In brief: Amazon announced that they'll be increasing their minimum wage to $15/hour starting on November 1st, tomorrow is the online voter registration deadline in Washington state, the City Council confirmed a new CEO at Seattle City Light, and the NHL's executive committee recommended approving an expansion team for Seattle.
Sunday, September 30th - Saturday, October 6th, 2018
Image from Finance & Commerce (Associated Press)
Last Week in Seattle
  • Amazon announced that starting on November 1st the company will raise its minimum wage to $15/hour for all of its employees, including part-time employees and employees of Whole Foods. As part of the move its fulfillment centers will be doing away with performance-based pay and restricted stock unit grants that take 1 year or more to vest. 
  • While many praised the company for the move, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, some veteran fulfillment center workers said that while the changes will be great for new workers, high-performing employees could make less than they do under the current system
  • Several factors likely contributed to the move, including increased political pressure to raise wages (including Sanders' own "Stop BEZOS" Act); a recent unionization effort by Whole Foods workers; and an increasingly competitive labor market going into Amazon's temporary seasonal worker hiring spree for the holidays. 
  • Candace Faber, the woman who accused state Representative Joe Fain of raping her in 2007, gave interviews to Heidi Groover at the Seattle Times and Elisa Hahn at KING 5. Joseph O'Sullivan at the Seattle Times reported that no public officials seem to know how to conduct the investigation that Fain has claimed he wants in his brief public statements, although many of them say that they want one, too [full disclosure: Candace is a good friend of mine].
  • Washington state still has a backlog of "at least 7,984" untested rape kits
  • And KUOW's Battle Tactics for Your Sexist Workplace podcast talked to local open government advocate Sarah Schacht about her experience accusing a fellow campaign worker of sexual assault on the Dean campaign in 2004 and having it negatively impact her career but not his. 
  • The City Council is looking at ways to take advantage of a new state law passed earlier this year that allows municipalities to sell land to affordable housing developers for below market rate or even give it to them for free. 
  • A new City-sanctioned low-barrier tiny home village will be opening at the end of the month in South Lake Union, at 8th & Aloha.
  • Vernal Coleman at The Seattle Times reported on Vancouver BC's foray into modular housing, small units which are a step up from the temporary structures used in Seattle's tiny home villages but not as long-lasting as traditional apartments. 
  • And a report by the City auditor recommended increasing the number of enhanced shelters (which operate 24 hours a day and include on-site services) as a way to persuade more people to voluntarily leave unsanctioned tent encampments.
Election Watch:
  • Tomorrow (Monday, October 8th) is the online voter registration deadline for the November 6th general election--so if you're not already registered to vote at your current address, go take care of that now!
  • As voters prepare to vote on a package of statewide gun control measures (I-1639), the King County Council followed the City Council's lead and passed their own safe firearm storage law. 
  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $1 million to I-1631's carbon fee initiative, bringing the campaign's total funding to $6.6 million, vs more than $21 million from big oil companies and others opposed to the measure.
Real Estate Corner
How's the market?  
  • The Northwest MLS released their monthly sales stats for September (see Seattle Times story here), which showed that the median home price in Seattle proper was $775k, up 6.9% from $725k in September of 2017 and up slightly from $760k in August of this year (but still below this year's high point of $830k in June).
  • Demand continued to plummet, with  the number of closed transactions down 28.4% last month vs. September of 2017; and unlike in August when the number of listings remained flat year-over-year, the number of new listings last month was up by 20%, in a stark reversal of the norm of the last few years of constantly increasing demand and decreasing supply.
  • In August the Seattle market had 1.67 months of supply, which was the highest level we'd seen since we started coming out of the recession. In September, thanks to starkly lower demand and higher supply, we had 2.71 months of inventory on hand.
  • We're not quite to a balanced market yet (that's generally marked by 4-6 months of inventory), but we're closer than we have been since this market cycle began--and the year-over-year rate of price appreciation has finally slowed in the last few months to a more reasonable 5-10% from the unsustainable 15-20% year-over-year increases we've been seeing for most of the last three years. 
Backyard cottages: The City's most recent report on the potential impacts of making changes to its existing mother-in-law cottage regulations (which technically legalize small backyard cottages but realistically make them all but impossible to build) was released on Thursday, and it shows--again--that they would be a great way to add density while also reducing the number of existing single-family homes that get torn down. The small handful of backyard cottage opponents in Queen Anne who have been suing the City for years to delay the implementation of any changes have, predictably, vowed to continue to use legal tactics to continue their delay. 

