Shake, Rattle, BOOM! Economic Growth Peaks in Post-Quake Decade

Emerging from the rubble of the Seattle Fault earthquake came vast economic growth. As contractors and volunteers removed the remaining outdated and unstable structures, opportunity was seized to rebuild a more contemporary, resilient, and organically operating urban environment.

This story is a work of fiction, including all names and quotes, written by WWU DRR students for public education purposes. Site design by Dr. Scott Miles.

Through the implementation of localized living, smart retail development, small business growth, and with the strong response from big business, Seattle built a more stable economy. This city is quickly becoming an attractive national symbol for technological innovation and progressive development. “A Better Life, A Better Way” has become a city wide motto to promote new and exciting improvements that may instigate perpetuating healthy economic growth and residential well-being.

After the quake, many residents were voicing their opinions as to what the new improvements within the area might look like. With so many ideas being voiced, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) felt obligated to facilitate community based meetings where these ideas could be organized and discussed.

The commencing results came with viable solutions to what may feasibly be installed to create a prosperous urban environment for years to come. Thus, the Centralized Neighborhood Plan was created by building transit-oriented neighborhoods and social cores where people could interact in ways that had not been facilitated before.

“We have really gotten to know our neighbors since moving here” stated Jerel Henderson, a new community member. “Everything I need is within a fifteen minute bus ride or a ten minute walk. I haven’t used my car in weeks!”

This new type of centralization in neighborhood planning has brought on new and exciting opportunities in the small business market as well.

“More people are walking to their destinations now than ever. The foot traffic alone has tripled” says business owner Michael Dymond-Shaw.

Through the installation of Smart-zoning by the Seattle Planning Commission, affordable housing has been intimately intertwined throughout the city virtually eliminating the displacement of lower-income families in many areas. These innovative plans have built strong ties between residents and local businesses and have aided in the 20% growth of the local economy since pre-quake times. Demographics are not clustered and grouped by income like we have seen previously.

These plans have created great diversity within the region and have instilled community pride in the locals. The job no longer defines the location, residents often stay within their newly established communities and frequently engage in social activities with all social classes. Neighborhood identification is much less established by annual income as it is by geographic location. This increase in diversity has proven to benefit the locals and with the help of the large increase in tech work within the city, unemployment has almost vanished a decade after the disaster.

Following the quake, the rapid revitalization of the urban environment quickly caught the eye of the tech industry. Many companies such as Amazon, Expedia, T-Mobile and Microsoft have dominated the local job market and have expanded beyond pre-disaster projections. Careers in King County have ultimately shifted toward a virtual job market similar to that of San Francisco. This growth in big business has helped drop the unemployment rate lower than ever seen before. This economic boom has also attracted industry titan Google Inc. which presently owns a newly established headquarters within the city limits of Redmond.

Chief Economist Devon Engeland says “The installation of a new Google headquarters in our local economy will undoubtedly drop the unemployment rate even further. This move will also attract many outside educated personnel to the area and provide financial capitals furthering the economic boom.”

Although the unemployment rate continues to drop, some argue that soon the market will be saturated when expansion plateaus, leaving many without work in the future. This concept has sparked a movement to limit big business presence among many neighborhoods including: Kirkland, Sammamish and much of Bellevue. Gentrification is a huge concern for these residents and the Google riots as witnessed in Silicon Valley have been used as an example of what may be to come.

In order to combat this public disapproval the city has given promise to increasing the required low-income housing percentages in the evolving comprehensive plan. These new requirements are said to provide a larger percentage of physically available low-income housing units and to expand the eligibility from 80 percent of the median income to 85 percent. This promise has yet to be installed but has softened the voices of angered residents. Time will tell if this promise will be fulfilled and we will see how political candidates will approach these concerns in the coming months.

