Sunday, January 22nd - Saturday, January 28th, 2023
In brief: Ballots went out in the mail for Seattle's "social housing" special election; an on-duty police officer hit and killed a pedestrian in South Lake Union while responding to a drug overdose call; there were more announcements by candidates for both the Seattle City Council and the King County Council; the $2 billion convention center expansion had its grand opening; the King County Regional Homelessness Authority calculated what it would actually cost to house every homeless person in the county; and the legislative session continued in full swing in Olympia.
Editor's note: I'll be taking next weekend off for my birthday, but the Civic Minute will return on Sunday, February 12th.
An officer-involved traffic death
An on-duty SPD officer struck and killed a college student named Jaahnavi Kandula Monday night while Kandula was crossing the street in a marked crosswalk at the intersection of Dexter Avenue North & Thomas Street. The Seattle Department of Transportation had been planning for years to turn Dexter & Thomas into the city's first protected intersection (which would involve using concrete barriers to prevent cars traveling on Thomas from crossing Dexter), but Mayor Harrell and the City Council cut funding from the project in this year's budget as part of their effort to close a budget shortfall. The officer, whose name hasn't been released by the department, has been with SPD since November of 2019 and was responding to a high-priority call for a drug overdose a couple of blocks away. [Seattle Times, PublicolaSeattle TimesKING 5, MyNorthwest]
Election watch 2023
You should have already received your ballot in the mail for the February 14th special election. The issue that inspired this very romantic special election is the question of whether Seattle should pass I-135, which would create a new, publicly owned "social housing" developer to buy/build and operate permanently affordable mixed-income rental housing across the city--but would leave it up to the City Council to fund the new agency. This explainer by Crosscut's Josh Cohen last year remains the best piece I've read on the issue; or if you want to skip straight to the endorsements, The Stranger and The Urbanist think you should vote yes (as do I, for what that's worth), and The Seattle Times thinks you should vote no.

The big news in City Council races was the announcement by Transportation Choices Coalition Executive Director and (many years ago) Seattlish co-founder Alex Hudson that she's running for the District 3 seat that Kshama Sawant will be vacating at the end of the year. [The Stranger, The Urbanist, Seattle Bike Blog, Publicola]

Other City Council candidate announcements included climate-activist tech worker Maren Costa and social worker Preston Anderson in West Seattle's District 1 (whose current occupant, Lisa Herbold, won't be running for re-election); and, also in District 3, Seattle LGBTQ+ Commission Co-chair Andrew Ashiofu, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the state legislature last year. 

King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who will finish her second term on the council at the end of the year (and previously served in the state legislature for 23 years, from 1992 to 2015), announced that she won't be running for re-election; and Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld, who also ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature last year, announced two days later that she plans to run for Kohl-Welles' seat. 
Meanwhile, in Olympia
If you want to advocate for or against a bill, this is the state legislature's page with links to email or message your representative, note your position for the record ahead of a committee hearing (you'll hear this referred to as "signing in pro" or "signing in con"), submit written testimony to a committee, or testify in a committee hearing either in person or via Zoom. For the latter three committee-specific options you'll need to know the committee that the bill is being heard in and the date and time of the hearing. You can find that info by using this page to search for the bill, either by the bill number (if you have it) or by topic or keyword; and while you're there you can also create a personalized bill tracker if you'd like to keep track of the bills you're interested in as they move through the process.
Bill trackers: Passed out of committee, awaiting a floor vote:
  • HB 1026 would streamline and simplify the design review process in order to reduce costs and timelines for building new housing. [KUOW, Publicola]
Hearings last week:
  • HB 1388 & 1389 and SB 5435 would limit the amount by which landlords are allowed to raise their tenants' rent each year to 3% - 7% depending on the rate of inflation; and HB 1124 would require 6 months' notice for any rent hikes of more than 5%. [Seattle Times, PublicolaWashington Observer - $MyNorthwest
  • HB 1045 would create the Evergreen Basic Income Pilot Program, which would pay 7,500 low-income Washingtonians fair market rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in their county, with no strings attached, for two years. [KNKX]
  • A number of abortion-related bills, including a proposed change to the state constitution to add a right to abortion (Senate Joint Resolution 8202), had hearings. [Seattle Times, MyNorthwest, KING 5]
  • SB 5171, which was created by six high school students in Kirkland, would prohibit retailers from charging different prices for the same product that's marketed differently to different genders, a practice commonly known as a "pink tax." [Crosscut]
  • HB 1177 would create a unit within the state Attorney General's office specifically to focus on cold cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people. [CrosscutKUOW]
  • SB 5002 would lower the legal blood alcohol limit from 0.08% to 0.05%, in an effort to reduce drunk driving deaths. [KNKX]
  • HB 1106 would allow workers who quit their jobs for good cause to get unemployment benefits. [Washington Observer - $]
  • SB 5339 would make school lunches free for all K-12 students in the state. [KUOW
  • And HB 1424 would make it illegal for retail stores to sell dogs and cats for a profit. [MyNorthwest]
Newly introduced
  • Governor Inslee held a press conference with legislators from both parties to call for the passage of several measures intended to reduce traffic fatalities across the state, which were higher last year than they've been since 1990. [Seattle Times, KING 5]
  • HB 1517 and SB 5466 would incentivize more transit-oriented development by allowing mid-rise buildings within 3/4 of a mile of rapid transit stops, and larger buildings within 1/4 of a mile of light rail stops. [Publicola, The Urbanist, KUOW]
  • SB 5209 would make voting compulsory in Washington state, as it currently is in two dozen countries around the world. [KUOW]
  • And SB 5263 would legalize psilocybin for use in state-licensed treatment centers. [KUOW]
Last week in local corporations
Microsoft announced a "multiyear, multibillion dollar investment" in OpenAI, the startup behind the wildly popular ChatGPT chatbot, seeming to confirm earlier reports that the company planned to pay $10 billion for a 50% stake in the startup. [GeekWire, KNKX/Associated Press]

