Sunday, February 20th - Saturday, February 26th, 2022
In brief: The ongoing concrete strike delayed the reopening date of the West Seattle Bridge; state legislators received pushback from elected officials in other states over a plan to tax Washington's fuel exports; Seattle's eviction moratorium will end tomorrow, after a last-minute push by some City Councilmembers to extend it again failed; King County announced plans to retract its indoor mask mandate on March 21st; and Seattleites protested the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 
COVID-19 News
For current stats, see the following:
  • The most recent Seattle Times daily infographic, which is a great way to visualize the statewide numbers going all the way back to March of 2020.
  • King County's excellent new unified dashboard, which clearly shows cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for all of King County and each individual city within King County going back to October of last year.
  • The state's all-in-one COVID-19 data dashboard
To book a free vaccine or booster appointment, click here for the City of Seattle vaccine clinics or here for the state's vaccine appointment locator. 
With COVID case numbers and deaths dropping nationwide but still at levels roughly comparable to their pre-Omicron peaks, the CDC announced a new "Community Levels" measurement based on available hospital capacity for critically ill COVID patients rather than number of new cases or deaths. According to the new measurement, more than 70% of the population shifted instantly from living in high-risk areas to living in low-risk ones, with the major difference between the levels being that wearing masks indoors is only recommended in high-risk areas. The move appeared to stem from heavy political pressure across the country to ease mask restrictions, and an implicit recognition that America is unlikely to achieve greater levels of population-level immunity than we have now, at the tail end of the Omicron wave and with virtually all Americans who plan to get vaccinated or boosted already having done so. While the announcement technically came with a warning that new masking requirements could be recommended at any time, functionally speaking it seemed designed to give the public permission to shift into thinking about COVID-19 as an endemic disease rather than an emergency pandemic. 

Seattle-King County Public Health leaders, who had previously declined to announce a date on which they would rescind the county's indoor mask mandate, announced that they would follow Governor Inslee's lead and lift the county's mask mandate on March 21st along with the state, as long as our current downward COVID trends continue. [Seattle Times, KING 5]
Real Estate Corner
The City Council voted down two measures, from Councilmembers Sawant and Herbold, that would have overridden Mayor Harrell's plans to allow Seattle's eviction moratorium to expire tomorrow. While evictions of both residential and commercial tenants will be able to resume in Seattle starting on Tuesday, tenants will still have the benefit of several tenant protections that the City Council passed over the course of the pandemic. [Seattle Times, Publicola, KING 5]

2022 property tax notices are going out in the mail to property owners in King County, with Seattle bills going up by an average of just under 7%. 2022 property taxes will be due in two equal payments, one by the end of April and the other by the end of October; if you have a mortgage, your bank probably makes your property tax payments on your behalf. [Seattle Times]

The New York Times looked at the rapid recent rise of home prices in Spokane as it's attracted new residents from across the country during the pandemic, and the negative impact that's had local residents. [Seattle Times / New York Times]

The Case-Shiller Home Price Index for December showed that home prices in the three-county Seattle region were up 23.9% from December of 2020 to December of 2021. [Seattle Times / Bloomberg]

And the push for more tenant protections is starting to spread to the smaller suburbs of Seattle as rising home prices and homelessness become larger issues across the region. [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. 
Other News
Most of this week's local and national news was overshadowed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and there was plenty of coverage locally of pro-Ukraine rallies, interviews with members of Washington's Ukrainian community (as well as a look at the demographics of the community), condemnation of the invasion by Washington's elected officials, and organizations to donate to that are working to help the people of Ukraine. 

Budget negotiations continued in Olympia, with a better than anticipated revenue forecast freeing up additional funds to be allocated; and a proposed 6 cent per gallon tax on fuel exported from Washington state (much of which goes to Alaska, Oregon, and Idaho), which is an important component of the Democrats' transportation package, drew significant opposition from Republicans in Washington and a wide array of elected officials in Alaska, Oregon, and Idaho. 

Another federal mediation session failed to resolve the ongoing concrete driver strike, which last Sunday officially pushed the reopening date for the West Seattle Bridge back beyond its mid-July estimated date

Hundreds of union-represented resident doctors in the UW Medicine system staged a walk-out Wednesday to call for better pay and working conditions. [MyNorthwest]

The City Council voted to extend its free street dining permit program for restaurants through January 31st, 2023. [KING 5]

According to the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group, the state's snowpack could decline by 70% by the 2080s as our winters get warmer and shorter; and according to the U.S. Geological Survey the glaciers in the Olympics and North Cascades have lost more than half of their ice since 1900 (high-altitude Mt. Rainier, on the other hand, has only lost 3%). 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an updated report on its predictions for sea level rise across the country through the year 2150, which continued to show lower levels of sea level rise in Washington state than in many other parts of the country but showed higher expected levels across the board. [Seattle Times]

City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis ordered an audit of Seattle's response to organized retail theft following a presentation on the subject from SPD, in an effort to better address the problem. [KING 5]

Erica C. Barnett broke the story of a proposal being worked on by Councilmember Lewis and the Mayor's Office (although apparently without consulting the King County Regional Homelessness Authority or local homelessness providers) that would create 10 sanctioned tent encampments across the city and move up to 600 people into them from tent encampments downtown. [Publicola]

Activists with Stop the Sweeps Seattle have been blocking the removal of a tent encampment across the street from City Hall since last Sunday. [MyNorthwest]

Washington state agreed to a $3.75 million settlement over the death of an inmate at the Monroe state prison who died of cancer in 2019 after the state failed to provide him with chemotherapy treatments. [Seattle Times]

Markian Hawryluk of Kaiser Health News (a non-profit news room that isn't affiliated with Kaiser Permanente) looked at the challenges that Washington state's public-option healthcare plans have faced in their first two years, with just 1% of people who bought a plan on the state's exchange last year choosing one of them. [Seattle Times]

The Washington State Redistricting Commission agreed to pay $137,000 to settle two lawsuits accusing it of violating the state's Open Public Meetings Act during its controversial passage of the maps that will determine the boundaries for Washington's congressional and legislative districts in this year's elections. [Crosscut, KNKX]

And interim SPD Chief Adrian Diaz appears to be the front-runner for the permanent position, with Mayor Harrell not having announced any kind of police chief search and KUOW reporting that Harrell's niece, Senior Deputy Mayor Monisha Harrell, told a group last week that the job is his to lose. [KUOW]
Ending on a high note
Here's a group of excited otters meeting a couple of baby otters for the first time (or something; all I know for sure is, it's a lot otters). 

And if you've ever wondered what your baby name would have been if you'd been born in 2019 instead of whatever presumably earlier year you were actually born in, then you'll probably want to click right here--and then say a quick thank you to science.

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