Zillow selling off homes, laying off 25 percent of staff

Real Estate listing website Zillow sat down at the “iBuying” table in 2018, joining companies like industry pioneer Opendoor in the practice of buying homes en mass for resale, using algorithms to systematically compete against individual home buyers and estimate potential profit. According to its latest quarterly report, the gamble didn’t pay off, and Zillow’s cashing in its chips.

Zillow purchased 3,800 homes during the second quarter of 2021 and told investors it would borrow $450 million to finance an expansion in its Zillow Offers division, which has operated at a net loss since its creation, according to Bloomberg.

The company announced Nov. 2 it was shutting Zillow Offers down and selling off about 2,000 homes, at a loss of about $570 million, as well as laying off 2,000 people, a quarter of its total workforce, during the next few months.

Meanwhile, analysts expect competitor Opendoor, first on the scene in 2014 and with a much greater share of the market, will report increased revenues and smaller losses in its earnings report Nov. 10, Bloomberg reported. The company purchased more than 20,000 homes during the second and third quarters of this year.

DMV fees rise in January

The Oregon Department of Transportation reminded Oregonians Nov. 8 of an upcoming increase in vehicle fees.

Beginning in January, fees at the Department of Motor Vehicles will rise by about 3 percent for tag renewal, trip permits and vehicle titles. It’s the third of four scheduled rate increases under the Keep Oregon Moving bill passed in 2017.

“Residents across the state are already seeing improvements funded by these fees,” an ODOT press release reads. “This includes hundreds of millions in improved city streets, updated sidewalks and bicycle routes in school neighborhoods, reinforced bridges and roadways to withstand earthquakes and much more.

“DMV is starting to mail vehicle registration renewal reminders with the updated fees for tags expiring after the first of the year. If your tags expire in January or later, you will need to pay the new fee even if you renew before the end of 2021 – whether online, by mail or in person.”

Revenue from the fees goes to improve safe routes to schools, prepare for earthquakes, reduce congestion, and improve local streets through the Small City Allotment program.

A listing of all fee changes can be found in the ODOT press release at https://tinyurl.com/2uy47tcy

Oregon to see new drone rules

State officials plan to implement regulations on the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles in state parks and on the coast.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has formed a rule advisory committee, made possible by the passage of Senate Bill 109 during the last regular session, to begin the process of amending the Oregon Administrative Rules guiding takeoff and landing of drones in areas the department oversees, including all of Oregon’s beaches.

The committee met virtually on Wednesday, Nov. 10, to discuss the proposed changes, with the intention of creating “rules to provide the clarity needed for drone pilots, hobbyists and the general public to know where drone takeoff and landing is allowed and prohibited within a state park and along the ocean shore.”

Oregon can’t actually regulate where drones fly — that’s up the Federal Aviation Administration — only where they take off and land, and it could not do that until last session’s legislation. There is no federal requirement for training or licensing for operating a drone for recreation, only for commercial purposes.

A parks department spokesperson told the Salem Statesman-Journal in June they hoped to have the new rules in place for summer 2022.

Grocery store lobbyist poisoned

One of the state’s most prominent lobbyists, representing the interests of companies such as Fred Meyer, Safeway and Costco, remains in a vegetative state after being poisoned last summer.

Willamette Weekly reported Nov. 3 that Joe Gilliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association for two decades, lies in a vegetative state in a Washington medical facility after someone poisoned him, perhaps twice, with the toxic metal thallium.

Gilliam, a Lake Oswego resident, went to a hospital in June 2020 after experiencing numbness in his legs and severe pain. Doctors were initially unable to determine the cause, and his symptoms worsened as he remained hospitalized for about 10 days. He was eventually diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome and underwent treatment.

Gilliam experienced a short-lived recovery over the summer, Willamette Week reported, traveling to his second home in Arizona with his girlfriend in October. In November 2020, he again became extremely ill, this time with additional symptoms. He did not respond to the Guillain-Barré treatment and was taken to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale Nov. 28, where he lapsed into a coma and was placed on life support.

One week later, the Mayo Clinic contacted Gilliam’s girlfriend with a different diagnosis — thallium poisoning.

Two criminal investigations are pending into Gilliam’s attempted murder, in Lake Oswego and in Maricopa County, and one potential suspect has reportedly been identified, though both agencies declined comment to Willamette Weekly.

Escapee convicted in Lincoln County still on the loose

A woman convicted of burglary in Lincoln County is one of two escapees still on the loose after walking away from a job site Oct. 11.

Tess Riki reported for Willamette Week Nov. 5 that the Oregon Department of Corrections still does not know the whereabouts of Shelly Radan or Brandy Woodward, inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville who were working at a corrections commissary building in Salem when they walked away from the job site at about 9 a.m.

Radan, 43, of Otis, entered corrections department custody in November 2020 after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree burglary the prior month. An affidavit of probable cause in the case says Radan was arrested in September after she broke into an unused room at the Surftides Hotel in Lincoln City and lived there, as well as stole items from other rooms in the hotel, including light bulbs, alarm clocks with iPhone docks and a shopping basket full of towels.

Radan was initially cited and released due to the jail’s COVID policies, but she was arrested and incarcerated the next day after officers learned she had a felony warrant in Colorado under an alias.

Judge Amanda Benjamin sentenced her to 30 months incarceration with one year of post-release supervision, according to court records.

Radan’s alleged co-escapee, Woodward, started her sentence in April and was scheduled for release in January 2024. She pleaded guilty in March to felony failure to appear, related to a 2018 conviction for unlawful delivery of methamphetamine, in Umatilla County Circuit Court.

A corrections spokesperson told Willamette Weekly, “They are still unaccounted for … and we will actively pursue them until they are back in Department of Corrections custody.”

Body dissected in front of an audience at a Portland hotel

The wife of a 98-year-old man who died of COVID-19 thought she donated his body to medical research, but instead it was dissected in front of a paying audience in a Portland hotel.

The macabre exhibition was first reported by NBC News’ Seattle affiliate when a similar event planned in that city for Halloween was canceled. About 70 people attended the live autopsy Oct. 17 at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront, paying as much as $500 each to watch a retired anatomist dissect the body of David Saunders.

Saunders’ wife told New Orleans newspaper The Advocate, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s horrible, unethical, and I just don’t have the words to describe it … I have all this paperwork that says his body would be used for science — nothing about this commercialization of his death.”

According to The Oregonian, the Las Vegas-based company to which she donated her husband’s body sold it to a media company for use in a “Cadaver Lab Class,” part of the traveling Oddities and Curiosities Expo.

A Multnomah County medical investigator told The Oregonian she’d contacted Portland Police and the Oregon Medical Board prior to the pay-per-view lab class to warn them of the potential illegal autopsy. A police spokesperson told the newspaper that after consultation with the Oregon Department of Justice, Oregon State Police and Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, they’d determined no crime was committed during the autopsy, though civil laws may have been broken.

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