Spire pre-sale info: Several units from Spire, the 350-unit condo tower at 600 Wall Street, were listed on the MLS as pre-sales, with a "public preview exhibit and reservation event" happening this Saturday, October 13th at 2609 1st Ave S (no times are given, and the Spire website isn't up yet) and a sales center opening on October 31st to take reservations on an ongoing basis.

"The once-palatial potty slowly went to pot": Hanna Brooks Olsen told the story of the ornate, now-abandoned public restroom underneath the Pioneer Square pergola, which according to HistoryLink, was once “indisputably the nation’s most elaborately appointed underground restroom." 

Curbed Comparisons: And Curbed Seattle's Sarah Anne Lloyd looked at what $2,100/month will rent you today.
Thank you to everyone who's sent me a real estate referral or used me as an agent yourself! The city of Seattle is my geographic area of expertise, and while I'm also very good at helping sellers get top dollar for their homes, my true passion is helping first-time homebuyers get homes that they love quickly and easily.

f 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. 
Quick Takes
The NHL's executive committee recommended that the full NHL board approve an expansion team for Seattle at the league's next board meeting in December. [Seattle Times]

Josh Kelety looked at County Executive Dow Constantine's budget (which was released on September 27th) in greater detail. [Seattle Weekly]

Constantine nominated Anita Khandelwal, who's been an outspoken opponent of the county's new Children and Family Justice Center (aka "youth jail"), to be the Director of King County's Department of Public Defense. [Crosscut]

He also announced a change to the county's police inquest process, to include an investigation of whether officers acted appropriately. [Crosscut]

The City Council confirmed Mayor Durkan's pick for a new CEO of Seattle City Light, Debra Smith, the former general manager of a public utility in Oregon. [Seattle Times]

Washington state is considering raising the pay threshold above which salaried workers don't qualify for overtime, from 1.5x minimum wage (currently about $37,000/year) to 3x minimum wage (roughly $75,000/year). [Washington State Wire]

11% of Seattle workers who make more than $75,000 per year took transit to get to work last year, vs. 10% of workers who made less than $35,000. [Seattle Times]

The City Council passed an ordinance that will require companies with 20 or more employees to allow their workers to purchase transit passes with pre-tax dollars, which could save those workers hundreds of dollars per year. [Seattle Times]

David Gutman looked at Seattle's resistance to giving in to the wave of free-floating electric scooter sharing companies that are catching on in other cities. [Seattle Times]

SPD announced a way for people who feel they may be at risk of a "swatting" attack to add a note to their file about it so that 911 dispatchers will see it when they pull up their address. [GeekWire]

The mountains in our local national parks are heating up due to climate change twice as fast as the rest of the country. [Crosscut]

Hundreds of people gathered on Friday to protest Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. [KUOW]

Light rail trains were slowed down temporarily on Wednesday after minor cracks were found in the rails south of Rainier Beach. [KING 5]

And Mike Lindblom looked at the herculean effort that's going to be required to demolish the viaduct in a timely manner after the tunnel opens to the public early next year. [Seattle Times]
Events this week
10/8, 12:30 - 1:30 pm: WA Debate Coalition Senate debate (Cantwell vs. Hutchinson)

10/10, 6:00 - 8:30 pm: SPS Superintendent Juneau listening tour (students / SW regional)

10/11, 6 - 8 pm: Don't Agonize, Organize: A Town Hall with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal

10/11, 8 - 9 pm: Seattle Science Slam #13

10/11 - 10/21: Seattle Queer Film Festival

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