A City Council member wants to uproot Jeff Bezos’s tech giant and shrink the wealth gap using radical politics.
But not everyone in the city agrees that hardline, no-surrender socialism is the answer.
It’s always the perfect temperature inside the Amazon Spheres. More than 40,000 plants sourced from tropical forests in 30 countries populate the four-story glass edifice, which doubles as a workspace and lounge for company employees. During the day, the lush vegetation is kept healthy at a temperate 72 degrees and 60 percent humidity, mimicking Costa Rica’s Central Valley, a haven for expats who have left their home countries for paradise. The cavernous structure also includes waterfalls, winding canopy walkways, and fish from the actual Amazon River. Heat is piped in using recycled energy from a nearby data center, ensuring that downtown Seattle’s warmest respite isn’t a drag on the power grid.
Outside the spheres, the city is a colder place. In the nearby neighborhood of Wallingford, a newly erected outpost of small wooden shacks offer shelter for 22 of Seattle’s homeless residents. This is a “tiny house village,” sanctioned by the city as a kind of middle ground between living at a street address and on the street. The buildings sit in the corner of a parking lot across from a seafood restaurant, shielded from view by a metal fence. Each shack, painted with one of the bold colors of a Crayola starter pack, offers electricity and a roof sturdier than the tents in Seattle’s increasingly common homeless encampments. Every resident is issued a window fan for the occasional hot day, and the people here hope to receive heaters before winter. But the small collections of potted petunias and pothos that sit in front of their temporary homes are unlikely to survive the city’s harshest months.
Seattle, like a lot of American cities, has become a boomtown split between haves and have-nots. Here, though, many of the haves can be ID’d from afar by the blue lanyards hanging from their necks as they swarm fast-casual restaurants during lunch hour. Amazon is Seattle’s largest employer, its greatest occupier of office space, and its most prized economic engine. The company is also one of the reasons the city has endured skyrocketing housing prices, ever-expanding waves of gentrification, and a huge spike in homelessness over the past several years.
By reaching a level of success that outpaced even its own ambitious projections, Amazon has detonated what some critics call a “prosperity bomb” in Seattle, ....