Photos show how big tech is turning Seattle into 'San Francisco North'

  • San Francisco is usually thought of as being the center of the West Coast tech boom.
  • And while the Bay Area is more established, Seattle to the north has also evolved into an attractive tech hub thanks to a blossoming tech pool led by giants like Amazon and Microsoft.
  • But like San Francisco, Seattle has also experienced the downsides of a booming tech industry.
  • Congested traffic, rising housing and rent costs, an exacerbated homelessness crisis, and a cultural shift within the city are just some of the symptoms.
  • These photos show how Seattle is turning into “San Francisco North.”


Seattle has consistently been one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country for nine consecutive years now.

Source: Smart Asset


That largely has to do with the burgeoning tech presence in The Emerald City.

Source: Smart Asset


Before Seattle became synonymous with Amazon, it was a “Boeing city” dominated largely by the aircraft maker. The company’s 80,000 current employees still make it Seattle’s largest employer.

Source: The Seattle Times and Trip Savvy


And in 1990, Seattle coffee titan Starbucks expanded its existing headquarters there after business began to take off. The company currently employs about 5,000 workers at its corporate headquarters in the city’s SoDo district.

Source: Starbucks and The Seattle Times


Now, the city’s pool of tech companies is booming, with retail giant Amazon most notably making itself at home since opening its Seattle headquarters in the 1990s.

Source: Business Insider


The job growth has spawned the development of luxury apartments, more tech offices, and high-end restaurants, turning Seattle into an attractive tech hub.

Source: Business Insider


The growth, mostly fuelled by Amazon, has altered the feel of the city so much so that some residents have a name for the changes it has spurred: Amageddon.

Source: Business Insider


When Business Insider’s Harrison Jacobs visited Seattle’s Amazonia neighbourhood, as it’s known, he noted that it seemed as if Amazon “controls everything.”

Harrison Jacobs/Business InsiderAmazon’s Day 1 Tower that opened in 2016 in Seattle.


Read Harrison Jacobs’ tour of Seattle’s ‘Amazonia’ neighbourhood


About 20% of Seattle’s prime office real estate is occupied by Amazon, with more than 30 Amazon offices spanning the area and more on the way.

Harrison Jacobs/Business InsiderAmazon leases this entire building on Westlake in Downtown Seattle.

Source: Business Insider


Its growing workforce requires more and more downtown office space, and local businesses have had to cater to Amazon employees to stay afloat.

Harrison Jacobs/Business InsiderEven sex shops in Seattle are attempting to appeal to Amazonians.

Source: Business Insider


Read how one photo tells you everything you need to know about Amazon’s relationship to Seattle


The company now employs close to 40,000 Amazonians, as they’re known locally in Seattle.

Source: Business Insider


The city’s bloated tech talent pool has also been fuelled by Microsoft, which employs close to 48,000 workers in the greater Seattle area.

Source: USA Today


The company is currently renovating its Redmond campus just east of Seattle. When it’s completed, an estimated 8,000 new employees will enter the workforce there.

Source: Business Insider


Seattle has actually become the top relocation destination for many techies, including some from the Bay Area.

Source: Geekwire


In 2017, Google even found it was easier to recruit workers to Seattle than to the Bay Area because of San Francisco’s exorbitant housing costs.

Source: Silicon Beat


But Seattle isn’t far behind San Francisco.


The same side effects that San Francisco has seen as big tech has made its footprint there are increasingly present in Seattle …

Source: Fast Company


… like nightmarish traffic. Seattle was recently ranked as the sixth most congested US city in transportation company INRIX’s Annual Congestion Report, which cast San Francisco in the No. 8 spot.

Source: Smart Asset and INRIX


The report estimated that Seattleites commuting at the slowest part of the day lost 138 hours in 2018 navigating through traffic.

Source: The Seattle Times


Other more pressing symptoms are the rising housing and rent costs and an exacerbated homelessness crisis.

Source: Fast Company


To fight these issues, the city proposed a $US275 head tax on Seattle’s big businesses that would fund homeless services. The head tax was repealed in 2018 after pushback led by Amazon.

Source: Business Insider


The Seattle proposal was not unlike the newly-passed Proposition C in San Francisco, which will pull funds from companies with more than $US50 million in annual revenue and put them toward homeless relief.

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesAlthough Prop C, as it’s known, was passed, it is currently plagued with legal complications.

Source: SF Curbed and Geekwire


There’s a reason some, including Microsoft president Brad Smith, have called Seattle “San Francisco North.”

Source: Fast Company


Its cost of living is 24% higher than the US average.

Source: Smart Asset


Though that’s measly compared to San Francisco, which has a whopping 62.5% higher cost of living than in the rest of the country.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Smart Asset


Get ready to spend almost 30% more on groceries a month in Seattle than in the rest of the country, according to a Cost of Living Index.

Source: SeattlePI


The same report shows that a loaf of bread in Seattle goes for about $US3.51 compared to the national average of $US2.50.

