In brief: The viaduct closed forever Friday night at 10 pm, kicking off the three-week "Viadoom" period before the tunnel opens in early February; Council President Bruce Harrell announced that he won't be running for re-election; Governor Inslee proposed a "public option" healthcare plan for Washington residents; and Jeff Bezos announced that he and his wife are getting a divorce. 
Sunday, January 6th - Saturday, January 12th, 2019
Image from The Seattle Times / Ellen M. Banner
Last Week in Seattle
"Viadoom" is officially upon us:
  • At 10:00 Friday night the Alaskan Way Viaduct officially closed forever, ushering in a three-week period between its closing and the opening of the new waterfront tunnel (targeted for February 4th) that's been popularly dubbed "Viadoom" because of its expected impacts on commute times across the region. 
  • Seattleites marked the occasion by driving the elevated roadway one last time, with many people parking to take selfies, tailgate with friends, and otherwise celebrate in style.
  • David Gutman at The Seattle Times took a look back at the controversy surrounding the viaduct's successor, while his colleague Michelle Baruchman looked at the history of the viaduct itself.
  • Baruchman and Mike Lindblom, meanwhile, wrote tirelessly about how to cope with the traffic impacts of the viaduct's closure, including two different survival guides and a multi-part reader Q&A series that started last November; and Gutman joined back in Friday morning with instructions for how to ride the bus for anyone who's never done so before (although buses are also expected to be overloaded, behind schedule, and harder to track for the next three weeks).
  • The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) recommends that any workers who are able to work from home do so as much as possible for the next three weeks, Mayor Durkan directed all City departments to allow flexible work schedules for their employees for the first three months of the year, and the City Council temporarily adjusted their meeting times by 30 minutes to allow for additional delays due to traffic.
  • WSDOT's gradual dismantling of the viaduct is expected to last through the summer. At some point after that, the City will begin to rebuild Alaskan Way into an 8-lane surface highway (narrowing to 4 lanes through much of downtown), which should be finished sometime in 2021. The tunnel, when it opens, will be a toll road with no downtown entrances and exits, hence the necessity of the new waterfront highway.
  • And given that it was earthquake damage in 2001 that necessitated the viaduct's replacement in the first place, WSDOT reiterated its assurances that the new tunnel will be the safest place in Seattle in the event of a major earthquake.
Election Watch 2019:
  • City Council President Bruce Harrell announced that he won't be running for re-election in District 2, a day after Tammy Morales, who lost to him by just 424 votes in 2015, announced her candidacy in the race along with an endorsement from Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. 
  • Kshama Sawant hasn't made a formal announcement that she's running for re-election in District 3, but as The Stranger's Rich Smith pointed out, an event co-hosted by Socialist Alternative identifies her as a "2019 candidate for D3."
  • Erica C. Barnett reported on incumbent Mike O'Brien's robopoll testing efforts in District 6 and Alex Pedersen's now-deleted policy positions in the wide-open District 4 race. 
  • Current District 4 rep Rob Johnson, who announced late last year that he wouldn't be running for re-election, announced that he's accepted a job working on transportation issues for the new NHL ownership group
  • Michael George, who does transit-oriented development work for a local commercial real estate firm, announced his candidacy in the open District 7 race, in which incumbent Sally Bagshaw announced last year that she won't be running for re-election.
  • Danny Westneat pointed out that based solely on the current slate of candidates it's entirely possible that there could be three socialists on the City Council this time next year.
  • And backers of Initiative 1000, which would overturn Washington state's ban on affirmative action that's been in place since 1998, said that they've gathered enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot
Meanwhile, in Olympia:
  • With the 2019 legislative session starting tomorrow, there was a lot of coverage of various pieces of legislation that are set to be introduced.
  • The biggest announcement was Governor Jay Inslee's proposal for a "public option" health-care plan for the state called Cascade Care.
  • Other proposed bills would implement further gun control measures, ban plastic straws statewide, make it harder for homeowner's associations to sue the developers of new construction condo buildings, and create new regulations to better protect exotic dancers while they're at work.
  • An Elway poll that Crosscut commissioned found that mental health funding, preventing and controlling wildfires, and creating more affordable housing were respondents' top concerns.
Real Estate Corner
The Northwest MLS released their monthly statistics for December, which showed that the median home price for houses and townhomes in Seattle proper last month was $739k, an increase of just 1.9% from December of 2017's $725k median home price and a sharp decline from 2018's high point of $830k in May. Inventory levels--how long it would take for every home on the market to go under contract, if no new homes listed--tightened somewhat in December, to 1.5 months of inventory (down from 2.1 months in October and 2.2 months in November), as the number of homes that went pending significantly outpaced the number of new listings (368 pending sales, vs. just 230 new listings). Based on what I've seen just from working with my own clients, January is off to a much stronger than normal start where buyer activity is concerned; I wouldn't be surprised to see the months of inventory stat continue to tighten as we head into the spring.

The City Council began discussing its plan to increase allowed building heights in 27 urban villages across the city in order to trigger Seattle's Mandatory Housing Affordability policy for all new construction projects in those areas. 

If the government shutdown continues through the end of February, federal funding for the Section 8 vouchers that many low-income Seattleites use to pay their rent will run out.  

Seattle ended the year with more than 1,400 units of affordable housing in the pipeline for construction or renovation, a new record. 

As of January 1st, it became much easier for homeowners to petition King County to remove outdated racist covenants from their deeds. 

And Sarah Anne Lloyd at Curbed Seattle looked at what $2700/month will rent you in various parts of Seattle right now. 
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 Seattle Police Department's Office of Police Accountability asked the Washington State Patrol to conduct an independent criminal investigation into a fatal shooting by an SPD officer on New Year's Eve. [Seattle Times]

Daniel Beekman and Lewis Kamb looked at Mayor Durkan's complicated relationship to her campaign consultants, who now do lobbying work on behalf of big companies with business before the City while also serving as informal advisers to the Mayor's Office. [Seattle Times]

Two City Councilmembers spoke to concerned activists and elected officials about Seattle's experience with Amazon at an event in New York City. [GeekWire]

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch looked at what happens to your recycling after you put it in the blue bin. [KUOW]

The City appealed a court ruling from last month that overturned a voter-approved initiative to provide workplace protections to hotel workers. [Seattle Times]

Jeff Bezos announced on Twitter that he and his wife MacKenzie are getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage. [GeekWire]

Kevin Schofield wrote a long piece about how Kshama Sawant's office functions in relation to the Socialist Alternative party, something that Sawant herself has spoken publicly about in the past (including in a 2015 episode of former mayor Mike McGinn's podcast). [Seattle City Council Insight; podcast link here]

The government shutdown hasn't impacted security checkpoint wait times at SeaTac yet, but that could change after TSA agents and other federal employees missed their first paychecks on Friday. [Seattle Times]

And Seattle's new tax on sugary beverages is being passed directly on to consumers, according to a new report. [KING 5]
Upcoming events this week
1/16, 7:00 pm: Art in the 21st Century

1/18, 12 - 1:30 pm: 46th Annual Community Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.

1/18, 5:30 - 9:00: Pecha Kucha Seattle: American Dreams

1/18 - 1/20: Northwest Remodeling Expo

1/19, 1:30 - 3:30 pm: Tech & the Climate

1/21, 11 am - 3:30 pm: Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally & march

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