The Seattle City Council voted 8-1 Monday to approve a plan giving Amazon an alley that runs through a Denny Triangle block.

Share story

The Seattle City Council approved a plan Monday to give Amazon an alley that runs through a Denny Triangle block where the company is building two office towers.

Under the plan, Amazon will pay the city the value of the alley and provide various benefits, including the construction of a plaza open to the public.

The council originally planned to vote last month but postponed its decision after some members raised concerns about Amazon potentially trying to stop people in the plaza from exercising their First Amendment right to protest.

Councilmembers Lorena González, Tim Burgess and Lisa Herbold sponsored an amendment Monday requiring that free-speech activities be allowed and that the plaza be identified by signage as a public area. The amendment passed unanimously.

The council approved Amazon’s request by a vote of 8 to 1, with only Councilmember Kshama Sawant opposing it. Sawant said she would have preferred to see the plan sent back to the council’s transportation committee for further review.

She said the plan doesn’t adequately advance the interests of people employed by Security Industry Specialists (SIS), Amazon’s security-guard contractor.

Labor activists, including Service Employees International Union Local 6, have accused SIS of mistreating its workers. It last year settled a charge filed by the Seattle Office of Civil Rights related to the city’s paid sick-time law.

SIS also last year settled a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board that it had prohibited its employees from talking to Amazon workers, and from talking with each other about unionizing.

“Amazon has outsourced security guards to a company … to try to avoid letting them have their democratic right to a union,” Sawant said Monday.

SIS admitted no wrongdoing in settling with the Office of Civil Rights, which found no instances of the company wrongly firing or suspending workers over sick-time issues.

Though he voted for the plan, Councilmember Mike O’Brien, like Sawant, said he would have preferred it be sent back to committee and criticized Amazon for using SIS.

O’Brien and other council members said Seattle needs to rework the standards for what benefits it seeks when it allows companies to take over public streets and alleys. Both O’Brien and Rob Johnson said they have previously been wrongly told to leave public-private spaces.

The alley that generated debate Monday runs from Blanchard Street to Bell Street between Seventh and Eight avenues in the booming Denny Triangle neighborhood.

Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Johnson praised the plan‘s benefits, which besides open space will include street enhancements for pedestrians and cyclists.

What Amazon will pay the city hasn’t yet been determined. The amount will be based on the alley’s fair-market value, as determined by an independent appraisal when the project is nearing completion. Amazon in November gave the council an estimate of $4.8 million.

Representatives from the Denny Triangle Neighborhood Association and South Lake Union Community Council spoke in favor of the plan, which the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Seattle Association and Cascade Bicycle Club also supported. Members of the Transit Riders Union and two former SIS employees urged the council to demand more.