Let's Build Affordable Housing Not an Amazon Warehouse at the Mount Baker Lowe's

City of Seattle

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Amazon is planning a giant distribution center in Mount Baker, which would add pollution, traffic, and sprawl next to Franklin High School, where's there's already too much of all three. Preliminary plans suggest most of the 13-acre Lowe's and a 10-acre Pepsi plant just blocks from Mount Baker Station would end being parking rather that housing or small businesses. We must do better.

Built out to its zoning capacity, the Lowe's site could host 4,000 homes. The neighboring Pepsi plant site, which Amazon is also eying for a renovation, could host another 2,000. If these sites were developed to capacity, they would pay $100 million into the city's affordable housing trust fund or deliver 360 affordable homes on site via the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program. Because industrial uses are exempt from MHA, Amazon would pay zero if it plans go ahead.

Imagine what we could do with the site if we developed it in a way that centered community rather than same-day delivery speeds. A convener in the mold of Africatown could gather input from residents and people displaced out of the neighborhood to identify top community priorities. The City, perhaps aided by the philanthropic community and corporate leaders, could raise money to buy the site and develop half as social housing built to the specifications of that community vision and lease the other half to developers to help finance the plan.

If environmental sustainability is a priority, we could build fifteen-story mass timber towers that could perform at super-efficient Passive House standards meaning low energy bills for tenants and clean air even during wildfire smoke season. The space between the towers could be turned into a park with basketball courts and a playground for an affordable childcare center. The first floor of the apartment towers could host a hardware store to replace the Lowe's and dozens of small storefronts and perhaps spill out onto a Portland-style food truck pod to incubate another generation of entrepreneurs. The number of jobs generated by the housing, first-floor retail, and childcare center is likely to outnumber a warehouse.

Seattle intended its industrial zoning to protect and generate good-paying jobs, but Amazon's delivery drivers tend to be independent contractors to drive down wages and benefits and thwart unionization efforts. Hence the situations of drivers worked so hard they pee in bottles to stay on grueling schedules.

Let's send a message to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections to reject the permit and to the Seattle City Council to do an emergency ordinance affirming the Mount Baker Neighborhood Plan and prohibiting distribution centers and similar uses on the Lowe's site.

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Seattle, WA

To: City of Seattle
From: [Your Name]

Dear City of Seattle,

Please block Amazon's distribution center in Mount Baker and step in to create affordable housing in its place. Light rail adjacent sites in marginalized communities must serve our equitable transit-oriented development, climate, and environmental justice goals. Sites like these shouldn't be squandered on warehouses. The City should explore purchasing the site once more to control its destiny.

Thank you for your consideration.