The Associated Press looked at the impact of Amazon's abrupt cancellation of its AmazonSmile program, which gave money to more than a million non-profits across the country at shoppers' direction, on the non-profits that used it; and the company announced a new online healthcare service for Prime members that will allow them to get unlimited generic prescriptions filled for a flat $5/month fee. 

And Boeing announced that it hired 23,000 new employees last year and lost $5.1 billion, bringing its total losses since the second fatal 737 MAX crash in 2019 to $22 billion. [Seattle Times, MyNorthwest]
Real Estate Corner
Isabella Breda looked at the health risks of gas stoves, which are present in about 25% of homes in Washington (vs. 70% in California) and are still allowed in new construction homes in Seattle and Washington state--as opposed to gas furnaces, which are in the process of being phased out. [Seattle Times]

The New York Times published an article looking at bland new construction buildings across the country that featured Seattle prominently--and also reminded readers that at the time they were built, New Yorkers in the 1800s hated the brownstones that everybody loves today (they could have said the same about Seattleites and all of our Craftsman houses from the 20s). [New York Times]

According to a new report by Moody's Analytics, the country's median rent would now represent 30% of a median-income American household's pay, which is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's threshold for being rent-burdened. [Seattle Times/New York Times]

Seattle Met asked six Seattleites in their 30s for their annual income, housing costs, student loan debt, childcare costs, and savings, and then asked each of them whether they're able to live comfortably in Seattle. [Seattle Met]

And Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey showed a slight decline in the 30-year rate to 6.13%, the lowest it's been since September. [Seattle Times]
Thank you to everyone who's sent me a real estate referral or used me as an agent yourself! If you need a residential real estate agent to help you buy or sell a home of any kind--or you know someone who does--I'd love to be of service. My website is here, or see here for client reviews. 
In Other News
The King County Regional Homelessness Authority released a 5-year plan to end homelessness in the county, which it estimates would cost about $11.8 billion (two thirds of that cost would go to building 18,205 new units of temporary housing, tailored to the types of housing that people experiencing homelessness say they want). The agency's budget this year is $253 million. [Seattle Times, MyNorthwest

The new $2 billion, 14-story Seattle Convention Center expansion building, which is named Summit and is located kitty corner from the Paramount Theatre, had its grand opening. Margo Vansynghel from Crosscut looked at the $7.75 million in local art that's featured in the building. [Seattle Times, KING 5, GeekWire]

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case to try to overturn the state legislature's capital gains tax on profits in excess of $250,000 from the sale of stocks and bonds. [Seattle Times, Crosscut, KNKX/Associated Press, Washington Observer - free]

Seattle had 541 deaths from drug overdoses last year vs. 273 from COVID (and 38 shooting deaths), with most of the overdoses due to fentanyl use. [Seattle Times]

Amid a national movement towards lower enrollment in public schools as parents opted for private schools or homeschooling over the course of the pandemic, enrollment in the Bellevue School District has dropped by 9% in the last 3 years while Seattle Public Schools has seen a 7% drop; and Bellevue has already announced plans to close three elementary schools. [KUOW]

Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that the City will now provide free ORCA cards to all Seattle Housing Authority residents. [Seattle Times, KING 5]

City Attorney Ann Davison announced that her office is suing automakers Hyundai and Kia for failing to include modern anti-theft technology in their vehicles, which has resulted in dramatically higher theft rates. [KUOW, KING5]

City Councilmember Kshama Sawant wants to create legal protections against caste discrimination for Seattle workers. [Seattle Times, Capitol Hill Seattle blog, KUOW]

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Providence hospitals for not informing low-income patients about their eligibility for free or reduced charity care and instead aggressively trying to collect money from them. [KING 5]

A coalition of organizations in King County that includes the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center and the Seattle Indian Health Board launched a new website,, to help sexual assault survivors find the resources they need. 

A survey of college students across the state found that 38% of the 9,770 respondents had experienced food insecurity in the last month; and 34% had experienced housing insecurity--and 11% had experienced homelessness--in the last year. [Seattle Times]

The largest glacier between Mt. Raininer and Glacier Peak, the Hinman Glacier, is now completely gone according to a glaciologist who's been measuring it most summers since 1984. [KUOW]

And Crosscut's Hannah Weinberger looked at the growing "resilience hub" movement across the country and in Seattle to create trusted community spaces where members of the public can both come together to prepare for emergencies and gather during actual emergencies. [Crosscut]
Ending on a high note
Wednesday was the first time that the sun set after 5 pm since November. 

And this kind of blew my mind when I stumbled across it on Twitter.

Sol Villarreal
Broker, Windermere Real Estate
Sol's Civic Minute: What's happening in Seattle, in 60 seconds per week.
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