Seattle has become a symbol of a transformation to fear, writes Seattle Times columnist Gene Balk.
“Seattle-ization” is a thing now, at least according to a New York Times article published last week. It’s described as “a particularly dire diagnosis,” and characterized by high housing costs and tech wealth, a combination that’s thoroughly transformed the city in an alarmingly short span of time.
Even in New York City, apparently, some folks are terrified that the planned Amazon campus there could turn the place into “Seattle on steroids,” according to Vice Magazine.
Balk notes the rapid increase in the cost of living, for example.
The most recent Cost of Living Index release, for the 3rd quarter of 2018, pegs Seattle at 53.6 percent above the national average. In just six years, our index score jumped by about 38 points. No other city comes close to matching that.
As he writes, some – much – of what the city is experiencing stems from prosperity.
In so many ways, Seattle is an amazing success story, thriving and economically vibrant, drawing thousands of people from around the country and the world. When you think about the great American cities that have fallen on hard times, that are losing population and dealing with epidemics of violent crime, Seattle seems enviable.
But we’ve also paid a hefty price for our success. The sudden injection of tech wealth has made Seattle a more exclusive place.
That more exclusive place is also a more expensive place to do business, as ST business reporter Benjamin Romano writes.
Like many other Seattle businesses, Taco Time has seen a marked increase in costs that cut into profits at its restaurants in the city over the last three years.
Thanks to an accumulation of new and increased taxes, a rising minimum wage and the tightest job market in 40 years, the company says its costs for food, labor and taxes are 11 percent higher at its six Seattle restaurants than at most of its other locations around the state.
The Times checked it out. The tax gap is large.
A typical grocery store doing $20 million in sales in Seattle would pay about 45 percent more in B&O and sales taxes and business-license fees than the same store in Tacoma, according to the Times analysis. The Seattle bill for those taxes is more than twice what it would be in Everett and more than triple the bill in Renton or Kent.
And there’s more.
In 2015, Seattle enacted a minimum-wage ordinance moving all workers toward a $15-an-hour base, which will be reached Jan. 1. People at companies with 501 or more employees must be paid at least $16 an hour beginning in the new year.
Seattle’s 2017 secure-scheduling regulation kept the city in the forefront of a movement in cities across the country to improve conditions for low-wage workers. Some businesses say compliance has made staffing more complex and costly.
It’s a good, in-depth report, accompanied by Romano’s list of tax changes and work regulations adopted in Seattle in the last three years. Emily Makings at the Washington Research Council also writes about the articles.
We wrote earlier today about Washington’s success at attracting new residents seeking economic opportunity. The Balk and Romano stories point to evidence that continued prosperity cannot be assumed.