How do Seattleites feel about the city’s growth? What are people’s fears and concerns? Their hopes and dreams for Seattle?

Yesler Community Collaborative teamed up with marketing firm Weber Shandwick in 2016 to find out. What emerged were people’s broadly shared goals of expanding social, racial, and economic equity and sharing the progress and prosperity of a thriving, healthy city. Synthesizing findings from nine in-depth interviews, two focus groups, a media analysis, and an online survey of over 300 respondents, YCC developed a narrative and messaging guidelines for communicating about these goals as Seattle grows.

Local voices inform this narrative, so it’s a powerful tool to center the city’s conversation and solutions around all the communities that make the city tick.

The research gives us a snapshot of how Seattleites define what makes Seattle Seattle—the city’s identity. It also shapes the contours of a shared vision for a young city “growing up.” Priorities shared by Seattle’s newcomers and oldtimers alike align with Yesler Community Collaborative’s work, protecting cultural and economic diversity through equitable development and community investments. What else is top of mind for Seattleites? The researchers found:

  • People feel conflicted about what’s happening in Seattle: For old-timers to a large degree (57 percent) and a big share of newcomers (43 percent), it feels like Seattle is not changing for the better. Seattleites want the city to grow—as a sign of success, progress, and prosperity—but want to grow the right way.
  • There’s widely shared concern that Seattle risks losing important aspects of the city’s identity as it grows—in particular, the variety and diversity of people who call Seattle home. People define this inclusive identity in powerful terms: Seattle’s spirit, soul, and heart.
  • The preferred messages emphasized community decision-making and protecting equity and diversity.
  • In particular, what resonated with the most people was the idea that the people of Seattle should “own our growth” and that Seattle should be “a city for the many.”
  • Seventy-six percent acknowledged racial and cultural segregation in Seattle and agree they want to do something about it.
  • Displacement is felt by nearly everybody who lives and works in Seattle—the majority of participants (61 percent) believe that they have or will be directly impacted by displacement. And 66 percent see businesses in their neighborhood being displaced.
  • There’s pervasive fear of being priced out—even among 41 percent in households with incomes of $100K and above.
  • People want their voices to be heard and community involvement in solutions. A phrase that performed best was: “It certainly isn’t easy to include and actually value a variety of voices. But we will really regret it if we don’t.”
  • The public looks to government to shepherd the city’s growth and development so as to protect and encourage equity and shared prosperity.

Putting all this together, YCC developed a narrative that both defines the problems and pitfalls and charts a path forward that people can agree on—and even get excited about. Here’s the quick version:

Yesler Community Collaborative narrative and Weber Shandwick graphic adapted by Sightline Institute.

Don’t miss Yesler Community Collaborative’s short video, “Dear Seattle,” which features the kinds of Seattle voices that informed this powerful narrative.   

Yesler Community Collaborative is a non-profit community convener, connector, and coordinator, advocating for equitable development to preserve cultural and economic diversity in Seattle, with housing that is affordable for all. Weber Shandwick is a global integrated marketing firm.

December 5, 2017