The latest challenger to enter the Seattle City Council District 7 race is promising to fight the passage of a waterfront local improvement district, and he has the lawsuit to prove it.

“The LID process, I would say, was an eye-opener for me,” said Gene Burrus.

The attorney is a member of the West Edge Neighborhood Association and has lived downtown since 2009. He’s lived in a Second Avenue condo with his wife Leah since 2012.

That condo and many others are included in the recently approved Waterfront LID. Property owners will pay for a portion of Seattle waterfront improvements planned for after the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down.

Burrus and multiple other condo owners within the local improvement district accuse the City of Seattle of arbitrarily deciding which properties would benefit from the waterfront improvements, even when they were blocks away from the project, and also failing to assess new businesses that are under construction and other properties that would benefit. The process of valuation is also questioned in the lawsuit.

The primary issue, Burrus said, is that six city councilmembers those property owners didn’t vote for have imposed a tax on them, referring to the city’s switch to district council seats in 2013. Prior to that, all council candidates were approved by voters citywide. Two at-large positions remain.

“The Waterfront LID represents a perversion of that most basic principle of self governance. The Plaintiffs and other residents within the Waterfront LID have never consented to its imposition and are politically powerless to stop it,” the complaint states. “It is being imposed by six members of the City Council for whom the Plaintiffs can neither vote for nor vote against.”

Because current District 7 Councilmember Sally Bagshaw owns property in the district area, she stayed out of the debate, Burrus said.

The property owners don’t believe a waterfront park for all is what will come out of the improvement project, nor will it be a benefit, due to alleged failures by the city to maintain its parks.

“For example, Victor Steinbrueck Park, also located downtown near the waterfront, is home to many unhoused individuals and is a place for many to use drugs and alcohol and commit other crimes and offenses,” according to the complaint filed last month in King County Superior Court.

Residents worry the project will create a “waterfront homeless camp,” Burrus said.

The LID will cover $160 million for the project and the city will provide about $260 million, with the rest coming from philanthropic donations and $200 million in state funding. Burrus predicts the cost of the project will cause other Seattle Parks and Recreation projects to fall by the wayside.

“It’s going to tie up their budget for the next decade,” he said.

The Waterfront LID process had many flaws, Burrus said, and he would not support creating a local improvement district to replace the deteriorating Magnolia Bridge unless Magnolia residents truly agreed to it. He does support budgeting for its replacement at the city and state level.

Burrus was also among those complainants that sued the City of Seattle over its approval of a 2.25 percent income tax on high-earners, which remains in the appeal process. Plaintiffs won at trial, and in January the state Supreme Court declined to take up the case, which the city took to the high court before going through the Court of Appeals.

The District 7 candidate said this is another example of a flawed process.

“I’m not necessarily opposed to an income tax,” Burrus said.

He served as assistant general counsel at Microsoft for 15 years, and for the past two years has provided consulting for various clients.

A snapshot of the 2019 King County homeless count shows a decline in people living unsheltered — a first since 2012 — but Burrus said he’s seen an increase downtown.

Burrus said he believes everyone should be provided with shelter.

“I don’t think living on the street should be an option,” he said.

Burrus also doesn’t think more funds need to be spent on the homelessness crisis, and that the issue lies in how the city has responded to it.

“It’s hard for me to believe that it’s lack of funds opposed to how we’re spending it,” he said.

KOMO’s special “Seattle is Dying” was revealing, Burrus said, and he saw city leaders getting defensive rather than listening to people.

“We live in it,” he conceded, “and maybe we see it more than it actually is.”

The District 7 candidate said there have been several shootings near his downtown residence over the past few years.

Burrus said the city council’s desire to open a safe drug consumption site, now that the U.S. attorney general has stated his opposition, could end up as another “silly legal fight” like the high-earner income tax, if they decide to proceed. He’s not in favor of such a facility.

“I’m definitely not keen on that, unless the mayor wants it next door to her house,” Burrus said, adding he’s been to Vancouver, British Columbia, where safe consumption sites exist. “It’s like a post-apocalyptic zombie movie.”

The District 7 candidate said he supports increased density to address the need for more housing, and he’d like to see better planning that considers generating more stock around transportation hubs.

“At the end of the day, you can’t fight supply and demand when it comes to housing,” Burrus said.

The Seattle City Council is now reviewing plans to redevelop the Fort Lawton property near Discovery Park, which would create around 230 affordable housing units for rental and ownership. Burrus said the plan is ridiculous because the location is too far from services, and it would be better for the city to offload the property and use the proceeds to create affordable housing at a better site. The city currently has a lease with the federal government, and conveyance of the property is dependent on approval of the redevelopment plan.

Burrus also wants to address transportation issues in Seattle, especially the number of promised improvement projects in the Move Seattle levy that were never realized. SDOT has had to scale back expectations on what it can deliver. He doesn’t understand why the Center City streetcar is necessary when light rail already connects Westlake to Capitol Hill and it will take a lane away from vehicles.

The District 7 candidate is ambivalent about the city’s Democracy Voucher program, but will use it to fund his campaign, he said, given the individual limits.

“If this race is that expensive, there’s something wrong in this city, right?” he said.

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