Sunday, February 19th - Saturday, February 25th, 2023
In brief: Mayor Harrell delivered his annual State of the City address; the City Council passed Councilmember Sawant's bill banning caste discrimination; the ACLU of Washington sued King County over the conditions in its jails; Councilmember Dan Strauss announced that he will be running for re-election; and Friday was the deadline to pass bills out of the fiscal committees in their houses of origin in the state legislature. 
Election Watch 2023
City Councilmember Dan Strauss, the last remaining incumbent who hadn't declared his intentions, announced that he will be running for re-election this year. [Seattle Times, The Stranger, KUOW]

King County Budget and Policy Manager Becka Johnson Poppe announced her candidacy to replace outgoing King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, joining Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld in the race for County Council District 4. [The Stranger]

Several news outlets looked at what the next steps will be once the I-1135 public housing initiative's victory is officially certified. Short version: the board that will oversee the new authority will need to be appointed, after which they'll hire staff members to oversee the authority's day-to-day management, with the positions funded by the city and state governments...and then at some point the authority will need to come up with a funding source to actually create and maintain its social housing developments. [KING 5, KUOW, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog]
Last week in local corporations
Microsoft expanded the preview of its Bing chatbot, and I got off the waitlist and had a chance to try it out! I was unfortunately pretty immediately disappointed. There's an iOS app that anyone can download called Poe that gives you access to multiple large-language-model chatbots (including ChatGPT), one of which, Claude, comes from a company called Anthropic that's partnered with Google in much the same way that ChatGPT's creator, OpenAI, has partnered with Microsoft. I had been using Claude for a couple of weeks through the Poe app, and I found it to be pretty impressive; but I assumed that when I finally got access to Bing Chat it was going to be something truly next-level. I couldn't have been more wrong--in head-to-head test queries about recipes to make for a dinner party, finding different types of restaurants near me, suggesting video games I might like to play, and summarizing news articles, Claude outperformed Bing Chat in every case and in every way: split-second responses vs. 5-10 seconds for Bing, more contemporary information (which was surprising), and longer, more nuanced, and useful--although, like all chatbots, not always factually accurate--responses. Claude is now the only AI chatbot that I use regularly, and I find it to be very handy in a variety of contexts. I'm still very much looking forward to seeing what Google has up their sleeve when they eventually release Bard to the public, though.

In other Microsoft news, the company announced that if antitrust regulators allow its acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard to go through that they'll license the popular Activision franchise Call of Duty to Nintendo and other companies that compete with Microsoft's Xbox console. [GeekWire]

Amazon closed on its $3.9 billion acquisition of the San Francisco-based primary care provider network One Medical. [GeekWire]

Boeing had to stop production of its 787 passenger jet due to quality control issues with parts from one of its suppliers, the same kind of issue that caused the company to stop production for more than a year in 2021-2022. [MyNorthwest]

And REI announced that it will no longer sell products containing PFAS, aka "forever chemicals" because they don't break down over time, a policy that could have major impacts on the PFAS-heavy waterproof clothing industry. [KUOW]
Meanwhile, in Olympia
Friday was the deadline for bills in the state legislature to pass out of the fiscal committees in their house of origin (which includes the Transportation Committee in the Senate); and Wednesday, March 8th will be the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin entirely. 

I'm going to continue to update my big list of bills that are still alive and that have died in committee, which you can find here.  

The bills below represent new activity this week. Note that if one bill of a companion-bill pair that had previously passed out of its policy committee passed out of its fiscal committee last week, I added that information in the big list linked above, but I'm not including it in the newsletter. 

Passed out of their house of origin
Still alive in their house of origin

Failed to pass out of committee
  • HB 1388 was a different take on HB 1389’s rent stabilization proposal (which is moving forward; see above), with many of the same co-sponsors. 
  • HB 1045 would have created the Evergreen Basic Income Pilot Program to pay 7,500 low-income Washingtonians fair market rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in their county, with no strings attached, for two years. 
  • HB 1094 / SB 5125 would have created a baby bond program for babies born through the state's Medicaid system. 
  • SB 5232 would have required background checks and waiting periods for new gun purchases. 
  • HB 1832 would have created a voluntary pilot program to test out a pay-per-mile road use tax that could eventually replace the current gas tax. 
Real Estate Corner
Josh Cohen wrote a long piece looking at the vision for the future of downtown being pushed by the Downtown Seattle Association and some elected officials, which would involve making the downtown core more of a residential neighborhood by, among other things, converting unused office buildings into apartments and condos. [Crosscut]

