In brief: After long eons trapped in the darkness, Bertha's Tunnel, first of her name, threw open her portals to an adoring mass of vehicular adherents; Seattle celebrated the 100th anniversary of its General Strike by calling in a snowstorm and then canceling all its plans to go play in the snow/barricade itself indoors; and the median home price for January was down year over year for the first time since the recovery began.
Sunday, February 3rd - Saturday, February 9th, 2019
Image from The Seattle Times / Mike Siegel
While I was out last week, over 100,000 of us ran, walked, and biked through the tunnel and over the viaduct as part of its opening weekend festivities ahead of its formal opening to traffic on Monday the 4th; Viadoom's three weeks of waterfront-highway-less commutes actually went pretty well; incumbent City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who represents West Seattle's District 1, announced that she'll be running for re-election; and former Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel threw his hat into the ring in the open race to replace retiring Councilmember Sally Bagshaw in District 7's downtown, Queen Anne, and Magnolia.
Last Week in Seattle
A tunnel is born:
  • In the triumphant conclusion to an 18-year process that began with the Nisqually earthquake in 2001, the deep-bore waterfront highway 99 tunnel opened to car traffic in the wee hours of this past Monday morning, ushering in a bold new era of car-based transportation between the stadiums and Mercer Street
  • Nature marked the occasion by gently sprinkling an inch of snow on the city, and the lower traffic volume for Monday's commute that resulted led to a calm, orderly first day of the tunnel's long life (which at potentially 100-150 years will ensure that it far outlasts every living person in Seattle today, as well as most elements of our built environment).
  • Then on Wednesday it backed up for 4 miles during a full commute, both because its northern portal empties out one block south of Mercer Street and because the southern exit from the northbound lanes hasn't been finished yet.
  • As soon as the tolls go into effect later this year, though, traffic volume should fall to more manageable levels as people choose to divert onto downtown streets instead of paying a toll--and then in 2023 when the new 8-lane Alaskan Way surface highway  is finished, that should relieve some of the pressure, too. 
  • Curbed Seattle ran a photo essay by Alex Garland looking back at the final days of the viaduct's life as a piece of public infrastructure before it's broken apart into tiny pieces and sealed in the Battery Street Tunnel for all eternity; and The Urbanist looked back nostalgically on Viadoom and its multimodal commuting heyday and the accompanying lack of traffic catastrophe.
Snowpocalypse 2019: The housing affordability crisis:
  • The City and King County both opened additional shelter bed capacity so that more people experiencing homelessness can get in out of the weather, but a 59-year-old man still died of exposure Thursday morning at the SoDo light rail station. 
  • A UW study that used machine learning algorithms to analyze 13 years of eviction data found that "1 in 11 black King County residents were evicted between 2004 and 2017."
  • Kevin Schofield at Seattle City Council Insight looked at the eviction reform efforts currently underway at both the state and city levels, spurred by a report last year that was co-authored by the Seattle Women's Commission and the Housing Justice Project; and GeekWire's Monica Nickelsburg reported on a coalition of big local tech companies that are throwing their weight behind the state's package of eviction reforms. 
  • Erica C. Barnett reported on the results of an audit of the City's controversial Navigation Team, which found a number of issues with the way the program is currently operating.
  • And Councilmember Sawant mounted an opposition effort to Mayor Durkan's appointment of the Human Services Department's interim director to the permanent job without an extensive search process. 
Election Watch 2019:
  • Ballots for the special election to renew the two big school levies are still due by Tuesday, even though there's snow! If (like me) you haven't sent yours in yet, your best bet at this point will be to put it in a ballot drop box instead of trying to mail it--if your ballot is still sitting un-picked-up in your mailbox Tuesday evening then it won't count, but I have it on good authority that King County Elections will be emptying the drop boxes regardless of the weather. 
  • Tech-worker-turned-pot-entrepreneur Logan Bowers and public defender Ami Nguyen both announced that they're joining the crowd of people challenging Kshama Sawant for her seat in District 3 (roughly 520 - I-5 - I-90).
  • Aaron Kunkler at Seattle Weekly looked at the current state of the City Council races, and Lester Black at The Stranger went into greater detail on some of the goings-on in the various races this past week. 
Meanwhile, in Olympia:
Real Estate Corner
The Northwest MLS released their monthly stats for January, and they showed that the median home price for Seattle proper in January was $711,500, down from $739k in December and 6% below its January 2018 level of $757k (and down over 14% from its 2018 peak of $830k last May). It's the first time since the recovery began that housing prices have declined year-over-year--but the number of pending sales last month was up 37% from January of 2018, in a sign that buyer demand is finally starting to return since it dropped off a cliff in the second half of last year. 

The City Council began debating the details of its planned upzones in 27 different neighborhoods across the city.

A major affordable housing development at Fort Lawton in Magnolia came one step closer to reality with Mayor Durkan's release of an updated plan for the development, which she plans to transmit to the City Council in the near future.

Daniel Beekman at The Seattle Times looked at the dilemma facing several senior centers that are owned by the City and may or may not be up for redevelopment into affordable housing. 

And The Stranger's Lester Black looked at the current state of the City's efforts to save the Showbox
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
A UW study showed that Seattle's $15/hour minimum wage hasn't led to higher grocery prices. [MyNorthwest]

Ansel Herz, most recently one of Pramila Jayapal's staffers and before that a reporter at The Stranger, took over as the new editor at Real Change. [Seattle P-I]

A local man wrote a Medium post that quickly went viral about an attempt to blackmail him by the owner of the National Enquirer. [Medium]

A jury awarded victims of the 2015 Ride the Ducks crash on the Aurora Bridge $123 million. [KING 5]

Gene Balk looked at the schools across the state with the highest rates of parents exempting their children from the MMR (measles, mumps, & rubella) vaccine. [Seattle Times]

Seattle police fatally shot a murder suspect in Northgate. [MyNorthwest]

Marjie High looked at Seattle's approach to redistricting, which has been called 'the best model in the country.' [Washington State Wire]

Despite actively working to increase the overall number of officers in its ranks, the Seattle Police Department ended 2018 with 41 fewer officers than it had at the beginning of the year. [Crosscut]

SPD filed its annual Use of Force report, which showed that force was used in around 0.25% of the incidents to which an officer responded last year, but that force was used "against African Americans at disproportionately higher rates." [Seattle Times]

Millionaire Sonics fan Chris Hansen is still trying to find a way to build a basketball arena in SoDo. [KING 5]

Sound Transit is going to have a significant service interruption for light rail riders for 2 1/2 months early next year as they're connecting the East Link line to Bellevue and Redmond into the system. [The C is for Crank]

And Jen Dev looked at the local impact of the Trump administration's decision to allow deportations of some Vietnamese refugees who came to the U.S. before July 12th, 1995. [Crosscut]
Upcoming events this week
Today - ?: Everything in Seattle is closed because of snow

2/13, 6:30 - 9:00 pm: Partners in Civic Innovation: The Liberty Bank Building Project

2/14: Restaurants with special Valentine's Day dinners [OpenTable]

2/15 - 2/19: Noir City 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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Windermere Real Estate Co.
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Seattle, WA 98109
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