L. A. or­di­nance struck down

David Ryu’s vows to Coun­cil Dis­trict 4 res­i­dents won him the race against Carolyn Ram­say. Now comes the hard part.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Emily Alpert Reyes

High court says po­lice can’t in­spect ho­tel and mo­tel guest reg­istries at any hour of the day or night.

David Ryu won a cov­eted spot on the Los An­ge­les City Coun­cil af­ter pledg­ing not to take cam­paign money from lo­cal de­vel­op­ers.

That prom­ise bur­nished his rep­u­ta­tion as a City Hall out­sider — and may have helped him beat op­po­nent Carolyn Ram­say, a for­mer coun­cil staffer.

But it was just one in a long list of Ryu cam­paign pledges, many of them de­manded by neigh­bor­hood and ad­vo­cacy groups weigh­ing him against Ram­say in the race to rep­re­sent a sprawl­ing Sher­man Oaks- to- Sil­ver Lake coun­cil dis­trict.

They range from sweep­ing to the spe­cific: Ryu said he’d re­form how the dis­trict’s share of dis­cre­tionary money was spent by form­ing a com­mu­nity task force to re­view pos­si­ble projects. He pledged to spon­sor an or­di­nance to make sure at least half the rev­enue from Sher­man Oaks park­ing me­ters went to ease traf­fic in Sher­man Oaks, as its home­own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion pushed for.

He vowed to op­pose turn­ing a Hol­ly­wood apart­ment build­ing beloved by ten­ants into a ho­tel. And he de­clared he’d keep a pop­u­lar coun­cil staffer work­ing at a Toluca Lake field of­fice.

The push for such prom­ises is em­blem­atic of the de­mand­ing dis­trict Ryu has just won, which is among the more aff lu­ent, po­lit­i­cally in­volved ar­eas of the city. But it is also a fa­mil­iar phe­nom­e­non across the city. Sus­pi­cious of City Hall, many lo­cal groups prod po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates to make firm prom­ises — of­ten in writ­ing — to hold them to later.

“It’s a way of grab­bing hold of a sys­tem that has seemed un­re­spon­sive,” said Raphael So­nen­shein, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ed­mund G. “Pat” Brown In­sti­tute for Public Af­fairs at Cal State L. A.

In Dis­trict 4, much of that sus­pi­cion has swirled around real es­tate de­vel­op­ment, with neigh­bor­hood groups up­set that de­vel­op­ers have

been able to win ex­emp­tions from com­mu­nity re­stric­tions on the scale of new build­ings and shops.

“Time and time again, we have been forced to de­fend our neigh­bor­hoods through le­gal ac­tions” when the city dis­re­gards com­mu­nity rules for de­vel­op­ment, Mir­a­cle Mile Residential Assn. Pres­i­dent James O’Sul­li­van de­clared in a let­ter in­tro­duc­ing its pledge. “We will no longer ac­cept vague prom­ises and slaps on the back.”

Its pledge, which Ryu and Ram­say signed, re­quires that the newly elected coun­cil­man im­me­di­ately dis­close on his or her web­site when­ever that per­son’s of­fice is ap­proached about a pos­si­ble de­vel­op­ment pro­ject, prod the city to show that ser­vices such as sew­ers and po­lice pa­trols would not be over­bur­dened and sat­isfy other re­quire­ments sur­round­ing new build­ing.

Many pledges re­volve around is­sues spe­cific to his area — which may be eas­ier for Ryu to keep be­cause the full coun­cil tra­di­tion­ally de­fers to the mem­ber who rep­re­sents the af­fected dis­trict. But the new coun­cil­man will also have to hash out agree­ment with other rep­re­sen­ta­tives on city­wide mat­ters on which res­i­dents have pressed him for ac­tion, a test of how the City Hall out­sider will get things done in­side those down­town cham­bers.

The de­mand dur­ing the cam­paign for de­tailed, writ­ten pledges “re­ally speaks to the deep mis­trust this com­mu­nity has in their elected of­fi­cials — a trust David will be work­ing hardto re­store,” Ryu cam­paign spokes­woman Rachel Estrada said in a state­ment.

Both Ryu and Ram­say signed another pledge pressed on them by a ten­ant leader at the Villa Car­lotta, a Hol­ly­wood apart­ment build­ing that be­came a cen­ter of protests af­ter new man­age­ment re­vealed plans to turn it into a ho­tel. The pledge stated they would op­pose a zon­ing change or any con­ver­sion of use for the Franklin Boule­vard build­ing.

Even though both can­di­dates had talked about pro­tect­ing the apart­ments, “there was a lot of skep­ti­cism about hold­ing some­body to things that they say dur­ing the cam­paign,” said Sylvie Shain, the Villa Car­lotta ten­ant leader who per­suaded can­di­dates to sign the pledge. “Once you write things down, it’s very clear. It’s in black and white.”

