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Sunday, February 6th - Saturday, February 12th, 2022
In brief: Governor Inslee announced that the statewide mask mandate for large outdoor events will end this Friday the 18th; County Executive Constantine unveiled a novel approach to trying to end the ongoing concrete worker strike; the Department of Licensing confirmed that as many as 650,000 individuals with state-issued professional licenses may have had their personal information stolen; and the Northwest Multiple Listing Service released its real estate data for January.
COVID-19 News
For current stats, see the following:
  • The most recent Seattle Times daily infographic, which is a great way to visualize the statewide numbers going all the way back to March of 2020.
  • King County's excellent new unified dashboard, which clearly shows cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for all of King County and each individual city within King County going back to October of last year.
  • The state's all-in-one COVID-19 data dashboard
To book a free vaccine or booster appointment, click here for the City of Seattle vaccine clinics or here for the state's vaccine appointment locator. 
With case counts and hospitalizations falling across the state (but still higher than any previous wave) as the Omicron wave continues to subside, Governor Inslee announced that the statewide mask mandate for large outdoor events will end this Friday the 18th, and announced that he's going to announce next week when the indoor mask mandate will end, which he indicated will likely be in a matter of "weeks rather than months." [Seattle Times, South Seattle Emerald, KING 5]

Amazon announced that its vaccinated employees can start removing their masks at work, a policy that's likely to be copied by other businesses across the country. [GeekWire]

The state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, called on Governor Inslee to remove the state mandate requiring masks in schools and allow individual districts to make their own decisions. [MyNorthwest]

And the state restocked its free rapid at-home COVID test website, sayyescovidhometest.org, with an additional 1.45 million tests--as of press time Saturday night there were still tests available there (and the federal covidtests.gov is still accepting orders, too). 
The War on Crime
Newly elected City Attorney Anne Davison announced that her office will focus on aggressively prosecuting misdemeanors and will decide whether or not to prosecute cases that are referred to it within 5 days, the latter in an effort to prevent its backlog of nearly 5,000 cases from getting any larger. [Publicola, Seattle Times, KNKX]

The King County Prosecutor's Office and the City Attorney's office announced a joint partnership to fight organized retail theft. [KUOW]

The Downtown Seattle Association hired a private security company to help patrol downtown until Mayor Harrell's promised "hot spot" patrols begin. [MyNorthwest]

Newly elected City Councilmember and co-owner of Fremont Brewing Sara Nelson held an impromptu small business roundtable at her economic development committee meeting on Wednesday to hear from small business owners and neighborhood business advocacy groups about their experiences with crime in the city. [Publicola, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog]

The federal monitor overseeing SPD's consent decree with the Justice Department released a report showing that SPD officers in 2021 conducted 30% fewer stops than they did in 2020, and 52% fewer stops than they did in 2018. [MyNorthwest]

And there were three shootings across the city last weekend, which killed one person and injured another. [KUOW]
Meanwhile, in Olympia
Democrats in the state House and Senate unveiled a proposed state transportation package that would spend $16.8 billion over the course of the next 16 years, including $4 billion for new and existing highway projects, $3 billion for maintenance of existing roads, $3 billion for increased transit service, $1.2 billion in pike and pedestrian safety programs, and $150 million towards existing federal funding for a high-speed rail line from Oregon to British Columbia. [Seattle Times, KNKX, The Urbanist, Seattle Transit BlogWashington State Wire]

The Urbanist published a list of 12 bills to watch, some of which have until this Tuesday to pass out of their house of origin (i.e., either the state House of Representatives or the state Senate) and some of which have already passed out of their house of origin and now have until March 4th to be passed by the other chamber. 

Crosscut updated their good but still far from comprehensive bill tracker for this year's legislative session, which shows the status of various bills as they work their way through the legislative process.

Among those that are still working their way through the process are bills that would allow duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes in many single-family zones across the state; give renters 6 months' notice before rent increases of more than 7.5%; prohibit the sale, distribution, and possession of gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds; and roll back some of the police accountability laws that were passed in last year's legislative session. 

