By all appearances, Amy Douglas lives an enviable Seattle life. She owns her historic craftsman home in West Seattle, she works in tech as a web designer, and she’s a talented artist on the side. However, the rising cost of living in Seattle has hit Douglas hard, leaving her wondering if there’s still room for her in her hometown.
She creates screen prints to capture vanishing pieces of Seattle’s past, like the Twin Tee-Pees, Leilani Lanes Bowling Alley, the Food Giant – all landmarks tied to her childhood memories.
“My memories are going to be totally different than somebody else’s but when that art can bring two different people together and tell two different stories, you’re forming a relationship with somebody you would have never met otherwise,” Douglas said.
She knows she can be overly nostalgic not only for places, but for the city she was born and raised in.
“I’m very proud of being a Seattleite, and I carry that,” she said, “but I just feel like it’s so different. I feel like I’m an imposter, and I know I’m not. Everybody has such a different take on what this city is now and what’s important.”
Douglas says she’s noticed people seem unhappier here.
“I think most Seattleites and natives would agree,” Douglas said, “and that’s not to place blame on new people who come here who haven’t adjusted to what Seattle is. I think there’s a lot of pressure that comes with living here.
“We are all so stressed by how this city has changed so rapidly. We’re so frustrated because we can’t get to work on time, because there are a million cars out there back to back. We’re frustrated that Amazon has taken up every single city block in a three-mile radius.”
Douglas works downtown, where new construction is going up next door.
“Here’s the thing that stresses us out – the jackhammers,” Douglas said. “My desk shakes every day.”
The bigger stress is financial. Douglas faces the uncertainty of working as contractor. She doesn’t have benefits or health coverage through her job as a web designer.
“Honestly, I make a good living doing what I do, but I don’t make enough doing what I do to pay for my health insurance and pay my mortgage and pay the gas and pay the electricity, a car payment, feeding the animals, feeding my passion, which is the artwork,” she said.
Her property taxes have been rising too. The median property tax bill is up 56 percent in Seattle over the past five years.
Douglas says if she sold her home, she couldn’t afford to get back into the Seattle real estate market, and she couldn’t afford to rent in her neighborhood.
She feels like her only option is to leave the city where she was born and raised.
“It’s a beautiful city,” Douglas said. “I don’t want to leave it, but I think I will have to. The things that I want in my life and for my life are not going to come from this city anymore, because it’s too hard.”
“I can’t afford to stay,” she continued. “I would compromise too many things that are important to me to fight the good fight and struggle to afford this.”
Douglas has made a print for the day she decides it’s time to leave Seattle. It reads, Stay Tuned for Something Big. She says when she posts it on Instagram, you’ll know she’s made her decision.
“You have to let go of a lot of things to gain,” she said while looking at the print, “but I think it’s worth the risk.”