Under the (RE)influence: Councilman’s campaign funds scrutinized

Challengers say David Ryu is breaking his promise to refuse developer dollars

David Ryu with a Little Tokyo Galleria rendering
David Ryu with a Little Tokyo Galleria rendering

A Los Angeles City Councilmember who sought to burnish a reputation as an outsider who would not take real estate developer money is…returning real estate developer money.

Challengers of Councilmember David Ryu argue he broke his promise to not take donations from developers, an integral part of his first election bid and a central issue during his time in office, according to the L.A. Times.

Opponents identified donations from entities linked to Little Tokyo Galleria developer Dae Yong Lee and the investment company First Serrano Apartment LLC.

“What’s the point of a pledge to not take money from a few developers if the real estate industry, including many developers, is still propping you up?” said candidate Nithya Raman, who promised to refuse donations from “people involved in the real estate industry in Los Angeles.”

Ryu said he’s making good on his promise to refuse developer dollars, but that some of those donations slipped through the cracks. He said he welcomed “anyone and everybody from the press and the community to help me identify errors,” and would refund a dozen donations.

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Ryu and two City Council colleagues introduced a bill to ban Councilmembers from taking donations from active developers in 2017, but it failed to move forward until earlier this year after a scandal broke involving donations made to organizations associated with Councilmember Jose Huizar.

Ryu told The Real Deal in August that a ban would help build trust with voters that he called “almost non-existent.”

Ryu’s campaign will not refund other donations that challengers have criticized, including some from architects and land use consultants who help guide developers through the city approvals process. His donation policy applies to developers with “active projects” or those who regularly work in the city.

Challenger Sarah Kate Levy said that wasn’t enough because all developers who don’t meet that criteria will at some point or another have a project under consideration at City Hall. [LAT]Dennis Lynch