Source: SeattlePI and Study in US


And your average meal at a restaurant in Seattle will set you back about $US30, compared to the national average of $US20.37.

Source: SeattlePI and Forbes


But the tech workers here likely aren’t as affected by those costs, with the average tech salary in Seattle sitting at $US132,000.

Source: Geekwire


That’s just shy of the national tech salary average of $US135,000.

Ted S. Warren/AP Photos

Source: PayScale


That’s also just the base pay, not including equity and bonuses. For a junior engineer in Seattle, for example, that’s about an extra $US30,000 to $US100,000 in vested stock and bonuses.

Source: Geekwire and Blind


In comparison, Seattle’s average salary is $US69,591.

Source: Geekwire


And Seattle techies get paid on average only $US10,000 less than do tech workers in the Bay Area.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderAtlassian employees in the company’s San Francisco office take advantage of the facility’s amenities.

Source: Geekwire


Like in San Francisco, high rent costs absorb a good portion of workers’ paychecks — to live in Seattle, you’re looking at $US2,125 a month in rent on average.

Source: Rent Jungle


If you’re looking in Downtown Seattle, close to Amazon’s headquarters, it’s a bit higher — the average rent there is more like $US2,642.

Source: Rent Jungle


High-earning tech workers in Seattle have yet to be as affected by the increasing cost of living as their San Francisco counterparts have been …

IMDb/Warner Bros.The HBO comedy series ‘Silicon Valley’ highlights the daily lives of tech workers in the Bay Area.

Source: Open Listings


Read more about what living in San Francisco on a tech salary really looks like


… but non-tech workers in Seattle are almost certainly feeling the blow.

Source: Fast Company


Seattleite Ellen Sims, who runs a non-profit, told Zillow in 2016 that she escaped the city’s high rent costs by shelling out $US2,000 for an RV and turning it into a home.

Source: Zillow


She lives with her cat in the converted vehicle and pays $US240 a month plus about $US300 for additional expenses like insurance and gas.

Source: Zillow


“For living alone, I pay about a third to a fourth of what other people are paying, so it’s affording me the ability to pay off debt and save money at the same time, so that I can hopefully get to purchase some land,” Sims told Zillow.

Source: Zillow


But she said there are some challenges to living in a motor home.

Source: Zillow


One being how to deal with mechanical issues when they arise.

Source: Zillow


Finding a safe place to park and sleep can be another, specifically finding a spot that’s not on an incline.

Source: Zillow


“…It’s always nice when it’s flat,” Sims said. “Things work better when they’re not on an angle, you know, I don’t end up on one corner of my bed.”

Source: Zillow


Living with a cat also has “pluses and minuses.”

Source: Zillow


“There’s no space that she can’t climb on, I can’t restrict her in certain areas not to climb on,” Sims said. But the companionship is something she said she loves.

Source: Zillow


Her non-profit provides free healthcare to low-income and homeless Seattleites, a population of people she says is growing in the city.

Source: Zillow


“The number of people who are now living in cars, motor homes, and tents has increased,” Sims said.

Source: Zillow


And so for her to be able to live affordably allows her to more fully commit to her work.

Source: Zillow


“I’m not constantly checking how much I have,” Sims said. “I’m not stressed out, and that is literally priceless.”

Source: Zillow


Homebuyers are in a similar predicament — housing prices in the city have risen 96% in the last eight years.

Source: Fast Company


The median real estate value in Seattle is currently $US730,000, according to Zillow.

Source: Zillow


And the median household income has not kept up with that rate — it’s seen only a 31% increase in that time.

Source: Fast Company


At the rate the city is going, the median home value will hit that $US1 million mark by 2024 — just five years from now.

Source: Smart Asset


Only 86,000 housing units have been built since 2010 to accommodate the mass influx of tech workers in the region.

Source: The Seattle Times


In 2018, the city proposed adjusting zoning restrictions in an attempt to add more supply to the real estate market.

Source: US News


Dubbed the “grand bargain,” the changes would permit developers to build taller and denser units, as long as they included some for a working class income or pay for similar projects to be built.

Source: US News


Some, like Seattle Googler Bryan Kirschner, support the proposal. He told U.S. News that he views it as a way to add economic diversity to the city’s different neighbourhoods.

Source: U.S. News


Others, like Susanna Lin, oppose the plan. “You increase the rate of displacement,” Lin told U.S. News. “You lose the historical character, and communities are uprooted.”

Source: U.S. News


Some say the city’s character has already begun to erode as tech giants continue to nest there, a similar phenomenon that has happened in San Francisco.

Source: Forbes


But job growth in Seattle doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. Tech presence is expected to grow 5% in the next year within King County, which includes Seattle.

Source: The Seattle Times


Amazon has plans to add thousands more employees in the coming years …

Source: Business Insider


… so chances are that Seattle’s fate as “San Francisco North” is already sealed.

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