Along with the expanding tech industry, the aerospace business has bounced back in no time. Most losses recognized by Boeing Co. were product based rather than built facilities due tplaneo the low cost materials used in construction. Thus the comparative low cost to these companies resulted in an expedited recovery and aggressive expansion following the destruction. This maneuver virtually immediately provided jobs for many residents whom had lost employment following the quake and thousands continue as employees today. Some families say they owe everything they have to Boeing and its quickly installed facilities.

David Bridgeman, “For months after the quake there weren’t many jobs available, but after the expansion in the company most everyone I know either works here or went to construction. I don’t know where I would be without this job.”

Many industries suffered due to the resulting infrastructure failures. The absence of water and electricity halted production and prevented any progress in business until these utilities could be restored. To solve this issue and ensure this does not occur again, a localized smart grid was implemented. This grid localizes energy production and consumption to reduce wide spread energy outages. Thanks to the collaboration between Seattle City Light and the City Planning Commission, expedited construction quickly went underway and these improved utility networks were up and running within six weeks.

Growth incommunity building small business has created a plethora of creative and kooky scenes within the area. New community gardens in Capitol Hill can be found on just a short stroll around the block and street art has filled the empty spaces between homes and businesses. With the ever growing vibrancy and culturally expressive landscape, tourism has tripled in the last ten years.

“Seattle has become a tourist Mecca overnight it seems” – Trevor Silva, a traveling student said.

Following the quake, many visitors have come for the cultural expression and many others for the expansive redevelopment projects.

According to council member Haley Taylor at the  “The key to our economic success came from a fine balance of smart new development and supporting existing business.”

The numbers speak for themselves. A 20% growth in the economy from pre-quake times has certainly shown that comprehensive planning has a strong relationship with our built and social capitals. Where plain looking structures had once been now stand elaborate works of art made from recycled construction goods and other wise wasted materials. Most of these ostentatious projects have since been deconstructed and gathered in art studios. However the favorites of the communities have been protected and currently stand as an uplifting remembrance of the quake. On an exploration of Seattle you may spot these wonderful additions by following the tourists. These folks will be marked with umbrellas, guidebooks and the forever comedic Duck bill necklaces given after the “Ride the Duck” tours offered in Westlake and Belltown.

“The most commonly expressed reasons for participating in gardens were access to fresh foods, to enjoy nature, and health benefits. Gardens in low-income neighborhoods (46%) were four times as likely as non-low-income gardens to lead to other issues in the neighborhood being addressed; reportedly due to organizing facilitated through the community gardens.”

Though they don’t seem like too big of a deal a lot of these communities gardens offer people that live in high density areas to go outside and interact with the natural world. But overall it just gives the community a space that they can claim as their own which really helps create a sense of place for that community. This will intuitively connect the members that are among that community with each other. I can also see that there would be a lot of people growing various different vegetables, herbs and other foods that many individuals might not be. So I could see people sharing or even trading there different foods for other ones. Creating higher social capital and a sense of togetherness that may have not been there before. But in general community gardens help reinforce the idea that everyone in that localized area is working together to strive for a better and stronger future.

One issue felt by all in the affected areas was the loss of communication services. The loss of internet access has flared innovation in the installation of new and improved systems. Fiber optics being of the leading choice for internet networking in many areas now recognized as “innovation hubs.” These centralized cores offer internet access that ideally will never go down. Wisegeek, an online based technology Q and A blog, describes these fiber optic systems as a network with “potentially unlimited range with no degradation in signal strength over great distances, and data transfer rates that travel, literally, at the speed of light.”

Due to the high cost of installation these centralized cores have been planted in strategic locations where they may best serve the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. This strategy also allows for extensions to be later installed as demand for these improved networks develop over time. The economic benefits to these hubs have already become apparent. The first established was primarily used to expedite the processes of permitting to allow for the much needed rapid construction for housing. Funding from the Bob & Mandy Elberts Foundation created the first few within the downtown area (completely backed by Microsoft), but with the recent local establishment of an Apple headquarters, Cloud collaboration has become an industry norm given its compatibility between all consumer used platforms.