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Seattle is growing. But is the city coping with that growth? Photo via Shutterstock
Seattle is growing. But is the city coping with that growth? Photo via Shutterstock

The clash between Seattle’s growth and how the city is going to handle it is coming to a head.

This week, Mayor Ed Murray penned an op ed in the Seattle Times addressing the newspaper’s recent editorial that pointed out ways that City Hall is failing to plan for Seattle’s future.

Ed Murray at Startupday 2015
Mayor Ed Murray speaking at GeekWire Startup Day

The Times editorial, called “Amazon Angst,” stated that “Recent growth isn’t a surprise. What’s shocking is how poorly it’s been planned for by city leaders, leaving residents fuming as they sit in traffic or stand cheek to jowl on overcrowded buses crawling past construction cranes.”

Already, we’ve seen a crazy real estate market, with tech workers adding to the rising cost of getting a place to live, and gridlocked traffic on par with New York City. Seattle is the third-fastest growing city in the country, and over the next 20 years it is estimated that another 120,000 people will be living here.

Murray says his office is keeping up, though many don’t agree with that assessment.

“Since taking office, I have been carefully laying the groundwork to accommodate growth,” Murray writes, adding that the city is investing in parks, preschools, housing, transit and transportation.

He argues that green spaces are crucial for keeping Seattle livable.  He’s also formed a committee to address housing affordability and everyone’s other favorite topic: transportation. Light rail to Capitol Hill and the University District is just months away, with plans for a vote to expand the transportation network to West Seattle and Ballard.

Photo via Sound Transit
Photo via Sound Transit

“Boosting transit and making roads function more efficiently is the best way to reduce congestion,” Murray writes.

In an opinion piece on GeekWire last week, guest writer John Spaid noted that Amazon’s growth in Seattle was too risky.

“Seattle needs to make historic infrastructure investments, and then support those investments through a growing diversified employment base,” he wrote.

As a former NYC resident, Seattle still feels like a small town to me, though anchored by big companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia and Starbucks. And the addition of 120,000 bodies over 20 years doesn’t seem like that much, if it’s handled correctly.

As I escaped the hellish quality of life NYC departs on its middle class, I would hate to see the same thing happen to Seattle, which is still considered one of the top five cities to live in the country.

There is a huge chunk of the population who make too much to qualify for housing assistance, but rising rents will make it nearly impossible to afford to live in the city on that $50,000 to $70,000 a year salary.

People forget that while you are engineering your software and figuring out how to deliver toilet paper by drones, that you still need nurses, firefighters, police, teachers and a solid middle class to keep your city alive.

On the flip side, you weed out the artists and creatives, and you get one boring-ass town, filled with chain stores and restaurants. You make it impossible for regular people to start and keep a business going, and you begin to lose what makes a city unique. (See: NYC).

Cranes over Seattle. Photo via Wonderlane on Flickr.
Cranes over Seattle. Photo via Wonderlane on Flickr.

Big companies like Amazon need to be more accountable in handling their influx of people — and it would honestly help their workers out, too. Offering more flex hours, allowing some to work from home, how about implementing a 24-hour work schedule so people can work in shifts instead of gridlocking South Lake Union every morning and afternoon?

Change is coming, but far too slow. I, for one, would hate to see Seattle turn into another NYC or San Francisco. What do you think? Are city leaders doing enough to keep up?

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