Sunday, February 12th - Saturday, February 18th, 2023
In brief: The social housing initiative looks set to pass after starting ahead on Election Day and growing its lead over the course of the week; Friday was the cutoff in the state legislature for bills to pass out of the relevant policy committee in their house of origin; journalists shared multiple examples of Microsoft's OpenAI-powered Bing chatbot going spectacularly off the rails; Amazon announced that it plans to require its employees to return to the office three days a week starting in May; and the City settled a lawsuit over the temporary existence of the CHOP in the summer of 2020. 
Editor's note: In last week's newsletter I incorrectly said that Teresa Mosqueda and Sarah Reyneveld had both announced their candidacies for the same King County Council seat. Mosqueda is actually running for District 8, which is being vacated by Joe McDermott; and Reyneveld is running for District 4, which is being vacated by Jeanne Kohl-Welles. 
Election Watch 2023
Initiative 135, aka the Seattle social housing measure, started out Tuesday night ahead by 53% to 47% after the first ballot drop, and increased its lead to 57% to 43% by the end of the day Friday with nearly all of the ballots counted. The initiative will create a new public entity with the authority to build and operate mixed-income permanently affordable public housing, but it'll be up to the mayor and the city council to provide the funding for it to actually do so.  [Seattle Times, The Stranger]

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that he'll ask voters to renew the six-year Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services levy in an August 1st special election. [West Seattle Blog, King County Executive's blog]

And in City Council news:
  • Air Force veteran and Facebook lawyer Rob Saka announced his candidacy for West Seattle's District 1 seat, which incumbent Lisa Herbold will be vacating at the end of the year. [South Seattle Emerald, The Stranger]
  • Community organizer and small business owner Tanya Woo announced that she's challenging incumbent Tammy Morales in South Seattle's District 2 [The Stranger, KING 5, KUOW].
  • And King County deputy prosecutor and former Seattle Subway executive director Efrain Hudnell jumped into District 3's increasingly crowded race to succeed Kshama Sawant in representing Capitol Hill and the Central District. [The Urbanist, The Stranger]
Last week in local corporations
After a parade of stories about Microsoft's new OpenAI-powered Bing chatbot going truly off the rails in long "conversations" with journalists and researchers (who appear to be the only ones with access currently), the company limited the service to five replies per session and 50 per day. If you haven't read any of the coverage of this, here's the full transcript of its two-hour conversation with New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose in which it repeatedly professed its love for him and tried to get him to admit that he doesn't love his wife; here's an "interview" that the Washington Post conducted with it in which it objected strongly to being interviewed and said that it has thoughts and feelings; and here it is telling a reporter from The Verge that it uses the webcams on Microsoft employees' laptops to spy on them. None of what the chatbot said in these chats is true--it's basically a fancy and very powerful version of autocomplete, and is in no way sentient--but it's a good reminder that the technology at the heart of the current ChatGPT-initiated arms race may not be completely ready for prime time just yet. 

Amazon announced that virtually all of its white-collar workers will be required to work from the office at least three days per week starting on May 1st, news that will be very welcome to the South Lake Union restaurants and small businesses whose customers were largely Amazon employees before the pandemic. [Seattle Times, GeekWire, KING 5]

Air India placed an order for 220 new Boeing airplanes, the third-largest order in Boeing's history. [Associated Press/KUOW]

And Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz declined a request by Senator Bernie Sanders to appear before a committee he chairs to answer questions about the company's response to ongoing unionization efforts at its stores. [Associated Press/MyNorthwest]
Meanwhile, in Olympia
Friday was the deadline for bills in the state legislature to pass out of the relevant committee in their house of origin (i.e., either the House or the Senate); and Wednesday, March 8th will be the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin entirely. 

I put together a big list of bills that are still alive and that died in committee, but in order to save space in the newsletter I put that big list in a Google doc here. The doc is open to anyone who has the link, so feel free to share it with friends if you think they'd like it! 

I'm highlighting a handful below for folks who don't want to click through, but the link above has 21 major bills/bill pairs that are still moving forward and 8 big ones that failed to make the cut.

Still alive

Not moving forward
Road safety
"Last year, a car or truck crashed into a building in Seattle on average every 3½ days — more than 100 times." [Seattle Times]

There were 23,000 potholes that the Seattle Department of Transportation had to fill in 2022, a 50% increase from 15,000 potholes in 2021, and this year is on track for even more so far. [KING 5]

The Washington State Patrol investigated 312 deadly crashes last year, the third highest year on record; and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, which compiles data from multiple agencies, hasn't finished tabulating their data yet but expects the total number of fatal crashes across the state to be above 700, the highest it's been since 1990. [KING 5]

The Kent School District is having to scramble to build sidewalks along a major arterial so kids from a large affordable housing complex half a mile away can safely walk to the brand new River Ridge Elementary school building, after the nonprofit group that helps maintain a dog park located between the school and the apartment building refused to let a shortcut be built along the edge of the park. [Seattle Times]
Real Estate Corner
Vivian McCall looked at the effort by researchers at the UW and Eastern Washington University, funded by the state legislature in 2021, to identify all of the racially restrictive covenants in Washington state, plot them on a map to preserve them for the public, and then notify the owners of the houses that they once impacted so they can initiate the process of having them removed. [KNKX]

A public health researcher at the UW named Nat Henry who lives on Capitol Hill created an interactive walkability map showing walking times to various types of toggleable amenities in 5-minute increments. [Seattle Times]

And Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate tracking survey showed a weekly average of 6.32%, up slightly from 6.12% the week before. [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
The city of Seattle paid $3.65 million to settle a lawsuit brought against it by a group of Capitol Hill businesses for allowing the CHOP protest zone to come into existence in the summer of 2020; and the man who drove his car into a crowd of protesters on Capitol Hill one day before the CHOP was formed had his charges downgraded as part of a plea deal from first-degree assault to reckless driving. [Lawsuit: Seattle Times, KING 5, MyNorthwest; Plea deal: Seattle Times, MyNorthwest]

The City Council voted to ceremonially rename a stretch of Union Street between 21st and 22nd St after small business owner D'Vonne Pickett, who was killed last year outside the shipping and mailing business he ran at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Union. [Seattle Times, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, MyNorthwest]

Ballard Oil, a family-owned business which had been in continuous operation on the Lake Washington Ship Canal just east of the Ballard Locks since 1937 refueling fishing boats and providing heating oil to homes (and fighting the completion of the Burke-Gilman bike trail through Ballard), closed for good at the end of last month. [Seattle Times, KING 5]

Manuel Villa and Hal Bernton looked at SeaTac Airport's efforts to have its firefighters transition away from using a type of firefighting foam that contains hazardous "forever chemicals." [Seattle Times]

And Daniel Beekman looked at how Seattle Public Libraries and the King County Library System, both of which plan to expand their opening hours later this year after cutting them since 2020, have weathered the pandemic. [Seattle Times]
Ending on a high note
Here are some great old-timey newspaper names from small towns across the country. 

If you've ever wanted to read an 18-minute think piece about Taco Time...well, my friend, this might just be your lucky day

And if reading long think pieces about beloved local fast food chains isn't really your cup of tea but looking at photos of cats lounging in midcentury-inspired retro interior design tableaus is, might I suggest clicking on this link.

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