And the state's new redistricting maps were approved by the state legislature, and will now go into effect (pending the outcome of two ongoing lawsuits challenging the rocky process by which the bipartisan redistricting commission created them). [Crosscut, Washington State Wire]
Real Estate Corner
Mayor Harrell announced that the city's eviction moratorium will expire two weeks from tomorrow on Monday, February 28th--although tenants facing eviction due to economic hardships because of the pandemic will have some additional protections for 6 additional months because of legislation passed by the City Council last year. [South Seattle Emerald, Seattle Times, MyNorthwest]

The Northwest Multiple Listing Service released its real estate stats for closings in January (see the convenient Seattle Times graphic here), which showed a sharp month-over-month drop in the median home price for houses and townhomes in Seattle proper from $839k in December to $790k last month, erasing the last of the 16% gains from last year's red-hot spring market between January of 2021 ($791,471) and May of 2021 ($919k) and starting out 2022 down 0.2% year over year. The median home price on the Eastside, meanwhile, was up 31.9% year over year ($1.516 million last month, vs. $1.149 million in January of 2021), and Bellevue's median home price now exceeds that of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. [Seattle Times]

Interest rates continued to rise, reaching just over 4% last week according to some indices. Higher interest rates will likely mean that the refinance boom is coming to an end, but rising interest rates haven't put much of a damper on the busy spring real estate season in the past, so it remains to be seen what impact they'll have on the spring season that's just getting underway.
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. 
Other News
As the ongoing concrete worker union strike begins to impact the timelines for major public infrastructure projects across the region, including delaying the West Seattle Bridge's planned reopening in July if it isn't resolved soon, King County Executive Dow Constantine tried to incentivize the two sides to reach an agreement by essentially offering the companies in question lucrative multi-year contracts with the county if they can approve a union contract that contains a no-strike clause. [Seattle Times, KING 5]

Amazon adjusted the maximum cash salaries--above which all compensation is paid in stock--for its office workers from $160,000 to $350,000, largely in order to help it retain higher-paid employees for whom its gradually vesting stock options were less attractive than the higher base salaries offered by Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft (especially as the tech stocks' meteoric ascents of the last 20 months began to stumble earlier this year). The story was widely reported as though it represented a doubling of the salaries of all Amazon employees, which is patently false; I'm not an expert in all the complicated stock-option math of total compensation in the tech world, but this seems to be more of an accounting change than anything else. [GeekWire]

The long-awaited forensic analysis of the City-issued cell phones of former Mayor Durkan and former SPD Chief Best determined only what the public already knew from other sources: that Durkan's phone settings were changed at some point prior to the protests in the summer of 2020 to automatically delete text messages older than 30 days; and that Best's phone was set to automatically delete text messages after 30 days, but that she usually deleted them manually more frequently than that. [Seattle Times]

On her last day in office on December 30th, former Mayor Durkan issued a memo to SPD leadership directing them to continue paying hiring bonuses for officers and 911 dispatchers in 2022, even though the City Council had voted to sunset the program at the end of 2021. [Publicola, Seattle Times]

The Department of Licensing confirmed that as many as 650,000 individuals with state-issued professional licenses may have had their personal information stolen in a massive data breach last month. [Seattle Times, KNKX]

In election news, both of the Seattle Public Schools levies that were on the ballot in the February 8th special election passed with 79% approval; and former President Trump endorsed failed-gubernatorial-candidate-turned-Congressional-hopeful Loren Culp in the Republican primary against incumbent Dan Newhouse in the staunchly Republican 4th Congressional District, in retaliation for Newhouse's vote to impeach Trump after the January 6th insurrection last year. 

The Seattle Fire Department rolled out a new Nurse Navigator program, which will give 911 operators the ability to route callers to licensed nurses who can answer non-urgent medical questions, book virtual doctor's appointments, and arrange rides to the hospital if needed. [MyNorthwest]

Sound Transit revealed that a "preventable mechanical failure" caused a packed light rail train to stall last November on its way back from an Apple Cup game at Husky Stadium, which led to hundreds of stranded passengers exiting the train and walking through the tunnel. [Seattle Times

And NOAA's State Climate Extremes Committee officially verified that June 29th, 2021 was the hottest day on record in Washington state. [MyNorthwest]
Ending on a high note
Last week something strange happened to some owners of 2014-2017 Mazdas who listen to KUOW: a broadcast from the radio station somehow short-circuited their entertainment systems entirely and kept their radios permanently tuned to 94.9. [Seattle Times with the full story, KUOW with the punchiest headline]

And if you've ever wondered what it would be like to rescue a grocery store lobster from the grocery store and keep it as a pet instead, wonder no longer

Sol Villarreal
Broker, Windermere Real Estate
sol@windermere.com
solvillarreal.com
206-765-6108
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1177 Fairview Ave N
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