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Amazon won’t look for warehouses in Seattle’s Rainier Valley

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Amazon has no plans to build warehouses in Seattle’s Rainier Valley, a company spokesman said late Friday night, ahead of a planned protest by local activists.

“We are not looking for any sites in the Rainier Valley,” spokeswoman Alice Carroll wrote in an email. “We weigh various factors when deciding where to develop future sites in order to best serve our customers. We often investigate multiple locations at the same time and make adjustments based on our operational needs.”

Amazon filed paperwork with the city of Seattle in April 2021 outlining a plan to replace Lowe’s home improvement store and Pepsi factory with two small 220,000-square-foot warehouses 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 lead to pollution and other environmental issues disproportionately affecting an area with a significant population of people of color.

Despite a new message from Amazon, more than 60 people showed up for a pre-planned rally in an abandoned Starbucks parking lot in South Seattle. They were still upset by the company’s proposal to build a pair of warehouses next to the Mount Baker light rail station and Franklin High School.

Following the demonstration, South Seattle community organizer Travonna Thompson-Wylie, 31, said Amazon was trying to “infiltrate” the community.

She said that the industrial site will not keep the youth culture in society. She does not want high school students to give up their hobbies and end up in a factory with poor working conditions.

She said the company does not communicate with the communities that live in the area. She said she wants the youth of the community to understand that they should follow their passions and not work at the factory because it is close and accessible to them, as the previously planned warehouse might have been.

Amazon has been repeatedly accused of poor working conditions. Activist groups said Amazon falsely reported a decline in work injuries despite a 20 percent increase in 2021 and repeated safety fines.

“Our community is talking about how they need access to more affordable housing. They need access to support and education,” Thompson-Wylie said.

The Mount Baker neighborhood is like a freeway, so it’s important to continue development that makes it more public rather than vehicular, said Jameel Suleman, a 38-year-old South Seattle artist and community organizer. Instead of a warehouse, the site should be replaced with a park, youth center, or community gardens that preserve culture and communities of color, Suleman said.

According to a December 2021 analysis by Consumer Reports, Amazon is more likely to build warehouses in areas where people of color mostly live.

Among Amazon warehouses, about 69% are in communities where the majority of people of color live within a one-mile radius. About 57% live in areas with a higher proportion of low-income residents.

Thompson-Wylie said she and others in the community want Amazon to formally withdraw the permit and the city to redesign the site to prevent another big company from building on it.

“We want the community to continue to work together — to be in a community with each other to find influencers from the outside and continue to just reinforce our message,” she said.

This month, Amazon pulled out of a deal for a cargo hub at Newark Liberty International Airport after resistance from rights groups and labor unions who wanted Amazon to commit to labor agreements and set the facility to zero emissions.

Activists in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania also protested Amazon’s regional expansion, raising concerns about noise, traffic and environmental impacts and accusing Amazon of failing to comply with local ordinances regarding lighting, parking and zoning. In March, the company abandoned its plans.

Amazon is currently planning to sublease some of its warehouse space after its rapid expansion added additional capacity, the company said in May.

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