The Sher­man Oaks Home­own­ers Assn. asked Ryu and Ram­say to sign a dozen pledges. Ryu signed al­most all of them, in­clud­ing prom­ises to not grant ex­cep­tions to plan­ning guide­lines for Ven­tura Boule­vard “ex­cept to a de min­imis ex­tent,” to op­pose a dis­puted de­vel­op­ment at the land­mark Sunkist build­ing un­less it is scaled back and to push for mul­ti­year bud­get­ing.

But Ryu balked at mak­ing two prom­ises sought by the group: to try to amend the City Char­ter to re­quire L. A. to fully fund its em­ployee pen­sion plans and pay for street and side­walk re­pairs out of the city gen­eral fund within a f ixed pe­riod of time — both with­out any added taxes im­posed on res­i­dents.

“It’s re­ally tempt­ing when you’re up here to say ev­ery­thing that you guys want. To tell you what you want to hear,” Ryu told a crowd when asked why he didn’t make those pledges dur­ing a public fo­rum at For­est Lawn Me­mo­rial Park. But he ar­gued it wasn’t a f inan­cially re­al­is­tic prom­ise. “It’s not pos­si­ble. I’m not go­ing to lie to you.”

Ryu also went through a gant­let of com­mu­nity fo­rums ahead of the pri­mary, where the packed f ield of can­di­dates made prom­ises ver­bally.

In Toluca Lake, they were asked whether they would main­tain a f ield of­fice in the area — and keep a spe­cific staffer, Alice Roth, work­ing for the coun­cil of­fice. Ryu, like most of the can­di­dates, said he would.

Jay Bee­ber, a for­mer can­di­date who later en­dorsed Ryu, told the Toluca Lake crowd that any staffer backed by the com­mu­nity would stay, with­out specif­i­cally promis­ing to keep Roth. Bee­ber later said he wor­ried that it wasn’t rea­son­able to ask a politi­cian to hire a par­tic­u­lar per­son, be­cause they had to find some­one with whom they could work well.

“It seemed like this par­tic­u­lar cam­paign was heav­ily laden with pledges,” Bee­ber said. Like Estrada of the Ryu cam­paign, he saw it as a ref lec­tion of dis­trust. “Peo­ple are used to can­di­dates say­ing what­ever they want to say and then not be­ing re­spon­si­ble for up­hold­ing it.... The elec­torate ex­pects to be lied to.”

So­nen­shein said read­ily agree­ing to such prom­ises can be a tempt­ing way to please a crowd and win votes. But he warned that mak­ing ex­tremely spe­cific com­mit­ments could end up ty­ing the hands of elected off icials faced with chang­ing cir­cum­stances. If a politi­cian f louts a pledge, they’ll hear about it, added Sher­man Oaks Home­own­ers Assn. Pres­i­dent Richard Close.

“We quickly f ind out who’s hon­est and who’s dis­hon­est,” Close said.

Ram­say was ac­cused of break­ing the Mir­a­cle Mile Residential Assn. pledge af­ter she spoke up at a City Hall hear­ing in fa­vor of a nearby mu­seum pro­ject that con­cerned some neigh­bors. The can­di­date main­tained she was firmly com­mit­ted to the pledge and said many other res­i­dents backed the pro­ject, but O’Sul­li­van blasted her for “be­trayal” on the CityWatch web­site. He later be­came a vo­cal sup­porter of Ryu.

Not ev­ery­one is con­vinced that such pledges are ef­fec­tive in hold­ing politi­cians ac­count­able. Once elected, “you have four years to hand out gifts and make friends,” said Der­mot Givens, a po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant not in­volved in the race. By the time the next elec­tion rolls around, “they want you to de­liver on a prom­ise for the fu­ture, not the one that you’ve al­ready bro­ken.”

But O’Sul­li­van said that if Ryu ended up break­ing his pledges, “there would be a re­call ef­fort fairly quickly.”

“We’ve lost pa­tience,” he said.

‘ Peo­ple are used to can­di­dates say­ing what­ever they want to say and then not be­ing re­spon­si­ble for up­hold­ing it.’

— Jay Bee­ber, for­mer City Coun­cil can­di­date

Jay L. Clen­denin Los An­ge­les Times

THEN- L. A. City Coun­cil can­di­date David Ryu, sec­ond from right, speaks in April at a rally for Villa Car­lotta res­i­dents. Ryu pledged to op­pose turn­ing the Hol­ly­wood apart­ment build­ing into a ho­tel.

Lawrence K. Ho Los An­ge­les Times

DAVID RYU’S prom­ise to not ac­cept cam­paign money from lo­cal de­vel­op­ers helped bol­ster his rep­u­ta­tion as an L. A. City Hall out­sider. Above, he and Carolyn Ram­say face off in a de­bate in April.

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