Two months after announcing plans to run for City Council, Department of Neighborhood Empowerment General Manager BongHwan Kim said he will take a job in San Diego instead.
In an email to supporters, Kim said he would resign Aug. 4 and would be moving to San Diego to become executive director for civic engagement at the San Diego Foundation, an organization that matches charities and philanthropists with community needs.
In mid-May, Kim announced his candidacy for the 13th District City Council seat held by Eric Garcetti, who is termed out of office and is running for mayor.
“The timing of this opportunity at the San Diego Foundation collided at exactly the same moment as my plans to become the first ever Korean American city councilman running on a public participation vision,” Kim said in the email. “I saw how quickly the message of local empowerment was resonating with people across the city as well as in the 13th District.
“I was looking forward to harnessing the growing energy and inspiration of Neighborhood Council activists all over the city while setting the table of the public debate for how electeds were going to truly create broad and deep public participation and facilitate a path for more people to take back their own democracy,” Kim added.
Kim became Department of Neighborhood Empowerment assistant general manager in 2007 and general manager in November. He oversaw a system of 95 Neighborhood Councils that was fraught with election and spending problems and whose leaders frequently clashed with elected officials over the city budget.
Kim thanked Neighborhood Council board members and advocates.
“You all have shown me how the vision of greater public participation in government is not only doable but must do,” he said. “The current period of fiscal constraints is the new normal, and government needs to shift its working relationship with communities . . . . I have seen the future of government, and the future is local.”
Kim’s departure leaves two remaining Korean American candidates seeking Garcetti’s seat, former Board of Public Works Commissioner John Choi and former Los Angeles Fire Department Deputy Chief Emile Mack. The 13th District includes Echo Park, Silver Lake, East Hollywood and Hollywood.