some of its warehouse space, after its surge in expansion left it with extra capacity, the company said in May.