After a huge public outcry, the City of Federal Way abandoned a plan to pave over 11 acres of a city-owned park and turn it into a maintenance facility for municipal vehicles. [Seattle Times]

According to the National Association of Realtors, the nationwide median home price for January was $359,000, up 1.3% from January of 2022 and down 13% from its all-time high in June of last year. [Associated Press/Seattle Times]

And Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate tracking survey showed a weekly average of 6.5%, up slightly from 6.32% the week before. Freddie Mac's survey isn't directly predictive of the actual interest rate you would have gotten last week since it's based on an average of responses over the course of the week and rates change every day (and vary by geography), but it's in the general ballpark for low-balance conforming loans, and as a tracking metric it captures the direction in which rates are moving on a weekly basis. [Freddie Mac]
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
Mayor Harrell gave his annual State of the City speech, which was short on concrete policy proposals but generally focused on the need to revitalize downtown and improve public safety. [Publicola, Seattle Times]

The City Council passed Councilmember Sawant's bill adding caste (as in, the rigid Indian hierarchical system) to the list of protected classes under Seattle's anti-discrimination laws, making Seattle the first city in the country to do so. [Seattle Times, GeekWire, KING 5, KNKX]

Sunday marked the 81st anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, which created Japanese internment camps during World War II. [Seattle Times, South Seattle Emerald]

Residents of the Chinatown-International District are advocating for two different alternative sites for the new Chinatown-ID light rail station that will be part of the upcoming Ballard to West Seattle line. [Seattle Times, KING 5]

The ACLU of Washington sued King County over the staffing levels and living conditions in its downtown Seattle jail. [Seattle Times, KING 5, MyNorthwest]  

Hannah Furfaro wrote a great piece looking at the decline in mental health beds across King County in the last three decades; the county's shift to the newer permanent supportive housing model (which unlike the older congregate housing model gives residents their own self-contained apartments); and the ways in which sharply increasing housing costs have both increased the number of people who need access to these types of services and made it prohibitively more expensive for public officials to be able to provide them. [Seattle Times]

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) released a detailed report with over 100 recommendations for ways the City could make better progress on its Vision Zero goal of having no traffic deaths by 2030. [Seattle Times, KING 5]

SDOT began collecting on unpaid parking tickets after putting collections on pause at the start of the pandemic--but a lot of people have moved in the three years since the hold went into effect, and about 17% of the notices that have been mailed out so far have been returned as undeliverable. Unpaid parking tickets will eventually go to collections whether or not the notice reaches its intended recipient; if you think you might have one, you can search by license plate number on the municipal court's website. [Seattle Times, MyNorthwest]

Seattle-King County Public Health Officer Jeff Duchin wrote a good tweet thread looking at the current status of the pandemic in King County; and if you want to stay up to date on the national COVID situation, I recommend the People's CDC newsletter. You may be surprised to learn, for example, that 2,838 Americans died of COVID the week of February 15th--while the risk of hospitalization and death is still low if you're vaccinated and boosted, and transmission levels are lower in King County than they are in many parts of the state, including the East Coast, the pandemic unfortunately isn't over.

Seattle's local crab fishing industry is continuing to have tough times, due both to the ongoing cancellations of the snow crab and king crab fishing seasons in Alaska (largely because of climate change) and the declining price of Dungeness crab in local supermarkets in recent months. [KING 5, Seattle Times]

A 32-year-old teacher at Franklin High School was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old student. [Seattle Times]

Isabella Breda looked at the Department of Natural Resources' recent auction of 111 acres of not-quite-old-growth forest near Centralia that was last logged over 100 years ago and has grown back naturally since then. [Seattle Times]

And Bumbershoot will return to Seattle Center this year for the first time since 2019, this time with a new event production company at the helm. [Seattle Met, KUOW, MyNorthwest]
Ending on a high note
Here are some photos of animals blending in very well with their surroundings. 

And here's a relaxing series of photos of corridors from various Star Trek ships over the years. 

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